Live empty

The attitude of hoarding useless stuff ties your life down

An out of order electric iron, junked gramophone, half-torn books, empty cosmetic bottles, and a wardrobe full of clothes that don't fit you anymore... You keep it all for years hoping to use them some day.

Likewise, you have reproaches, resentment, sadness, fears and painful experiences stacked well in your memory. The past that's well-engraved in your memory, inadvertently marks an indelible impression on your current and future actions. The Buddhist 'philosophy of emptiness' claims to free you from the clutter; let's try and unravel this secret mantra of happiness.

The theory of emptiness

The theory of emptiness was developed as a fundamental philosophical standpoint by the Indian Buddhist master Nagarjuna [circa 2nd century CE]. Tibetan Buddhist thinkers see this theory as an elaboration and refinement of the basic Buddhist theory of No-Self.

"All things and events are devoid of any intrinsic and absolute existence. They come into being due to the aggregation of multiple causes and conditions," says The Dalai Lama. Their material existence and identity is contingent upon other factors such as language, thought and concepts, that together make up worldly convention. "This absence of intrinsic existence and identity is what is referred to as 'emptiness' and is considered to be the ultimate truth of all things and events," the Dalai Lama adds.

It's not the objects you keep that stagnate your life. It is the attitude of keeping that eventually causes you pain. Buddhist philosophy says that when we keep things in store, we consider the possibility of wanting, of penury.

We believe that tomorrow it may lack and we won't be able to fulfil those necessities. The habit of holding back indicates that you don't trust your tomorrow. And you think that the new and the better are not for you. For this reason, you prefer storing old and useless stuff.

"While still stuck with old things and issues, we don't open our eyes to the current blessings of life. And consequently, miss our today when that also becomes one of our yesterdays," says Skalzang Youdon, a devout Buddhist. Letting go our past belongings and memories, helps us live our present fully and look forward to our future with redoubled vigour.

Let it all go

Till the time we remain lost in the past, we fail to cherish the beauty that our present offers. As Lynn Grabhorn says in her book, Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting, "Rather than denying or stuffing your past, go ahead and look at it, but without judgment. Look at it, express it, admit it, acknowledge it, accept it, and move on. In other words, let your past become something that is simply a matter of fact. That's all. Express your disappointment, your regret, your anger, and then LET IT GO! If you don't, you will continue to draw to you the very events that you are still resenting or regretting."

Letting go also involves leaving behind your anger, resentment and guilt. A lot of times we are too filled with anger against a person or event. We feel that we are helpless to do anything about it. When this happens, the anger can turn inwards and we become self-destructive.

"Self destruction can take any number of forms as we seem to be very inventive when it comes to hurting ourselves. Eating disorders, addictions to drugs and alcohol, bad relationships, crime, self mutilation, not being able to keep a job, being constantly accident prone.on and on it goes.

We all find different ways to take out the anger on ourselves," says Kanpur-based psychologist Vipul Singh. You have the power, so let it go. You no longer need it.

"It is important to understand that forgiveness and letting go won't happen overnight. After years of having the hurt and anger bottled up inside, it can take a while to develop the willingness to let those emotions go and to allow other positive feelings to take their place. One just needs to take that first step to allow real healing to take place," says Skalzang.

Keep forgiving and keep letting go. The emotions can be incredibly painful but there's no way to heal except to go through it and feel the emotions.

Unlearn and relearn

Consider this quote by American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler: "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." The art of steady learning, unlearning and relearning is what keeps life running smoothly. If you don't adapt, failure is inevitable.

Mahatma Gandhi advises, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." It is necessary that you get rid of all the useless things and lessons that are in you and in your life for prosperity to arrive.

Emptiness helps you change your mindset with the changing times. It helps you drop old inhibitions, hesitations and habits and to reinvent yourself. Don't let your inhibitions come in the way of your future prosperity and happiness.

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Shilpi Shukla is a writer, spinning features for publications in the US, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and India. Based in New Delhi, her eight year stint as a journalist has had her work with major publications. Shilpi loves to pen articles on her frequent travels, celebrity interviews, health, fashion, films, real estate and any other topic that catches her interest.

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