सब राज़ी खुशी है? (“Is everyone happy?”) यह भी कोई पूछने की बात है? (“Is this even something to ask?”) Accha! बाबा याद हैं? Baba often asks us to beware of familiarity referring to it as a royal form of Maya. But what does familiarity mean and why is it Maya?
When we first meet someone, there is a certain degree of formality, there is an inherent respect and acceptance of what he/she says or does. I am more of a detached observer than a participant in the going ons. Then I slowly get to know them better as I spend more time with them and as part of ‘getting to know them’, I notice their flaws, their shortcomings and all of a sudden, my level of respect for them takes a dip. I start to have an opinion about what they say or do, the manner in which they say or do, their everything. I also start to have expectations from them- I start to expect them to invite me over and mind when I am not consulted or included in conversations. While these are more obvious signs, there are those subtle ones too – I start to feel comfortable enough to laugh and talk loudly at the dinner table, comfortable enough to make jokes at their expense, comfortable enough to even tell them what to do…you know volunteer your wisdom! I take the person for granted and no longer think before I say or do something to ensure it is appropriate. There might also be occasions when I don’t even notice someone as I get busy with my own life because now I’ve taken them for granted. They are just one more entity in my life, nothing more. There is no time taken to greet or share.
Familiarity applies not just to people but to everything we interact with and that includes our home, places we visit, work place or even objects of everyday use. For example, when I first move into a new home, I have a certain degree of appreciation for it, a level of care taking, a commitment to keep it clean and neat. But as months, years go by, I take that same place for granted – no longer do I take time to appreciate it, I get used to it and treat it as a place to live – I may clean one day and skip two, I might mow the lawn but I might not. It’s the same deal with a new job – I come in enthusiastic to learn and make a difference but rarely do we sustain that enthusiasm over time. Slowly as I get comfortable with the job, I start to find things wrong with it, with my colleagues or even the office itself.
Just because my senior or peer says “treat me as your friend”, does not mean I take him/her for granted. Friendship gives me a right to confide in someone, to seek advice or to spend time on common interests. What it does not include is to get on back slapping terms, start to joke with him/her, even worse is to joke about him/her in front of the team etc. What’s more, we even take God for granted. Just because He says “I am your Father”, we forget that He is God. So what if I don’t wake up for Amritvela or come in to Murli class after He has arrived? It’s only Him, right? He’ll understand. He’s here but I have no time to attend to Him…I’d rather be busy thinking waste thoughts. He reminds us every single day to follow His instructions accurately but we simply don’t take Him seriously enough to do as He says.
And so Baba cautions us to stay out of this trap of familiarity since we only stand to lose. Studies indicate that people don’t make their decisions until they “really get to know” the other person or place or thing. As counter intuitive as it may sound, it is this ‘getting to know’ that gets us in trouble. While it is good to share a laugh or even advice- there is a fine line to tread in order to make that advice welcome and valuable rather than unsolicited and wasted. I need to ensure I always pay attention to time and place and be sensitive to the other person’s state of mind. I need to check if there is a difference between what I need to know about someone vs. what I want to know about them. If there is, then I need to close that gap because that difference is waste and gossip. Do I take people or things for granted? If I do, it means I no longer respect them. Do I have expectations from that person- if I do, it means I am attached and that can only means unhappiness, a loss of clarity and freedom.
It’s key therefore to watch for these signs of familiarity as we go through life- it takes away my happiness, damages my relationships and breeds contempt after all.