“Namaskar”, said the 6-foot Sikh man standing outside the front door of our hotel. He was wearing traditional Indian clothes and a turban, as he bowed his head with his hands folded in a prayer position. He was greeting me, a total stranger this way, because “Guest is god”. The sincere kindness that permeated from his heart into mine was palpable and brought tears to my eyes. He was a well built, very masculine man, yet what I felt from him in that moment was a purity of kindness and respect, as if from a mother. It was a sort of kindness that I rarely feel from people in the West, and deeply miss. My two weeks in India last month were infused with this level of kindness, which was not just isolated to me, I also observed this among people with each other. Being kind is a way of life there. It permeates relationships. In the East, love, kindness, reciprocity, community, and relatedness are valued simply as a way of life.
In contrast, in the West, ‘acts of kindness’ are a special way to behave towards another. In fact, the book, “Random Acts of Kindness’ was most popular in the ‘90s. Its success ‘not only inspired many individuals but also led Congress to declare a National Random Acts of Kindness Week in February 1995’. It was deemed, ‘good for our health’. It is difficult to comprehend that kindness is an act that needs to be learned or, is viewed as a prescription for good health, or that it can actually be learned from a book. Is this because being kind is not the norm? In our society, I feel it is seen as something we ‘do’ rather than ‘are’. In fact, lack of kindness is normalized in our society. We see this amplified in corporations, in how they treat employees, and sadly also in health care, most commonly now, practiced within a corporate framework, where being kind to patients is seen as a weakness, time-consuming , and ‘touchy-feely’.
In the East, being kind to one another is synonymous with living from Atma or Soul. Jung termed the Soul or the Self, the deeper, wiser, more divine aspect of who we are that does not have the needs of the Ego. It is our essence, our True Nature. Living from the Self in the East is termed, living from ‘dharma’. Dharma implies we live from Soul, always behaving towards others with empathy and kindness.
When we live without relatedness, we cannot access empathy. In the East, relationships are a way to access our Soul. It is a way of realizing our True Nature, also called, Self-realization. If we do not value relatedness, we cannot align with our True Nature. This leads to ‘adharma’, the opposite of dharma and results in living from a way where ‘might is right’ or ‘survival of the fittest’, which shuts down our empathy for each other. What is normalized in Western society (and corporations) would be termed adharma in the East, because of how much relatedness is valued there and how deficient it is here.
When we live from a place of dharma, we live from Soul, from empathy and kindness. Our cultural collective is deficient in these qualities because of what we have normalized. Could it be that our foundational platform with each other has not yet evolved to value relatedness and relationship? Could it be that we have valued materialism in favor of relationships and have disconnected ourselves from each other in the process? Or could it be that we consider technology, such as email and texting as a convenient substitute for real interaction? We must know by now that this is merely a cosmetic substitute for experiencing the essence of relationships. It is impossible to be in each other’s presence or fully present with each other through text and email.
We must become aware of the unintended consequence of how we use technology as there can be no substitute for human to human interaction.
Our True Nature cannot be shared unless we are authentically present with each other. We need to return to our humanity, to empathy and kindness. To experience this, we need to reorient ourselves back to Self and have more authentic relationships. This is one way we can live from kindness rather than to merely do ‘kind things’.
So next time you are in another’s presence, (even a stranger’s), align with your heart and treat them with kindness like the Sikh man did with me in India. Offer them a ’Namaskar’ if only in your mind. It means, ‘I honor your True Nature with my True Nature’. Notice how sacred this feels. I promise you it will be healing for both you and the recipient of your kindness.
Since we are in the season of reflection and gifting, it may be worth reflecting on what it would mean to live a dharmic life, to live from Atma, or Soul or Self. Gifting another with our True Nature is ultimately the greatest gift of all.
©Dec2019 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for IntegrativeMedicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press.