Garud, Lord Vishnu’s favourite devotee, was enjoying the sound of a sparrow singing on Mount Kailas. He noticed Yamaraj looking at the bird and frowning. Worried that the bird would probably suffer the wrath of Yamaraj, Garud picked the bird up and carried it over mountains and across the 7 seas. He left it in a dense forest on a tree full of succulent fruits. When Garud returned to Mount Kailas, Yamaraj was still there, but he was smiling. Garud asked him the reason for his amusement. Yamaraj said “The sparrow was supposed to die today, but not on Mount Kailas. He was to die at the hands of a snake on a tree filled with succulent fruits in a dense forest, 7 seas away from here.”
Often we try to help people because we know what’s best for them; decisions we take for them will do them good. While the intent is noble, this doesn't generally hold true. In fact it proves detrimental to the person more often than not. Just like my mom who tried to help a pigeon which frequents our house. The pigeon was trying to break a twig from a plant in our balcony – maybe for its nest. My mom broke the twig and kept it on the ledge. The moment the pigeon tried to pick it up, the twig fell down 22 floors. The bird lost the twig and had to start from scratch.
|Lessons from Garud on helping people|
“But if I don’t help the person, who will?” you may ask. Most people don’t need the help we offer. What we offer is what we want them to do; what we would've done if in their shoes. But we must help, mustn't we? We aren't animals. This trait of helping is one of the aspects which separate us from animals. So how should we help someone?
The answer is – by being there. A person doesn't need hand-holding when trying something new. She needs the reassurance that someone is there to fall back on needed, and that you have faith in her abilities. This not only gives her morale a boost, but also lets her tackle situations and challenges head on with a clearer mind. She gets to learn much more than she would if you were helping her out with every aspect. What is your motive? To let her learn to handle life herself or make her depend on you for everything? Take action accordingly.
This behavior of ours is not just valid for humans, but for animals also. A friend’s pet mouse was staying at my home for a few days. He was occasionally let out of his cage to roam around. On day one, he was terrified; he refused to jump even as high as half a foot. Rather than helping him out every time, I was merely around, letting him climb on me and using my slanted feet as slopes to descend. We repeated this exercise daily. By the end of day 5, he was happily jumping sofas, tables and heights with the finesse of a gymnast. He had conquered his fear through his own actions. And yes, I’ll take some credit in saying I helped him conquer it.
We often get emotionally attached when we decide to help a person, whether we have asked for help or not. As seen in the first 2 paragraphs, helping when not asked is more damaging than helpful. If we really want to help a person or animal learn, we have to let go of emotion – we have become detached. We have to let go of the feeling that the person will not be able to survive without our help. If someone asks you advice (the best help we love to give), ask them questions and let them come up with answers themselves. Don’t get impatient and try making them understand your point of view. Letting people (and animals) learn things themselves while having the comfort that you’re around not only makes them sharper, it also increases their respect for you. What’s more, detachment will give you peace of mind. That’s something we all need today.