Is blood thicker than water? Or, is it as good as or worse than water? In other words, is one’s relation with one’s own family members more valuable than that with non-family members? I had a flash of these thoughts when I came across a few disturbing news reports: children abandoning their elderly parents at hospitals and running away after giving false address; many deliberately leave mentally deranged parents at crowded places like temples and festival sites, with these poor souls not being able to remember their way back to their homes and ending up at old age homes; etc. I do visit an old age home every year as a part of remembering my parents. I learnt from the caretakers of the home that more than half of the inmates was mentally ill, who arrived from outside Kerala — they were packed off by their relatives without their consent in trains heading to Kerala.
I came across many cases where money reigns supreme in relations involving siblings. At the same time, there are people who act benevolently and keep the influence of money outside the perimeter of their relationship with the siblings. There are many others who are indifferent to the sufferings of their fellow beings and friends while stories of magnanimity being shown by someone to someone else are aplenty – this someone can be a friend or acquaintance of or a stranger to the someone else. These four cases make the title of this blog irrelevant. So it is neither blood nor water that really matters in human relations, including the one among siblings, but something else. What is it?
What makes a person to rise above the narrow confines of self and open himself/herself for the wider canvass of humanity? For this to happen, one needs to possess three fundamental traits: righteousness, truthfulness and compassion. These three together forms the foundation stone called basic goodness. How do we identify people with basic goodness? Basic goodness or the lack of it, like the tip of the iceberg, cannot be hidden but comes out in the open as man’s behavior is a demonstration of what is on his mind. Do observe relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers during your interactions with them to get clues on the elements of basic goodness. Let me explain these traits a bit in detail.
Righteousness is a decision to be on the side of justice unconditionally. Justice is the state of being in harmony with the nature’s fundamental principles that govern us. It is not justified for a student to expect good marks in examination by being in the good books of his/her teacher because thinking so is not in harmony with the principle that being good with books only can result in good grades. It is not justified for a man to expect prosperity without working his ways toward it, for it is against the fundamental principle that you need to sow to reap. Something that is in harmony with nature’s rules does only carry justice. Do not hesitate to ask this question: is it justified?
Truth is the only thing that is absolute in the world. Everything else is relative – a reason for us to call our relatives as relatives? Oxford dictionary defines truth: something that is indisputable. Attempts to mention something as half-truth or partially-true are untenable, for truth is a fully baked product. Truth is unipolar as it is either .. or – either true or untrue. Truth is also naked because it is brave enough to stand firm on its own without any padding. The relation between truth and righteousness is straight – truth comes out only when justice is the arbitrator; otherwise, it is opinion that supplants truth.
Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, passionately propounds compassion as the panacea for solving all human sufferings. Conventional wisdom says compassion is sympathetic feeling for the sufferings of others. It is a common saying that sympathy is a cheap feeling which anyone can show without putting in any extra effort or cost and that what needed is not sympathy but empathy. But, how could something propounded by Dalai Lama, a great soul of immense learning, be shallow? Let us have a look at what Dalai Lama meant by compassion. According to him, compassion connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit and warm-heartedness. The operative word is connote, and it means that Dalai Lama had gone beyond the primary meaning of compassion as defined by the conventional wisdom.
Compassion, as defined by Dalai Lama, is what I mentioned earlier as a part of the foundation stone called basic goodness. Empathy is the trait of being able to think from the point of view of another person. One needs to be empathetic to be loving and lovable, to be affectionate, to be sensitive to human sufferings and to be gentle to others in the same way one does to oneself. Generosity of spirit is the output of the realization that giving, not receiving, gives boundless happiness. Warm-heartedness is having heart, instead of mind, as your frontage. That brings compassion as a mix of empathy, realization of giving and allowing heart to be your frontage. Though righteousness and truth are mutually inclusive, you may face a dilemma to negotiate your way out of confrontation between righteousness and compassion.
Basic goodness should be the main criterion in evaluating relationships, and a person with such a trait is highly unlikely to subvert others. It is not possible for a person to establish dearly and respectable relationship with another person without being wary of. Fear is taken out and respect gets mushroomed in a relationship when both parties are convinced of each other’s basic goodness. Over a period of time, such a relationship gets tested and acquires sustainability leading to bonding between the two persons. This bondage, as a matter of fact, is between two souls. Such soul-bonding can happen between any two human beings: two friends; a son/daughter and his/her parent; between two siblings, wife and husband, a son-in-law and a father-in-law, etc. This invisible bonding between two souls built on the foundation of basic goodness, not blood connection, is the overriding factor that decides the strength of a relation. Children will not abandon their parents if bonding of souls exists between them and their parents.