Validation is a very deep and subconscious need for all of us. Validation is healing. Validation is soothing. But how do we know when our desire for validation has consumed us?
This is a little story based on Indian Mythology.
The Ramayana is considered one of the greatest epics written in Indian Culture. Valmiki is the poet accredited with composing the Ramayana and is revered for his literary & poetic genius. He is said to have composed this epic in 500 BC and has written 24,000 verses to narrate the entire story of Sri Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya.
Valmiki had just completed his Ramayana. Narada, the enlightened sage known for his wisdom and insight, was going by and wished to have a look at the version of Ramayana composed by Valmiki. However, Sage Narada wasn’t as impressed as Valmiki had expected him to be. “It is good, but Hanuman’s version is better”, Sage Narada said.
Hanuman is one of the greatest devotees of Rama, and is a key figure in the Ramayana. He is known for his implicit faith and devotion to his master, Sri Rama.
“That monkey has written the Ramayana too!”, retorted Valmiki referring to Hanuman. Valmiki didn’t like this at all, and immediately wondered whose Ramayana was better.
He had to find that out. So he set out to find Hanuman. He knew that Hanuman resided in Kadali-vana, the grove of plantains. As he entered Kadali-vana, Valmiki found the Ramayana inscribed on seven broad leaves of a banana tree, displayed there. “This must be the Ramayana written by Hanuman”, thought Valmiki to himself.
Valmiki started to read it. As he read along, to his surprise, he found it to be perfect. Hanuman had used the most exquisite choice of grammar and vocabulary, poetic meter and melody. It was beautiful. Valmiki couldn’t help himself as he read the work. He started to cry.
“Is it so bad?” asked Hanuman, who had by then slowly approached the great sage.
“No Hanuman, it is so good”, said Valmiki looking up at Hanuman
“Then why are you crying sir?”, asked Hanuman very humbly.
“Because after reading your Ramayana, I realise no one will read my Ramayana,” replied Valmiki with more tears streaming down his eyes.
Hearing this Hanuman simply took the 7 banana leaves from Valmiki and tore it up to bits, without a second to spare. “Now no one will ever read Hanuman’s Ramayana!” he said as he looked up at Valmiki.
A shocked and horrified Valmiki stuttered back, “Oh my god! That is not what I meant Hanuman. Why did you tear out such a brilliant piece of work?”
“Revered sir, I see that you need your Ramayana more than I need mine. You wrote your Ramayana so that the world reads your work and remembers Valmiki. I wrote my Ramayana only so that I remember the life and ideals of Sri Rama.’
And like a bolt of lightening, it hit Valmiki, that he had written the entire epic with the deep and unconscious desire that he will be recognised and acknowledged as the composer of such a great epic. He realised how he had been consumed by his desire for validation. The simple and honest words of Hanuman had reached home.
Are we aware of the intent of our actions? Are we doing something because we are passionate about what we are doing? Or are we doing it because we have a desire to be validated and acknowledged?