Josephji was one of my colleagues at Gandhi 3.0. His name is Joseph. In India, people add “ji” to a name to convey respect.
If anyone deserved the respectful “ji,” it was Josephji.
From his bio: For over 16 years, Josephji has lived as a renunciate. Engaging his life as a pilgrim, he has traveled across India, from the Himalayas to Kerala, cultivating from moment-to-moment, with an intent to offer himself in service and stillness to the people and environment around him.
In service and stillness. I aspire to such grace.
One day I asked Josephji, “So what’s it like being a renunciate?”
We were eating breakfast at an outdoor table, in monastery serenity. In the distance, dishes clattered, friendly sounds and laughter, as the volunteers prepared “Prasad.” Closer, green parrots squawked to each other. The sun was quiet and the air sweet. Flowers and green foliage spilled into our dining space.
Josephji stopped eating, thought for a moment, and said, “Right now, I am completely enjoying my breakfast.”
I nodded, “Me too.”
He continued, “If I turn my back and the dog eats it, it won’t matter to me.”
“That’s the story of my life,” I laughed.
I was referring to pieces of pizza and noodle salads, devoured by my dogs in my absent-minded moments. I knew that Josephji was talking about something else.
How we cling to external conditions in the name of enjoyment. How we struggle to maintain the status quo so we can feel safe and happy. How we can’t forgive the past or how we fret about the future. How all these self-created thoughts about the way things should be seem so real and so necessary.
And yet, these invented inner perceptions impair our peace of mind. They interfere with our ability to be in service and stillness, to ourselves, to others, and to life.
I am grateful for Jospehji’s teaching offered in the warm sun of India, for in conscious moments, I embody it. I catch myself in a mental frenzy and simply say renounce. Let it go. Be still. Serve something greater than your fear.
Then I relax and remember. I think of the day in India when we attended a huge Arts Festival Concert. Our group sat in designated seats as guests of honor. The performers sang their hearts out and waved tiny versions of India’s flag in time with the music. The loud music consumed us. Jerry, an American activist, businessman and co-recipient of a Nobel Peace Price, sat on my left. Josephji was to my right. During the height of singing and flag-waving I leaned over and bellowed to Josephji,“Can we take a selfie?”
He said yes.
It doesn’t get any better. Singing, Surrender, Service, Stillness, Selfies there for the taking, there for our delight, there for our renunciation, always.
What would you like to renounce? What inner worry, clinging, dire predictions, regrets, or other stand in the way of your service and stillness?