To Ripple Or Not :)

Posted by Parag Shah on Sep 30, 2019

In a very rich conversation between few MBL friends, one curious question cropped up. It's a rather common question that most anchors and volunteers would have faced as they serve on various projects. But still, if the question is held sincerely, it can really expand and deepen our experience of service.

The question is this: should we capture a ripple, should we hold and support a ripple? Does that not become an agenda? Are we not, then, attaching strings to our giving? Are we not looking for gratification? If it will ripples, why bother worrying about it? If we try to support a ripple, won't we be pushing our intent and philosophy onto others?

It's a great inquiry to dive deep into.

On one end, trying to capture ripples can easily become an agenda. If I anchor a HHH retreat, I may start scheming for how this fellow is good for Laddership Circle or this fellow is useful for contributing to Maitri Tunes or look for opportunities within the basket of MBL projects for all the fellows and so on. In the name of capturing ripples, there may be an internal but very subtle agenda and my image management as a successful anchor can be at play. I may start leading with the arrogance of 'knowing' what is good for others, and the field of service can become the field of serving my Ego.

On the other side of the spectrum, nurturing ripples is to bow down to emergence. :) That is, to bow down to any service opportunity that emerges out of the spontaneous and dynamic context in the time frame of a given project. As I look back to my service journey, what is being observed is that there so many people through their action, conversation, dialogues, suggestions, and even through contextual advice have supported my journey and I feel eternally grateful to them. From this lens, if I hold and support a ripple -- say at a HHH retreat -- am I not paying it forward to the whole that has nurtured me in so many ways? Isn't a volunteer rooted in the spirit of service constantly creating ripples through his/her presence and nurturing it by the response of action, and grateful for what he/she is becoming through the process? Is that whole process an agenda? Naturally not.

What I've seen, at least in my experience, is that good and bad, right and wrong judgments in any given situations are just reflections of my own mind's polarities. In the same way, I personally don't feel an absolute right or wrong to hold or nurture a ripple. It can be an agenda, but it can also be a surrender to emergence! It all depends on our internal state, and not the external situation or our physical action.

In my particular case, as I observe it within me, the real issue is my own laziness in serving others. I use no-agenda as an excuse to avoid confronting my laziness. Similarly, I avoiding seeing, holding and supporting ripples because I am so conditioned to consume life experience like a movie -- completely unaware and fooling myself into thinking that I'm being effortless. To be truly empty is to hold all ripples in any given moment, and that's not only really hard work but it takes a very big heart! It demands that we deeply tune into life in front of us and observe how it mirrors us. As Gandhi-ji once said, "We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body." Holding that realization doesn't seem to be a trivial task, at least for me. :)

What I have learned in the process of serving is this -- there is no value in looking for the answer outside. Any question is a great one to hold perpetually because it eventually leads to asking, "Who is asking the question?" That context for any act of service, however small or big, momentarily quiets my mind, which lets me see a bit more clearly, and it raises my awareness of the many interconnected parts so I can respond more skilfully. In some way, that whole process reduces my biases and hence, increases the love with which I can greet life. That makes me grateful, and which inspires me to serve more.

Posted by Parag Shah on Sep 30, 2019 | permalink

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  • Shyam Gupta wrote ...

    Wonderful question to hold. I am sure this question bothers many of us , involved in the space of service .

    As i understand, when i serve with a true intent of service , both the dualities get taken care of. When my hands , head and heart are aligned in true service and there is a pure intent, nothing else would matter.

  • Audrey Lin wrote ...

    So many insights and nuances to chew on here, Paragbhai! So glad you shared this! :) I often wonder: “Who am I to know what would be of service to someone else?” Followed by, “Is that a subconscious excuse to be lazy?” :) 

  • Kavita Rajvanshi wrote ...

    The head Swami of Ramakrishna Mission in New York, once said, ". . . If its unselfish, just go ahead and do it ".

  • Abid Ali wrote ...

    Beautiful question Parag bhai. This is a perrenial question that comes to me too. Krishnamurti puts this question by asking - 'Is this action of the ego or love?' Quiet often it put me on the path of analysis paralysis.

    Lately, I personally have sometimes been able to resolve this by asking - Am I serving 'a part' in order to serve 'the whole' or am I serving 'a part' for the sake of 'the part or another part'. If the deeper intention is to serve 'the whole', then one is good.

    Sometimes the question itself alters the inner motivation without affecting outer action.

  • Rohan Bhansali wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing this Parag bhai. Helped me reflect on certain questions I was holding.

  • Ashima Goyal wrote ...

    This is such a gem Parag bhai! :-) Thank you for sharing... Recently I was wondering at this idea of "no agenda conversation" like what is it to be of no-agenda.. even when I talking to someone just for the sake of talking, isn't that my agenda? to just spend time with her?

  • Rupa Ramachandran wrote ...

    it is a revelation to me how this path leads to Bhagawan Ramana's " Who am I?' Who is asking the question is but an extension.