They say that of all charitable offerings you can think of, food is the most appropriate. Hunger is the only need that can be satisfied to the utmost.
For, if you want to satisfy a soul completely, all you need to do is feed it. Food is the only way a person momentarily feels full and cannot eat anymore. At the end of a sumptuous meal, enough really means enough. For that moment at least.
Now, we are all united by this hunger. We sit at the steps leading to the great temple, the ultimate destination one aspires for.
Throngs of pilgrims make their way up the steps. They pause, gasping for breath and they spot us. Sometimes they pretend not to. An outstretched arm, an open palm and they wince –the sight of abject penury clawing at their gut.
My neediness and yours. Not very different. We are hungry for the crumbs they throw at us. Crumbs they forget to pick up for themselves and sometimes under our wretched eye, they mindlessly swallow what you and I would consider a veritable feast.
A mendicant and a beggar. What’s the difference?
The mendicant is blind to the world.
He says- I see you for what you are and then I don’t. Not anymore. You see, I am tired of the world. Its webs. The conundrum of lies. The traps they lay. I have had enough. My begging bowl is empty now. When it is filled, I shall have my fill. I shall wait till then.
He says- Wait for people. They are blind too. Ironic that I wait for the blind to acknowledge my unseeing eyes. Well there is a difference, I choose to be blind and the world doesn’t know what to see anymore. A twist awaits everyone.
He continues to say-The begging bowl in my hands is the focus of hungry eyes. Always has been. The scraps that come my way are coveted.
I have given up on the world.
My beggary, my ruination, my impoverishment is physical.
I have been reduced to these circumstances by circumstance.
Therefore to exist I need their leftovers. To sustain myself.
They got to me first for I am at the base of the steps.
Always the lowest of the low.
The poorest of the poor.
From a vantage position, they eye my bowl and hanker after its contents.
Attracted by my distress a kind soul offers me a slice of his life and all attention is soon deflected.
Swooning. Bleeding sores. Pus laden wounds. Corpses of the young, demanding attention. Beggarly drama. The finest. The theatre of the macabre. Always such a crowd-puller.
He concludes- My bowl is soon forgotten.
Soon he sits to a side and watches it all unfold.
He watches and thinks-
The only beggar on the steps is the one that survives. The hungry look in the eyes. The craving. The deep rooted desire. If you can hold it all in your eyes and push through the milling crowd, elbowing away the destitute, tripping up the unfortunate and present yourself in the humblest, most ingratiating manner,you get your prize. The most chipped, dented and leaking bowl is yours.
And then, the world is all yours.
The crumbs descend on you. Luck rains on you. Look at your bowl please. You are proud in all the bravery of your tattered rags. Your scruffy appearance is the stuff great painters translate onto canvas that become masterpieces reminding the world the essence of success.
Beggary. Misery becomes you. You are hungry. Your hunger grows. Soon the scraps aren’t enough anymore. The scraps begin to define you. You become the leftovers. You are what is left behind.
The Impoverishment of the spirit.
Nobody can then play it like you. You make people want to be better human beings. How do they get to feel that way? The way your face lights up on being appreciated. The gifts pour in to satiate the endless want reflected in your eyes. People want to fill that empty void in your eyes. Your naked hunger is too much for the world to bear. You are a success in our wretched world, your story out in the open for all the world to see. Very soon other aspirants in the game of beggary, in dire straits, will learn from you.
Scraps will stop being scraps and your bowl shall be filled lavishly. Just watch out for the next insignificant aspirant who comes by, a vision of needy degeneracy painted in bold strokes.
The mendicant shuts his eyes and mouths a final piece of advice. –
Through all the feasting remember to hold on to your bowl. You never know when you may need it again.
While we are all waiting for the end, never forget where it all began.