Once, a God-intoxicated sadhu came to the Kali temple. One day he received no food, but, though feeling hungry, he did not ask for any. Seeing a dog eating the remnants of a feast thrown away in a corner, he went there and embracing the dog, said, “Brother, how is it that you eat alone, without giving me a share?” So saying, he began to eat along with the dog. Having finished his meal in this strange company, the sadhu entered the temple of Mother Kali and prayed with such an ecstasy of devotion as to send a thrill throughout the temple. When, after finishing his prayer he was going to leave, I asked Hriday to watch and follow the man and to communicate to me what he might say. Hriday followed him for some distance, when the sadhu turning round, enquired, “Why do you follow me?” Hriday said, “Revered sir, give me some teaching!” The sadhu replied, “When the water of this ditch and yonder Ganges appear as one and the same in your sight, when the sound of this flageolet and the noise of that crowd have no distinction to your ear, then you will reach the state of true knowledge.” So saying, he hastened away. When I heard this from Hriday I remarked, “That man has reached the true state of ecstasy, the true state of knowledge.” The Siddhas roam about sometimes like guileless children, sometimes like ghouls and at other times like mad men. Indeed, they wander in many disguises. From Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna
Devdas was an ordinary man living an ordinary life in the city of Benares. He used to work as an accountant for a wealthy merchant. One day, while walking back from work, he decided to go the river bank and cool off for a while before heading home. He was sitting on the ghat watching the river when he saw an old hermit, a sadhu, standing before him. The Sadhu was in ochre robe, his hair matted, his face aglow with beauty and power. As if prompted from within, Devdas stood up and bowed to the Sadhu. The Sadhu spoke to Devdas as if he had always known him intimately: “Quit your job and meet me here, by the Ganga, three days from now.” Then, as if by magic, he disappeared. Devdas went next day to the merchant and, a bit nervously, announced his decision to quit. The merchant liked Devdas and tried to persuade him to change his mind. But Devdas persisted and so the merchant reluctantly let him go. Devdas did not have many friends or acquaintances in town, so he was not missed. Three days later, Devdas met the Sadhu on the bank of the Ganga. The Sadhu said to him, “Go throw yourself into the Ganga! Maybe you will be saved by someone,” and, just as before, disappeared. Devdas thought only for a moment: “It is a strange command, indeed!” He then jumped into the Ganga. Devdas was a good swimmer, so he did not drown. He kept drifting farther away from the city of Benares, as the day faded into dusk. Late into the night, fatigued, just managing to float, he bumped into a fisherman’s boat. The fisherman pulled him up into the boat and scolded him: “You foolish man! The current is strong and will sweep you away. What do you think you are doing?” Devdas shrugged his shoulder and said, “I don’t know!” He then curled up on the floor of the boat and went to sleep. The fishermen took pity on this mad man and took him home. When he discovered that Devdas was educated and could write and speak well, he asked him to stay back and help him. Devdas, thus, became the fisherman’s apprentice and tried his best to be of use to him. A few month’s passed. Then, one fine morning, the Sadhu appeared to Devdas again and said: “Leave this place now. No need to bid goodbye. Your fisherman friend will be looked after.” Devdas immediately left the fisherman’s hut and started walking in the direction of the next town. He kept walking for the rest of the day till he came upon a small village. It was getting dark. He lay himself down to rest. He was so tired that he drifted off into sleep. He awoke as the sun came up. And he saw a farmer approaching him on a buffalo. “Are you looking for work?”, the farmer asked Devdas, “I am looking for help — the harvesting season starts in a day or two.” Devdas agreed to help him through the season. The farmer, impressed by Devdas’ skills and hard work, asked him to stay back longer and Devdas again agreed. He was neither happy nor unhappy: no question or doubt arose in his mind. More than two years passed by. Devdas made some money of his own and saved most of it as he had no expenses. He also learnt much about farming and markets. Then one day, as the winters approached, the Sadhu returned to him and told him, “Now leave this farming and go to Pataliputra. Use the money you have save to set up your own shop. Do something useful!” The Sadhu, as always, disappeared as mysteriously as before. As always, Devdas obeyed without a moment’s hesitation. He left the farm and the farmer and started walking again. He walked for many days and, at last, reached Pataliputra. He took some weeks to settle into the new city and set up his own shop selling farm produce. He did well and prospered. He also became quite well known. People who would meet him would come back quite impressed. “There is something about this man,” most would say of Devdas, “one feels at peace around him!” Many years passed without the Sadhu reappearing to Devdas. Devdas continued to work hard and prosper. He was still quite a loner but now many folks wanted to come to him, buy from him and spend time with him. He even bagan to think of finally settling down, perhaps buy his own farm and build a house for himself. And then, one fine day, the Sadhu came back. Devdas bowed again to the Sadhu and waited, with no restlessness, no question, no expectation. “Give me your money,” said the Sadhu quietly, “and go to Nalanda. You will find an old ashram on the outskirts. Go and find some work there.” Davdas gave all his money to the Sadhu and left for Nalanda. When Devdas reached the ashram and the inmates met him, they all bowed in reverence and thought a great sage had come to their ashram. They welcomed Devdas and invited him to stay with them for however long he wanted. Devdas had changed much now. What the others saw in Devdas was an ethereal light, a mysterious glow upon his face and a profundity in his eyes. As the days passed, everyone in the ashram began to realize that they had a holy man in their midst. People from all around started visiting him. Word spread. Even scholars from the great university started coming to him. “Who is your teacher, Sir,” they would all ask, ”To what lineage do you belong?” And Devdas would say, “That is difficult to answer”. Devdas was always a man of few words, but now he had become even quieter. But there was always a twinkle in his eyes, as if he was enjoying some cosmic joke. His friends and disciples would ask, “How did it all start, Sir? Tell us your story..” And Devdas would say, “I was an accountant to a merchant in Benares. Then one day, I left.” “Did you take sannyas? Did you renounce the world?” They would all ask. “No,” Devdas would reply, “I just walked one day. And kept walking” They wouldn’t understand him but they would all feel awed by the mystery and power around him. The elders at the ashram once approached him to write the story of his life and sadhana, to inspire the young. This, they said, was the tradition. Devdas readily agreed and told his story: “I jumped into the Ganga and nearly drowned when a fisherman took me into his boat. I became a fisherman with him. Then, one day, I left his hut and went away to become a farmhand. Then I left farming and became a merchant. I earned some money. I then gave away all the money and came here. And here I am.” “But,”, the elders persisted, “this tells us nothing. No teacher or teaching, no tradition, no awakening…It’s quite inexplicable! How did all the wisdom and peace come to you?” And Devdas said, “That is how it was meant to be.” And, so the story goes, the elders created a deep mystical story around Devdas because saints and mystics must have their stories, with childhood miracles and predictions and great revelations thrown in. Thus was Devdas transformed into a living Saint. But somewhere in that ashram, even today, Devdas sits alone smoking a hukkah and waiting for a Sadhu. With a twinkle in his eyes. Inspired by a story retold by Osho
The Legend of Gunderao There was once a Brahmin farmer. His name was Gunderao. He was completely illiterate. He never even moved out of his small village. He had accepted his lot and led a quiet life of contentment. There was only one member left of his family — his old mother. His wants were few and were within the easy reach of his capacity. Once a Sannyasi visited the village and took up residence with this Brahmin farmer. The whole village breathed an air of devotion and was brimming with religious activities. After a couple of days, when the Sannyasi was about to leave the village, the farmer and his old mother went to him and bowed their farewell pranam. The Sannyasi in his parting message said to the farmer, “Don’t forget to perform Aradhana every day and never take your food without Naivedya.” The farmer could not grasp the meaning of the message as he knew nothing about religious rites. The Sannyasi smiled at his ignorance and explained that Aradhana meant worship of the Divine with love, self-giving and calling the name; and Naivedya meant food and everything else that is offered to a deity, the Divine. Next day, when the Sannyasi had left, the farmer resumed his daily work and went to his field. At noon he walked to the nearby river, finished his bath and placed his food before the Lord in a neighboring temple. Five minutes passed, then ten minutes and even half an hour. “Oh! today God must be very busy,” reflected the farmer, “because He is the Lord of all the worlds and He has to manage things everywhere. All right! I shall wait for Him some more time.” And he waited. Another hour passed and seeing that He did not turn up he said, “If you do not come and take the food, how am I to take my meal? I am getting hungry and there is work to do …..Or is it that you are displeased with me because I neglected you all these days? But I am told you are all compassion and you forgive all our sins. So please forgive my negligence and come soon. Here on the spot I give my word. I shall never again neglect you. I will never take my food without Naivedya.” A small voice spoke to him, “But can you wait for me? I see you are already quite restless. I do not take your word seriously.” The voice sank into the soul of the Brahmin farmer and he trembled. He could not speak. Tears came into his eyes, and he sat motionless. Another hour passed and the sun was slowly moving downward in the west. Another hour or two passed and the farmer opened his eyes. Dusk had begun to fall. His heart cried out, “Lord! I will wait, wait till the end. I will not take food until you pardon me and accept my offering of food.” With this resolution in his mind he sat silent like a stone. A golden hush, like a splendid robe of God, enveloped the fields. With the song of the homing birds and the soft rays of the sun, Mother Nature lulled to rest the day’s labour of the fields. The night approached with its myriad star-splendor. A crescent glory in heaven watched the spheres with a smile of benediction. The farmer sat, a marble figure on a “pedestal of prayer”. He was awakened by a sudden touch of inexplicable joy in his breast. “Strange,” he reflected, “I have not taken food. I was hungry like a dog. Instead of the pangs of hunger I am stirred by a nameless joy! I do not understand. Tell me, what is this your game, O Lord?” Then spoke a voice which was heard within the depths of his soul, “Now you are vexing me. All right! I am here. Feed me.” The farmer opened his eyes and saw that the “idol” was throbbing with life. He began to feed Him. “The food has gone stale. What can I do? You are so late!” So he said, but when he touched the food he felt it was fresh and not that cold. He wondered. As with the joy of a fond mother, he began feeding the Lord. Soon he saw the idol closed its mouth and stirred no more. He understood that the Naivedya was over. So he turned to take his meal. The food was very delicious. He said to himself, “Never in my life have I tasted such delicious food. It is Amrita indeed.” Food over, he went back home and had a happy sleep. Early next morning he told his mother to prepare a special dish for Naivedya. His mother saw him with a look of surprise and said in a low inquisitive tone, “There is no special occasion, my son.” The son replied, “I want to give Him a special dish. Prepare it. Though yesterday He kept me waiting for a long time, I still am full of joy and I want to offer Him a special dish today — occasion or no occasion.” The days passed into weeks and weeks into months. The life of our farmer Brahmin Gunderao flowed like a sweet and simple stream. He thought always of Naivedya. He worked and waited for the Naivedya. Aradhana had now become the one inevitable centre of his life. Once his old mother complained of indisposition. So he himself prepared the food under her directions. On that day, while offering Naivedya, he said, “Today I have prepared the meal. I don’t know how it is cooked. If you want to have delicious dishes, please don’t make my mother ill. Now you have to be satisfied with the dish I have offered, good or bad.” The food-offering having been over, the farmer began to take his meal. When he was taking it he heard a familiar sweet voice, “I relished your preparation today. It was quite lovely. Yes, your mother will also be well. Don’t worry. But don’t forget to prepare a dish or two for me now and then with your own hands.” Tears rushed into eyes of the farmer and he fell into silent musing. “O Lord! my God! How kind and sweet of you! I have tasted the food, and I know its taste. Ah, your wonderful love!… That’s it. It is the miracle that changes all bitterness into a celestial sweetness. Now, for example see the change in me, the beast that I was. The marvelous fire fingers of your grace are moulding my dust always, at each moment, even without my knowledge. O my dearest Lord! accept my utter gratefulness. I will obey your word with the zeal and devotion of a faithful wife. Make me your slave. I would serve you always.” Full with such sweet musing and prayers the slow months glided into a year. A new year dawned and with it the visit of the Sannyasi was renewed. This time the Brahmin farmer Gunderao was the leader of the reception. He had developed a deep reverence for his guru. And it was natural. The next day the Sannyasi performed Mandapam with golden utensils of worship. Gunderao thought, “I shall also get such wonderful Mandapam prepared for my Lord and also the other things of worship. They are so grand. My Lord would be much pleased… Yes!…” He stumbled out of his reverie when the Sannyasi said, “Let the Naivedya be brought.” Gunderao rushed in and brought all the dishes and placed them before the Lord. The Sannyasi sprinkled the sanctified water with tulsi leaf, muttering some mantra over all the dishes: and then he closed his eyes forming the name of the Lord on his lips and muttering “Svahakara”. Gunderao was very much taken up by the grand show and said to himself, “I must learn these mantras. If I learn and repeat these mantras, my Lord will certainly be pleased more. I will request Guru Maharaj to teach me some mantras.” “Everybody there, come in for Mangalarti,” came the loud call of the Sannyasi Maharaj. The call knocked down the simple farmer from his sweet dream. He opened his eyes and saw to his surprise that no dish of the Naivedya was touched by the Lord. With great hesitation he said to the Sannyasi, “But I see the Naivedya is not over. The food is not taken by the Lord!…” The Sannyasi, with a blissful smile on his face, replied, “Yes! my boy, the Naivedya is over. God is not like men. And he won’t eat food physically.” Gunderao: “But He eats!” Sannyasi: “Stupid fool that you are, you know nothing about our great Shastras. How can I explain to you? This is kaliyuga.” Gunderao: “Excuse me. I have been feeding Him since you told me last year.” Sannyasi (raging with righteous indignation): “It is a lie, a blasphemy. That is written on your face. The Lord to eat the food from your dirty hands!” Gunderao (with great pain visible on his face and in a broken voice): “Guru Maharaj! Don’t you believe me? I am now unable to believe my own ears. It is a fact, Guru Maharaj, a bare fact — true and simple. I have taken my food all these days only after the Lord’s Naivedya.” Sannyasi (with bitter mockery): “You have, have you? Be pleased to perform your miracle before all of us. Would you?” Gunderao (with extreme pain and in utter humility): “It is not a miracle, Guru Maharaj. It was my daily act. And I have to do it now before you all because I cannot take my food keeping my Lord hungry.” With these words the simple unsophisticated Gunderao sat down with folded hands and closed his eyes streaming with tears, before the Shrine. A silent prayer like a steady flame was rising high. All was silent. “Would you not come today of all days? Would you prove me a liar and a hypocrite before my Guru, friends and relations? If you do not come, well, I will kill myself. Better to die than to live a life of utter disgrace. If you love me, come, and take my offering and prove that I was not telling them a lie.” Thus he went on, the poor soul, with his pleadings and persuasions and prayers. Sometime later he heard the voice so familiar and yet so strange, “O stupid fool! You have betrayed me today. You are calling me not because you love me but because your honor is at stake. Nobody wants me. All these people want just to see a tamasha. Well, today is the end of our year-long relationship. I will take the food today to save your splendid honor. From now onwards live with your honor.” Gunderao was shuddering at each word in a state of utter despondency. He could not speak a single word. The agony of his soul was unbearable and he fell senseless on the ground. Meanwhile with utter surprise and wonder, the Sannyasi and the people gathered there saw the food being eaten by the idol of the Lord. Everyone with folded hands prostrated before the Shrine. The Sannyasi went near the Brahmin farmer and with a rush of emotion clasped him in his arms. “You are my guru, Gunderao. Forgive me. You are a Mahatma. I did not know it in my foolish pride of knowledge. Forgive me, Gunderao. Forgive this fool of a Sannyasi……… ” Gunderao lifted his tearful eyes. He was unable to see or hear anything. Everyone went to him and bowed at his feet. But the utter agony of his soul had blotted out his senses. He could not make out anything. He burst into loud weeping. “I have betrayed my Lord. Woe to me! I loved my honor more.” But then at once he found in himself a new man. “I cannot live without Him… I must find him… I must find him…” thus muttering to himself he ran away from the place like a mad man. Where he went nobody knew. I have been told, the people of the village erected a temple of Mahatma Gunderao; and each year a special Aradhana is offered at the Shrine with great pomp and fanfare.
A young man who had a bitter disappointment in life went to a remote monastery and said to the abbot: “I am disillusioned with life and wish to attain enlightenment to be freed from these sufferings. But I have no capacity for sticking long at anything. I could never do long years of meditation and study and austerity; I should relapse and be drawn back to the world again, painful though I know it to be. Is there any short way for people like me?” “There is,” said the abbot, “if you are really determined. Tell me, what have you studied, what have you concentrated on most in your life?” “Why, nothing really. We were rich, and I did not have to work. I suppose the thing I was really interested in was chess. I spent most of my time at that.” The abbot thought for a moment, and then said to his attendant: “Call such-and-such a monk, and tell him to bring a chessboard and men.” The monk came with the board and the abbot set up the men. He sent for a sword and showed it to the two. “O monk,” he said, “you have vowed obedience to me as your abbot, and now I require it of you. You will play a game of chess with this youth, and if you lose I shall cut off your head with this sword. But I promise that you will be reborn in paradise. If you win, I shall cut off the head of this man; chess is the only thing he has ever tried hard at, and if he loses he deserves to lose his head also.” They looked at the abbot’s face and saw that he meant it; he would cut off the head of the loser. They began to play. With the opening moves the youth felt the sweat trickling down to his heels as he played for his life. The chessboard became the whole world; he was entirely concentrated on it. At first he had somewhat the worst of it, but then the other made an inferior move and he seized his chance to launch a strong attack. As his opponent’s position crumbled, he looked covertly at him. He saw a face of intelligence and sincerity, worn with years of austerity and effort. He thought of his own worthless life, and a wave of compassion came over him. He deliberately made a blunder and then another blunder, ruining his position and leaving himself defenseless. The abbot suddenly leant forward and upset the board. The two contestants sat stupefied. “There is no winner and no loser, ” said the abbot slowly, “there is no head to fall here. Only two things are required,” and he turned to the young man, “complete concentration and compassion. You have today learnt them both. You were completely concentrated on the game, but then in that concentration you could feel compassion and sacrificed your life for it. Now stay here a few months and pursue our training in this spirit and your enlightenment is sure.” He did so and got it. Sourced from Trevor Legett, Encounters in Yoga and Zen
It was a dark rainy night. The King was riding through a narrow lane. He was in disguise. He was in the habit of dressing as a common man and seeing how his subjects lived. He got thoroughly drenched by the rain. But he did not mind it. He was healthy enough to withstand the cold. He did not object to the darkness either. He was not afraid of facing danger. So he rode on leisurely but nevertheless cautiously. Coming stealthily behind were some bandits. They had seen that the King was riding a very fine horse and they intended to steal it. All of a sudden, the bandits surrounded the King. The King was taken by surprise, but he did not panic. Just as he was making his escape, however, his horse’s hoof got stuck in a crack in the road. The bandits, who were more than a dozen in number, were just about to pounce upon him when six young men arrived on the scene and came to his rescue. They attacked the bandits from the rear. The bandits, forced to face this surprise assault, were unable to harm the King. Whenever the King traveled incognito, some of his ablest bodyguards followed at a distance. They bodyguards now arrived on the spot. The bandits were soon cornered. They tried to escape but failed. They were all captured by the royal guards. The King was naturally much pleased with the young men who had come forward to save him, though they had no idea that they were doing a great service to their King. After thanking them, the King insisted that they accompany him to his palace. The young men had come from distant villages. They had become friends because they were staying at the same inn. By morning, the news of the incident had already spread. Everyone was delighted that the bandits had failed to harm their noble King. The members of the royal family, the ministers and courtiers and the public all praised the young men’s courage. When the King appeared in the durbar, the six young men were brought before him. The King got down from his throne and embraced them. He expressed his desire to reward them for the help they had given him. “Let each one ask me for the thing that would please him most. I promise to grant it instantly, unless it is beyond my power or capacity to grant it,” the King announced. The oldest of the six friends was asked to state his desire first. He thought for a moment and then said, “O great King, I’ve only a hut for a house. For a long time I have wished to live in a comfortable house. Will you please fulfil my wish?” The King immediately summoned the court architect and engineer and instructed them to build a grand mansion for the young man. The next young man wanted to be promoted to the rank of a nobleman. The King bestowed some titles upon him and made him one of his peers. The third young man said, “My Lord, the poor people from my village come to the town every week to sell vegetables. Because there is no good road between my village and the town, the villagers suffer, particularly during the rainy season. My prayer is, let a good road link my village with the town.” The King made a gesture of approval and the minister in charge of roads and bridges made a hurried note of it. When the fourth young man was asked to state his wish, he blushed and replied, “O great King, you are like my father; find me a beautiful bride, if you please!’ The King’s jester had a beautiful daughter. The King asked the jester to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the young man. The jester happily agreed. The fifth young man expressed a desire for money. A bag full of gold mohurs was handed to him immediately. At last came the turn of the sixth young man. He said, “My King, I want you to be my guest once a year until one of us dies.” Everyone was surprised at this strange prayer of the young man. Many thought him a fool. Even to the King, the request appeared rather odd. But he had promised to fulfil any request unless it was beyond his capacity. So he agreed to spend a day and a night every year at the young man’s house. Now it was left to the various departments of the King’s government to make adequate arrangements for the King’s yearly visits to the young man’s house. First of all, it was necessary to build a good road – a royal road – to his village, so that the King’s chariot could run there smoothly. Then the question was raised: How could the King live and sleep in the young man’s home which was hardly better than a cowshed? In no time a luxurious castle, worthy of hosting the King, was built for him. But how would he, with his meager income, maintain the castle and play host to the King and his entourage? To solve this problem, arrangements were made for him to draw a handsome monthly allowance from the royal treasury. According to a long established convention, the King could only be a nobleman’s guest. So, the young man was promoted to the rank of a nobleman with very special titles of honor bestowed upon him. He was now as dignified as any prince of royal blood. There was yet one more factor to be considered. The lady who would be the King’s hostess should be familiar with the King’s habits and delicate tastes. To whom could they be more familiar than the King’s daughter? Soon, arrangements were afoot to wed the princess to the young man, for the young man was now rich, lordly and master of a castle. Thus, asking but one boon, the young man got all that his five companions had obtained, and in fact much more, just as praying to avail of the Divine directly one gets the other wealths like devotion and purity all in its wake. One need not wait for these virtues to flourish first to make him eligible for hosting the Divine! Our deep gratitude to Manoj Das
Long, long ago, in the dry land which is now Arabia, a divine being incarnated upon earth to awaken in it the supreme love. As expected it was persecuted by men, misunderstood, suspected, pursued. Mortally wounded by its assailants, it wanted to die quietly in solitude in order to be able to accomplish its work, and being pursued, it ran away. Suddenly, in the vast desert land there appeared a small pomegranate bush. The saviour crept in under the low branches, to leave its body in peace; and immediately the bush spread out miraculously, it grew higher, larger, became deep and thick, so that when the pursuers passed by, they did not even suspect that the One whom they were chasing was hidden there, and they went their way. While drop by drop the sacred blood fell, fertilizing the soil, the bush was covered with marvellous flowers, scarlet, large, crowded with petals…innumerable drops of blood. These are the flowers which express and contain for us the Divine’s Love.
Once upon a time there was a Mahatma who was a great ascetic and a great pandit. He was honoured by all, full of years and wisdom. His name was Junun. Many young boys, many young men used to come to him to receive initiation. They stayed in his hermitage, became pandits themselves, then returned home after a long and studious retreat. One day a young man came to him. His name was Yusuf Hussein. The Mahatma agreed to let him stay with him without even asking who he was. Four years went by, thus, until one morning Junun sent for Yusuf and, for the first time questioned him: “Why have you come here?” Without a second thought Yusuf answered: “To receive religious initiation.” Junun said nothing. He called a servant and asked him, “Have you prepared the box as I asked you?” “Yes, master, it is there, quite ready.” “Bring it without further delay,” said Junun. With great care the servant placed the box before the Mahatma. He took it and gave it to Yusuf: “I have a friend who lives there on the banks of the river Neela. Go and take this box to him from me. But take good care, brother, don’t make any mistake on the way. Keep this box carefully with you and give it to the man whom it is for. When you come back I shall give you initiation.” Once again the Mahatma repeated his advice and described the route Yusuf had to follow to reach the river Neela. Yusuf bowed down at his Guru’s feet, took the box and started on his way. The retreat where the Mahatma’s friend lived was quite far away and in those days there were no cars or railways. So Yusuf walked. He walked the whole morning, then came the afternoon. The heat was intense and radiated everywhere. He felt tired. So he sat down in the shade of an old tree by the roadside to rest a little. The box was very small. It was not locked. Besides, Yusuf had not even paid attention to it. His Guru had told him to carry a box, and he had started off without another word. But now, during the afternoon rest, Yusuf began to think. His mind was free to wander with nothing to occupy it… It would be very rare indeed if on such occasions some foolish idea did not cross the mind… Thus his eyes fell on the box. He began to look at it. “A pretty little box!… Why, it does not seem to be locked… And how light it is! Is it possible that there is anything inside? So light… Perhaps it is empty?” Yusuf stretched out his hand as though to open it. Suddenly he thought better of it: “But no… Full or empty, whatever is in this box is not my concern. My Guru asked me to deliver it to his friend, nothing more. And that’s all that concerns me. I should not care about anything else.” For some time Yusuf sat quietly. But his mind would not remain quiet. The box was still there before his eyes. A pretty little box. “It seems quite empty,” he thought, “what harm would there be in opening an empty box?… If it had been locked I would understand, that would be bad… A box which is not even locked, it can’t be very serious. I’ll just open it for a moment and then shut it again.” Yusuf’s thought turned round and round that box. It was impossible to detach himself from it impossible to control this idea that had crept into him. “Let me see, only a quick glance, just a glance.” Once again he stretched out his hand, drew it back once more, then again sat still. All in vain. Finally Yusuf made up his mind and gently, very gently, he opened the box. Hardly had he opened it than pfft! a little mouse jumped out… and disappeared. The poor mouse all stifled in its box did not waste a second in leaping to freedom! Yusuf was bewildered. He opened his eyes wide and gazed and gazed. The box lay there empty. Then his heart started throbbing sadly: “So, the Mahatma had sent only a mouse, a tiny little mouse… And I couldn’t even carry it safe and sound to the end. Indeed I have committed a serious fault. What shall I do now?” Yusuf was full of regrets. But there was nothing more to do now. In vain he went round the tree, in vain he looked up and down the road. The little mouse had indeed fled… With a trembling hand Yusuf closed the lid and in dismay resumed his journey. When he reached the river Neela and the house of his master’s friend, Yusuf handed the Mahatma’s present to him and waited silently in a comer because of the fault he had committed. This man was a great saint. He opened the box and immediately understood what had happened. “Well, Yusuf,” he said, turning to the young aspirant, “so you have lost that mouse… Mahatma Junun won’t give you initiation, I am afraid, for in order to be worthy of the supreme Knowledge one must have a perfect mastery over one’s mind. Your Master had indeed some doubts about your will-power, that is why he resorted to this little trick, to put you to the test. And if you are not able to accomplish so insignificant a thing as to keep a little mouse in a box, how do you expect to keep great thoughts in your head, the true Knowledge in your heart? Nothing is insignificant, Yusuf. Return to your Master. Learn steadiness of character, perseverance. Be worthy of trust so as to become one day the true disciple of that great Soul.” Crestfallen, Yusuf returned to the Mahatma and confessed his fault. “Yusuf”, he said, “you have lost a wonderful opportunity. I gave you a worthless mouse to take care of and you couldn’t do even that! How then do you expect to keep the most precious of all treasures, the divine Truth? For that you must have self-control. Go and learn. Learn to be master of your mind, for without that nothing great can be accomplished.” Yusuf went away ashamed, head down, and from then on he had only one thought: to become master of himself… For years and years he made tireless efforts, he underwent a hard and difficult tapasya, and finally succeeded in becoming master of his nature. Then, full of confidence Yusuf went back to his Master. The Mahatma was overjoyed to see him again and find him ready. And this is how Yusuf received from Mahatma Junun the great initiation. Many, many years went by, Yusuf grew in wisdom and mastery. He became one of the greatest and most exceptional saints of Islam. All writings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Once upon a time there was a little girl, quite young, very nice, very pretty, living in her family with her parents, particularly in the company of her grandfather. This grandfather was rather old but extremely nice and kind and gentle like herself. He loved the child very much, indeed the grandfather adored his grand-daughter and the child reciprocated the feeling. It happened however that the old man fell ill, very ill. It was quite natural, he was an old man. All people, friends and family members came to see him and gathered in the sick man’s room. “How was he now?” The doctors were there. The little girl stood somewhat away from her grandfather’s sick bed. She was sad, very sad indeed. All of a sudden she looked up towards her grandfather’s bed and saw — strange, strange to say — quite near the bed another little girl standing — a little girl looking like herself in appearance and every way — her double as it were. She herself was standing on one side of her grandfather’s bed, a little away. The other one was standing exactly like herself quite near the bed on the other side. She was amazed and questioned herself: “What has happened? I am here, but my image, a reproduction of mine is over there.” She approached her grandfather, the image also approached close to him. But nobody else noticed anything; she only knew it and for others she was alone. She asked: “But who are you?” The other one answered: “I will tell you later on.” And she disappeared. Subsequently the old man recovered, and the little girl also recovered her grandfather as before. But she continued wondering and questioning about her queer experience. There was no answer for sometime. But she was sure that it was due to her presence that she got back her grandfather. The fact could not be doubted. The vision was absolutely real, there could be no question about it. Later on and soon enough occasions came when she met again and again the same person, whenever there was any difficulty or danger ahead, to help her out of it. It was explained to her in course of time that this person who appeared to be the very image of herself was none else but herself, her real inner person. In this connection some of you will surely remember the famous poem of the famous French poet Alfred de Musset where he speaks -“Nuit de Decembre” — of a strange companion who used to visit him from time to time, at critical moments of his life, come and sit by his side — some unknown person dressed in black who however resembled him as though his own twin brother: Un pauvre enfant vetu de noir Qui me ressemblait comme un frere This story of a double person in oneself, one being the guide and mentor and friend and helper, is a phenomenon not very rare. Everybody, everyone of you have this companion, this friend who protects you, who loves you indeed. If you want you can see her, at least feel her, and this person is absolutely like you in appearance, your own self, the same face and figure as if reflected in a mirror when you stand before it: and then so real and living. He speaks to you, gives you good advice and is so loving and adorable. One way of finding her and coming in contact with her, seeing her and feeling her presence is to be always good, to be good and do good things, never to have bad thoughts, always to be clean in mind and decent in behavior. This will draw your friend to you as if pulled by a magnet and you will feel her within you, near you, and the hidden comrade will reveal herself. This hidden friend is the Presence of the Mother, the Mother is always with you, with every one of you as I have been saying always. I may say each one of you carries three persons in him, you are a triple personality: first of all your outside appearance, as you stand before the others groomed and dressed, hiding as it were within the trappings, your clothes, but behind that you are the bare and naked body, that is, your natural appearance. You have then quite another character than the former personality so clothed. But there is too something else, very different, behind that natural body. The body, however, includes or represents indeed the whole of your present nature: your body, your vital and your mind make one complex — the unit of your common normal personality. But those two are outer robes, hanging loose around another person, behind and within, hanging loose and standing aloof even like a clothing enveloping your body. It is that being which is your true being of whom I was telling you so long, the intimate brother and friend of yours, indeed your own true self, incarnating the Mother’s presence and the Mother’s love. It is only a matter of opening out your coat or coating! With deep gratitude to Nolini Kanta Gupta of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, or Nolini Da, as he was fondly known to all in the Ashram. More on Nolini Da here
Once, the great Yogi, Mahatapa, was meditating on Lord Shiva, absorbed in the inner rhythms of Om Namah Shivaya when a little bird flew overhead the great Yogi, dropping as it flew by. The Yogi felt the bird drop on his head and instantly came out of his meditation. Enraged, he cursed the bird for the dropping, and lo! the little bird turned instantly to ash and dropped out of the sky. Such was the power of the Yogi’s penance. The great Yogi, somewhat impressed by his own Yogic powers, went into the nearby town to see what else he could do. He found his way to a small hut where he could see a woman serving food to her husband. Sage Mahatapa went up to the gate and begged for food, as was customary for monks and saints. “Annam dehi,” he called out to the woman. The woman bowed low to the Sage and said, “Please wait, my Lord! Let me finish serving food to my husband.” Mahatapa was, at the best of times, an impatient person. Though Yoga can give knowledge, realizations and powers but it does not necessarily change the fundamental nature of the Yogi. Mahatapa, following the impulsion of his nature, lost his temper and almost growled at the woman — “Are you asking me to wait, Woman?” The woman smiled indulgently at the Sage and said softly, “I am not a poor little bird that you can curse and kill, O Sage!” Mahatapa was taken aback. How could this poor woman know about the bird? The woman smiled again, as if reading the Sage’s mind. She said, “O Sage, Yoga is not the only way to acquire siddhis! I practice no Yoga, but I have Bhakti. I serve my husband as I serve Vishnu himself. My service is my meditation and my worship.” Sage Mahatapa understood that he was in the presence of an accomplished Yogi, and felt ashamed of his own impatience and anger. He bowed before her and asked her humbly, “I wish to learn further, deepen my practice, conquer my nature… Can you help?” The woman replied, “My Lord, I am not a teacher, I live the life of a housewife. It is not my dharma to instruct. But I can send you to one who is higher than I in learning and realization, a great master.” “Then direct me to him, I shall be deeply grateful, Didi!” “Then go to Mithilapuri town, O Sage, and meet Dharmavyada..” So the Sage went to Mithilapuri and sought out Dharmavyada. He was in for a slightly rude shock when he discovered that Dharmavyada was a butcher by profession. ‘A butcher?’, he thought to himself, ‘What will a worldly man like this butcher teach me of Yoga?’ But out of respect for the woman who had guided him here, he went up to the butcher and stood respectfully before his shop. The butcher was busy cutting and carving the meat. As Mahatapa stood by and watched, he couldn’t help noticing how perfectly the butcher was working on the meat. Each movement was almost perfectly measured, graceful, efficient. The butcher’s face was calm and radiated peace and contentment. His eyes were unwaveringly fixed on the meat, knife and stone. After a while, the butcher Dharmavyada stopped his work, wiped his hands, and bowed to the Sage Mahatapa. “Welcome, O Sage!” Mahatapa bowed too and began, “Sir, I was sent by…” Dharmavyada stopped him short, “I know, Sage. You have been sent by a great sage herself, one who has done intense penance and has accomplished much. You are fortunate to have met her.” “She mentioned nothing…” Said Mahatapa. Dharmavyada smiled, “You have acquired the power to reduce a bird to ashes with your anger. She possesses the power to protect the bird from a Yogi’s anger!” Mahatapa was truly astounded. Dharamvyada continued, “And your question, how can a worldly man like me, a crude butcher, teach you Yoga, reveals that you still have not conquered the dualities of your mind, O Sage!” The Sage bowed low and said, “Teach me, O Master! I see the limitations of my sadhana and how much more I still need to grow.” And Dharamvyada said, “I shall, O Mahatapa.. once I finish my work and close my shop. You can come home with me and we will talk..” And the Sage saw, out of the corner of his eye, a little bird fly across the sky. As retold by Nirakar
Author’s Note: There are parables which are of immense significance but which carry the danger of being misunderstood if emphasis is put at the wrong place. Such a story is the one that follows. This is not meant to illustrate fatalism, far from that; its significance lies in highlighting the attitude of a true devotee — how his efforts should be to make his own wishes and actions a part of the supreme scheme. In the wondrous region of the Kailas — the subtle Kailas that could not be visible to the ordinary human eye, — was situated the Abode of Shiva. One evening Vishnu went to see Shiva. He left his living vehicle, Garuda, in front of the grand natural arch leading into Shiva’s abode. Garuda sat alone marveling at the grandeur of the place, the physical place visible to all. The splendors of the rays of the setting sun had sprayed seven colours on the mist and the snow enveloping the high peaks. Suddenly his eyes fell on a beautiful creature, a little bird seated on the stone arch. “How marvelous is this creation! One who has made this gigantic Himalayas has also made this tiny bird — and both seem equally wonderful!” he thought. Just then Yama, the presiding Deity of Destiny and Death, happened to enter the arch, perhaps with the intention of having a Darshan of Shiva. As he would step over to the other side of the arch, his eyes went over to the bird. His brows were raised. Then he took his eyes off the bird and disappeared behind the arch. Garuda who observed this, told himself, “Yama looking intently at the bird can mean only one thing; the bird’s time is up! Perhaps on his way back he will take its soul away!” Garuda’s heart was filled with pity for the bird. He wanted to save it from impending death. But he told himself, “The laws of Destiny are at work. It is none of my business to interfere with it!”. A minute passed. Garuda found that his emotions were not pacified. “If I can save the bird, why should I not do so?” He took himself to task for it. Next moment his other voice told him, “This is my egoistic impulse. Who am I to save anyone?” Suddenly he heard a subtler voice speaking from deep within: “At the moment I’m not sure whether wisdom lies in my taking action or not taking action. I pray, let whatever I do in this uncertain state, become a part of the total, Providential scheme. I offer my emotions and actions to thee, my Lord!” Next moment he took up the bird and at the speed of lightning went down into Dandakaranya and left it on a rock beside a brook. Then he returned to Kailas and waited for Vishnu. But Yama came out earlier and he saw Garuda and smiled at him. Garuda greeted the God and said, “May I put a question to you? While going in, you saw a bird and for a moment you looked pensive. Why?” “Oh, I had forgotten all about it. Well, when my eyes fell on it, I saw that it was to die in a few minutes swallowed by a python, far far away in Dandakaranya, near a brook. I wondered how this tiny bird will cover such a great distance in such a short time. Then I forgot about it. Surely, it must have happened, somehow. It was time for the little creature to take a new birth.” Yama smiled and went away. Did he know about Garuda’s role in the matter? We do not know. But Garuda sat stunned. At first uncertain whether to be sad or happy; soon he transcended the need to be in any such state of mind and said, “O Lord, I’m a vehicle of yours! Let me remain a vehicle of yours both in action and inaction.” He was back in his mood of enlightened equanimity. Courtesy: The Heritage. July 1967
Once upon a time, far away in the East, there was a small country that lived in order and harmony, where each one in his own place played the part for which he was made, for the greatest good of all. Farmers, craftsmen, workmen and merchants—all had but one ambition, one concern: to do their work as best they could. This was in their own interest, firstly because, since each one had freely chosen his occupation, it suited his nature and gave him pleasure, and also because they knew that all good work was fairly rewarded, so that they, their wives and their children could lead a quiet and peaceful life, without useless luxury, but with a generous provision for their needs, which was enough to satisfy them. The artists and scientists, few in number but each devoted to his science or art—his purpose in life—were supported by the grateful nation, which was the first to benefit from their useful discoveries and to enjoy their ennobling works. Thus sheltered from the cares of the struggle for life, these scientists had a single aim: that their experimental research, their sincere and earnest studies should serve to allay the sufferings of humanity, to increase its strength and well-being by making superstition and fear draw back as far as possible before the knowledge that brings solace and enlightenment. The artists, whose whole will was free to concentrate upon their art, had only one desire: to manifest beauty, each according to his own highest conception. Among them, as friends and guides, were four philosophers, whose entire life was spent in profound study and luminous contemplations, to widen constantly the field of human knowledge and one by one to lift the veils from what is still a mystery. All were content, for they knew no bitter rivalries and could each devote themselves to the occupation or the study that pleased him. Since they were happy they had no need for many laws, and their Code was only this: a very simple counsel to all, “Be yourself”, and for all a single law to be strictly observed, the law of Charity, whose highest part is Justice, the charity which will permit no wastage and which will hinder no one in his free evolution. In this way, very naturally, everyone works at once for himself and for the collectivity. This orderly and harmonious country was ruled by a king who was king simply because he was the most intelligent and wise, because he alone was capable of fulfilling the needs of all, he alone was both enlightened enough to follow and even to guide the philosophers in their loftiest speculations, and practical enough to watch over the organisation and well-being of his people, whose needs were well known to him. At the time when our narrative begins, this remarkable ruler had reached a great age—he was more than two hundred years old—and although he still retained all his lucidity and was still full of energy and vigour, he was beginning to think of retirement, a little weary of the heavy responsibilities which he had borne for so many years. He called his young son Meotha to him. The prince was a young man of many and varied accomplishments. He was more handsome than men usually are, his charity was of such perfect equity that it achieved justice, his intelligence shone like a sun and his wisdom was beyond compare; for he had spent part of his youth among workmen and craftsmen to learn by personal experience the needs and requirements of their life, and he had spent the rest of his time alone, or with one of the philosophers as his tutor, in seclusion in the square tower of the palace, in study or contemplative repose. Meotha bowed respectfully before his father, who seated him at his side and spoke to him in these words: “My son, I have ruled this country for more than a hundred and seventy years and although, to this day, all men of goodwill have seemed content with my guidance, I fear that my great age will soon no longer allow me to bear so lightly the heavy responsibility of maintaining order and watching over the well-being of all. My son, you are my hope and my joy. Nature has been very generous to you; she has showered you with her gifts and by a wise and model education you have developed them most satisfactorily. The whole nation, from the humblest peasant to our great philosophers, has a complete and affectionate trust in you; you have been able to win their affection by your kindness and their respect by your justice. It is therefore quite natural that their choice should fall on you when I ask for leave to enjoy a well-earned repose. But as you know, according to age-old custom, no one may ascend the throne who is not biune, that is, unless he is united by the bonds of integral affinity with the one who can bring him the peace of equilibrium by a perfect match of tastes and abilities. It was to remind you of this custom that I called you here, and to ask you whether you have met the young woman who is both worthy and willing to unite her life with yours, according to our wish.” “It would be a joy to me, my father, to be able to tell you, ‘I have found the one whom my whole being awaits’, but, alas, this is yet to be. The most refined maidens in the kingdom are all known to me, and for several of them I feel a sincere liking and a genuine admiration, but not one of them has awakened in me the love which can be the only rightful bond, and I think I can say without being mistaken that in return none of them has conceived a love for me. Since you are so kind as to value my judgment, I will tell you what is in my mind. It seems to me that I should be better fitted to rule our little nation if I were acquainted with the laws and customs of other countries; I wish therefore to travel the world for a year, to observe and to learn. I ask you, my father, to allow me to make this journey, and who knows?—I may return with my life’s companion, the one for whom I can be all happiness and all protection.” “Your wish is wise, my son. Go—and your father’s blessing be with you.” Amid the western ocean lies a little island valued for its valuable forests. One radiant summer’s day, a young girl is walking slowly in the shade of the wonderful trees. Her name is Liane and she is fair among women; her lithe body sways gracefully beneath light garments, her face, whose delicate skin seems paler for her carmine lips, is crowned with a heavy coil of hair so golden that it shines; and her eyes, like two deep doors opening on limitless blue, light up her features with their intellectual radiance. Liane is an orphan, alone in life, but her great beauty and rare intelligence have attracted much passionate desire and sincere love. But in a dream she has seen a man, a man who seems, from his garments, to come from a distant land; and the sweet and serious gaze of the stranger has won the heart of the girl—now she can love no other. Since then she has been waiting and hoping; it is to be free to dream of the handsome face seen in the night that she is walking amid the solitude of the lofty woods. The dazzling sunlight cannot pierce the thick foliage; the silence is hardly broken by the light rustle of the moss beneath the footsteps of the walking girl; all sleeps in the heavy drowse of the noonday heat; and yet she feels a vague unease, as if invisible beings were hiding in the thickets, watchful eyes peeping from behind trees. Suddenly a bird’s song rings out clear and joyful; all uneasiness vanishes. Liane knows that the forest is friendly—if there are beings in the trees, they cannot wish her harm. She is seized by an emotion of great sweetness, all appears beautiful and good to her, and tears come to her eyes. Never has her hope been so ardent at the thought of the beloved stranger; it seems to her that the trees quivering in the breeze, the moss rustling beneath her feet, the bird renewing its melody—all speak to her of the One whom she awaits. At the idea that perhaps she is going to meet him she stops short, trembling, pressing her hands against her beating heart, her eyes closed to savour to the full the exquisite emotion; and now the sensation grows more and more intense until it is so precise that Liane opens her eyes, sure of a presence. Oh, wonder of wonders! He is there, he, he in truth as she has seen him in her dream … more handsome than men usually are.—It was Meotha. With a look they have recognised each other; with a look they have told each other of the long waiting and the supreme joy of rediscovery; for they have known each other in a distant past, now they are sure of it. She places her hand in the hand he offers her, and together, silent in a silence filled with thoughts exchanged, they wend their way through the forest. Before them appears the sea, calm and green beneath a happy sun. A great ship sways gently near the shore. Meekly, trustingly, Liane follows Meotha into the boat which awaits them, drawn up on the sand. Two strong oarsmen put it to sea and soon bring them alongside the vessel. Only as she sees the little island disappearing below the horizon does the girl say to her companion: “I was waiting for you, and now that you have come, I have followed you without question. We are made for each other. I feel it, I know it, and I know also that now and forever you will be my happiness and my protection. But I loved my island birthplace with its beautiful forests, and I would like to know to what shore you are taking me.” “I have sought you throughout the world, and now that I have found you, I have taken your hand without asking you anything, for in your eyes I saw that you expected me. From this moment and forever, my beloved shall be all to me; and if I have made her leave her little wooded isle, it is to lead her as a queen to her kingdom, the only land on earth that is in harmony, the only nation that is worthy of Her. From The Mother’s “Words of Long Ago” (Collected Works of The Mother)
“O lord, I feel like laughing when sages and philosophers speak of Maya with some awe. There must be some truth in their fear, but Maya surely cannot put everybody under its spell!” One day Narada observed while walking with Vishnu on one of their occasional visits to Earth. Needless to say, they looked like ordinary mortals. “I’m too thirsty to answer,” was Vishnu’s brief comment. He sat down under a tree as if terribly tired and looked wistfully at the river flowing beyond a stretch of bushy meadow. “Wait a moment and I’ll fetch water for you,” said Narada. He walked briskly towards the river. Plucking a few leaves and thorns, he improvised a cup, entered the river and stood knee-deep in the water. It was indeed refreshingly cool. He leaned forward to fill the cup. “O weary traveler!” the voice, extremely inviting, surprised Narada. He straightened up and looked at the shore. There stood a beautiful maiden, with a water-filled jar under her arm. “The water there is rather muddy, unfit for drinking. If you care to follow me to my house yonder, I will serve you with clean water,” said the maiden, smiling bashfully. She turned and started to walk. Narada followed her. “You can throw away the leaf-cup. We have our tumblers!” the maiden said softly, looking over her shoulder and displaying yet another flash of bewitching smile. Her parents received Narada with sincere affection and served him a sumptuous lunch and offered a cozy bed for his rest. Narada lay down for a siesta, but soon passed into a slumber. It was evening by the time he woke up. “My son, you still look tired, even though you are relaxed. Besides, it is not safe to travel after dusk. Better pass your night here,” proposed the maiden’s father. Behind him stood the maiden, reinforcing her father’s proposal with a meaningful smile. Narada was only too happy to agree. At night it was the maiden who served him his dinner and who prepared his bed. Narada was overwhelmed. “My boy,” in the morning the maiden’s father told him, “I’ve only one child— my daughter. Providence has given me enough. Would you mind marrying my daughter and inheriting my property?” Narada blushed and made no protest. The proposed marriage was duly performed and slowly Narada took over the entire responsibility of his father-in-law’s property and establishments. His parents-in-law died in due course. Narada was blessed with children. They grew up, got married and promoted Narada to the position of a grandfather. His days passed through pleasures, sorrows and hopes as normal in the life of everybody else. Once in a while, however, he was beset with melancholy. He felt as if he had forgotten something vital. But before he had the time to concentrate and find out what that was, his attention was diverted to some mundane problem. One day it began to rain incessantly. At midnight Narada woke up with a jolt. The river was in spate and the embankment had broken, flooding the whole village. In no time parts of his house began to collapse. “Where are you, my husband!” cried out his wife. As Narada plodded through the water and mud in the direction of the voice, his grandchildren’s cries were heard: “We are being swept away by the tide, Grand-pa.” He could also hear the shouts of his sons and daughters. The bewildered Narada groped in the darkness, his heart breaking at his inability to come to anybody’s rescue. In the flashes of lighting he had flitting glimpses of his dear ones being carried away by the currents. “O God!” cried out Narada. That woke him up. In fact, he had dozed off for a second while bending to fill the leaf-cup with water. He returned to Lord Vishnu with the water, but blushing almost to death. “Narada! Did you by any chance take a little more time than a moment?” Vishnu asked while receiving the water. “I understand, my Lord, Maya is that which keeps the souls away from you.…” “While I wait!” added Vishnu. Maya is popularly understood as a synonym of illusion. But the term has far greater significance at the spiritual plane. It is the creative power and its role in our life changes as our consciousness grows. “All manifestation proceeds by the two terms, Vidya and Avidya, the consciousness of unity and the consciousness of multiplicity. They are the two aspects of Maya, the formative self-conception of the eternal,” says Sri Aurobindo. The story illustrates the spell of Maya operative in nature – a concept between the two aforesaid definitions of Maya. Even though man remains immersed in ignorance, the Lord never gives him up. With deep gratitude to Manoj Das
The ruler of a certain kingdom, during one of his city tours, happened to see a young man sitting silently under a tree. Something about the young man caught his attention. He stopped by and waited for him to move, but the young man did not move, sitting still as a statue. The king was fascinated. He returned that night in disguise to see what the young man would be doing. He was amazed to see that the young man was still sitting under that same tree, as still as rock. The king would come every night after that to check on this strange young man and would always find him seated still in meditation, eyes lightly closed. Eventually, unable to restrain himself, he approached the young man and introduced himself, expecting some reaction at least. There was none. The young man’s eyes seemed to reflect a profound emptiness that the king was unable to fathom. “I’m sorry that I disturbed your meditation, young man,” the king said apologetically, “but I am fascinated by you.” The young man smiled and said, “You don’t need to apologize. I was not meditating.” “Oh,” said the King, “I thought you were. You were sitting still, with your eyes closed.” “That I was” replied the young man. “Isn’t that meditating?” Asked the king, his curiosity aroused. “No, that is not.” “Then what is it?” “It’s sitting still. Doing nothing.” The king was puzzled. The young man smiled again and said, “But go ahead, what is it that you wanted of me?” The king said, a bit hesitantly, “I wish to invite you to my palace, to be my guest for some days. I will take care of your needs. I have fallen in love with your silence, young man. Your imperturbability is utterly fascinating. Will you come with me?” The king was hesitant because he knew the true motive lurking behind his innocent invitation — deep inside, he wanted to test the young man: would he actually accept his invitation? Would one like him, sitting under a tree, in such deep silence, accept such an invitation? If he is genuine, he won’t..he shouldn’t… The young man stood up, picked up a small bag which probably contained all of his belongings, brushed the dust off his clothes and said, “Let’s go.” The king was taken aback for a while. What it this? This man was ready to come with him to the palace. What happened to his meditation, or sitting still, or whatever? Was he then pretending? He can’t be a meditator, a holy man. What would a genuine meditator have to do with palaces and comforts? The king seemed disappointed deep in his mind. But now, he couldn’t go back on his word. The young man, meanwhile, stood quietly beside the king, his bag hung on his shoulder, not a flicker of expression on his face. “Thank you, young man,” said the king at last, “let’s go.” So the two went back to the king’s palace. The young man was given a spacious luxurious room in the palace, servants attended upon him, the best meals were prepared for him, young girls waited upon him, the best wines in the palace were served to him. And, to the utter bewilderment of the king, the young man accepted all that was offered to him without a murmur, as if he was accustomed to these luxuries all his life. But with each passing day, the king was getting disenchanted and upset that he had been taken for a ride. The king kept thinking to himself: What have I got myself into? This fellow is an imposter. He was sitting there like a buddha just to trick me because somehow he knew I would be passing his way and that I was interested in sages and saints. God! How easy it must have been! But now how do I get him out? The weeks passed in silent agony for the king. His queen would also mockingly question him about his royal guest, the silent sage. Eventually, the king couldn’t take it any more and lost his patience. One evening, as the two were strolling in the garden, the king asked the young man, “I have one question that I need absolutely to ask. I have been pondering over this for days.” The young man said, “Sure, ask me anything.” “This may be awkward — but I really want to know. I have been observing you for the last few weeks and have seen you enjoy all the luxuries of the palace. What then is the difference between you and me?” The young man smiled at the king and said, “Yes, I was expecting this question. This question arose in your mind the moment I had accepted your invitation. You weren’t expecting me to. You should’ve asked this question much earlier.” “So will you explain?” The king asked, a bit uncertainly. “Yes, I will. But not here, like this. For my answer, you will have to come with me to the borders of your kingdom.” The king readily agreed. The border was just across the river, a few miles ride. They rode together in silence, and in a couple of hours, they had come to the river across which the king’s province ended. The young man looked quietly at the king for a few moments and said,”Here is my answer, my friend: I am going. Will you come with me?” “Going where?” “Wherever the path takes me. Maybe I’ll find some other spot under some other tree somewhere… who knows?” “But,” the king stammered, “How can I come? I have a kingdom to manage, a family to take care of..” The young man looked into the eyes of the king and said very simply, ”Do you see the difference between you and me? I have only a bag with a change of clothes. Nothing else.” Something dawned on the king at that moment. The young man continued, “And there’s another difference: My awareness did not change — it was the same in your palace as it was under the tree. Palace or hut, city or forest, luxury or austerity, nothing makes a difference. My inner state does not change.” The king understood immediately. The light had dawned. The young man’s gaze was as empty as before, and as serene. He had not lost any of his silence. The king began to recall several occasions in the palace as he was observing the young man — the king’s attention had been distracted all through by the material details, but he had quite overlooked what was staring him in the face all along: that the young man’s gaze had not changed, his expression had not changed, his demeanor had not changed. The king had observed only the outer details and had lost faith, what he had missed were the expression, the eyes, the gaze. The kind bowed to the young man and said with a broken voice, “Forgive me, my young friend, I have been foolish and hasty in my judgment. I could not fathom your silence. Please come back with me or I’ll never forgive myself.” The young man smiled gently and said, “No, King! Don’t feel sorry for my sake. I belong nowhere and to none. I neither come nor go. You have work and responsibilities and so you must return. I go where the wind and the waters take me.” The king became even more insistent and repentant. “No, I beg of you. This time I shall pay attention to you and not to the outer details. I will learn from you…” The young man spoke again, gently and softly, “O, King! I can come back, but then there will be other things to disturb and distract you. The mind will always find flaws and reasons to doubt. Why put yourself through more suffering? Instead, go back to your kingdom and your palace with more silence, more meditativeness… Or come with me and we shall walk together.” The young man then turned away from the king and started walking into the forest, without a backward glance. The king, with a heavy heart, turned towards his kingdom.
A sadhu under the instruction of his Guru built for himself a small shed, thatched with leaves at a distance from the haunts of men. He began his devotional exercises in this hut. Now, every morning after ablution he would hang his wet cloth and the kaupina (loin-cloth) on a tree close to the hut, to dry them. One day on his return from the neighboring village, which he would visit to beg for his daily food, he found that the rats had cut holes in his kaupina. So the next day he was obliged to go to the village for a fresh one. A few days later, the sadhu spread his loin-cloth on the roof of his hut to dry it and then went to the village to beg as usual. On his return he found that the rats had torn it into shreds. He felt much annoyed and thought within himself “Where shall I go again to beg for a rag? Whom shall I ask for one?” All the same he saw the villagers the next day and re-presented to them the mischief done by the rats. Having heard all he had to say, the villagers said, “Who will keep you supplied with cloth every day? Just do one thing—keep a cat; it will keep away the rats.” The sadhu forthwith secured a kitten in the village and carried it to his hut. From that day the rats ceased to trouble him and there was no end to his joy. The sadhu now began to tend the useful little creature with great care and feed it on the milk begged from the village. After some days, a villager said to him: “Sadhuji, you require milk every day; you can supply your want for a few days at most by begging; who will supply you with milk all the year round? Just do one thing—keep a cow. You can satisfy your own creature comforts by drinking its milk and you can also give some to your cat.” In a few days the sadhu procured a milch cow and had no occasion to beg for milk any more. By and by, the sadhu found it necessary to beg for straw for his cow. He had to visit the neighboring villages for the purpose, but the villagers said, “There are lots of uncultivated lands close to your hut; just cultivate the land and you shall not have to beg for straw for your cow.” Guided by their advice, the sadhu took to tilling the land. Gradually he had to engage some laborers and later on found it necessary to build barns to store the crop in. Thus he became, in course of time, a sort of landlord. And, at last he had to take a wife to look after his big household. He now passed his days just like a busy householder. After some time, his Guru came to see him. Finding himself surrounded by goods and chattels, the Guru felt puzzled and enquired of a servant, “An ascetic used to live here in a hut; can you tell me where he has removed himself?” The servant did not know what to say in reply. So the Guru ventured to enter into the house, where he met his disciple. The Guru said to him, “My son, what is all this?” The disciple, in great shame fell at the feet of his Guru and said, “My Lord, all for a single piece of loin-cloth!” From the Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna
Why Sri Krishna did not save the Pandavas when they played dice with Duryadhana & Shakuni Since childhood, Uddhava had been close to Krishna, charioting him and serving him in several ways. He never asked for any wish or boon from Sri Krishna. When Krishna was at the verge of completing his life’s mission on earth, he called Uddhava and said, “Dear Uddhava, in this avatar of mine, many people have asked and received boons from me; but you have never asked me for anything. Why don’t you ask for something now?” Even though Uddhava had never asked anything for himself, he had been carefully observing Krishna since his childhood. He had always wondered about certain contradictions between Krishna’s teachings and actions, and had always wanted to understand the reasons for these apparent or real contradictions. So he asked Krishna, “I have observed that several things you have done or not done in your life were different from what you have always taught or stood for. I truly wish to understand why — for instance, during the great yuddha, the role you played confounds me to this day. I’m curious and wish to understand. Will you explain?” Krishna said, “Uddhava, please ask without hesitation.” Uddhava then said, “Krishna, you were a dear friend of the Pandavas. They trusted you fully as their protector and friend. You not only know what is happening, but you also know what is going to happen. You are a sarvajnani and a trikaldarshi. Then why did you not stop Yudhisthira from playing the game?” Before Krishna could answer, Uddhava continued, “Ok, even if you did not stop him, why did you not turn the luck in favor of Yudhisthira — that would have ensured the victory of dharma? “But that too you did not do. You could have at least saved Yudhisthira by stopping the game after he lost his wealth, country and himself. You could have released him from the punishment for gambling. Or, you could have entered the hall when he started betting his brothers. You did not do that either. “At least, when Duryodhan tempted Yudhisthira by offering to return everything he had lost by putting Draupadi on stake, you could have intervened, and with your divine power you could have made the dices roll in a way favorable to Yudhisthira. But your intervention came only when Draupadi almost lost her modesty. “Everyone knows that you saved Draupadi’s modesty by your intervention, but what modesty is left of a woman once she is dragged into the hall by a man and almost disrobed in front of so many people? What did you really save? Only when you help a person at the time of crisis can you be called a protector. But you did not help in the real time of crisis — was that dharmic?” Smiling, Krishna replied, “Dear Uddhava, this is simple: he who uses viveka, the discriminating intelligence, wins! Duryodhan used his viveka, Yudhisthira did not. So Yudhisthira lost. That is how it happens.” Uddhava seemed quite lost and confused. Krishna continued, “While Duryodhana had the wealth to gamble, he did not know how to play the game of dice, and so he used his Uncle Shakuni to play the game while he did the betting. That is the use of viveka. Yudhisthira too could have thought similarly and offered that I, his cousin, would play on his behalf. Now, if Shakuni and I had played the game of dice, who do you think would have won? “I can forgive the fact that he forgot to include me in the game, but, without viveka, he committed another blunder. He prayed that I should not come to the hall because he did not want me to know that he was playing the game. So he tied me down with his prayers and prevented me coming into the hall. I was just outside all the while, waiting for someone to call me through their prayers. Even when Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were lost, they were only cursing Duryodhana and brooding over their fate; they forgot to call me. “Even Draupadi did not call me when Dusshasan held her hair and dragged her in on his brother’s orders. She got into argument in the court, quite sure of her own abilities. She never felt the need to call me. Finally, when Dusshasan started actually disrobing her, she gave up depending on her own strength and shouted for me. Only then did I get the chance to intervene, and I reached as soon as I was called. I saved her. What did I do wrong?’” Uddhava exclaimed, “Wonderful explanation, Kanha, I am impressed but not deceived. Can I ask you another question?’” Krishna said, “Sure, go ahead, Uddhava.” “Does this mean that you come only when you are called? Will you not come on your own to help people in crisis, to prevent injustice, adharma?” Krishna smiled as he said, “Uddhava, all beings and events are moved by the subtle laws of Karma. I don’t run the laws of karma, I don’t interfere, I am only a witness. I stand close to you and observe whatever is happening. This is the Divine’s dharma!” Uddhava exclaimed again, “Wow! Very good, Krishna. In that case, you will stand close to us, observe all our stupidities and do nothing? And we will keep blundering and you will keep observing? Would you then want us to keep making mistakes of all kinds and suffer?” Krishna replied, “Uddhava, do realize the deeper meaning of your statements. Once you know that I am standing as witness right next to you, will you continue making mistakes, acting stupidly, living unconsciously? You all overlook this and believe that you can do things without my knowledge. That is when things go wrong. Yudhisthira’s error was that he thought he could play the game of dice without my knowledge. If Yudhisthira had realized that I am always present within everyone as the inner witness, would the game not have finished differently?” Uddhava reflected within himself — What a sublime truth! Krishna, the Supreme Lord, the mover of the worlds, is always with us and within us, the constant inner sakshi… we only have to live in this knowledge and surrender to Him, invoke Him in all our thoughts and actions.. not just sakshi but anumanta and Ishwara. This indeed was Krishna’s simple truth to Arjuna throughout the Gita — nimitta matra bhava: become an instrument only, and my intervention will be constant.
A poor man was sitting in a dark hut thinking of his miseries and of the injustice and wrongs that could be found in this world of God’s making. Out of abhimana, he began to mutter to himself, “As men do not want to cast a slur on God’s name, they put the blame on Karma. If my misfortunes are really due to the sins committed in my previous birth and if I was so great a sinner, then currents of evil thoughts should still be passing through my mind. Can the mind of such a wicked person get cleansed so soon? And what about that Tinkari Sheel who has such colossal wealth and commands so many people! If there is anything like the fruits of Karma, then surely he must have been a famous saint and sadhu in his previous life; but I see no trace of that at all in his present birth. I don’t think a bigger rogue exists — one so cruel and crooked. All these tales about Karma are just clever inventions of God to console man’s mind. Shyamsundar  is very tricky; luckily he does not reveal himself to me, otherwise I would teach him such a lesson that he would stop playing these tricks.” As soon as he finished muttering, the man saw that his dark room was flooded with a dazzling light. After a while the luminous waves faded and he found in front of him a charming boy of a dusky complexion standing with a lamp in his hand, and smiling sweetly without saying a word. Noticing the musical anklets round his feet and the peacock plume, the man understood that Shyamsundar had revealed himself. At first he was at a loss what to do; for a moment he thought of bowing at his feet, but looking at the boy’s smiling face no longer felt like making his obeisance. At last he burst out with the words, “Hullo, Keshta , what makes you come here?” The boy replied with a smile, “Well, didn’t you call me? Just now you had the desire to whip me! That is why I am surrendering myself to you. Come along, whip me.” The man was now even more confounded than before, but not with any repentance for the desire to whip the Divine: the idea of punishing instead of patting such a sweet youngster did not appeal to him. The boy spoke again, “You see, Harimohon, those who, instead of fearing me, treat me as a friend, scold me out of affection and want to play with me, I love very much. I have created this world for my play only; I am always on the lookout for a suitable playmate. But, brother, I find no one. All are angry with me, make demands on me, want boons from me; they want honour, liberation, devotion — nobody wants me. I give whatever they ask for. What am I to do? I have to please them; otherwise they will tear me to pieces. You too, I find, want something from me. You are vexed and want to whip some one. In order to satisfy that desire you have called me. Here I am, ready to be whipped. ye yathā māṁ prapadyante . I accept whatever people offer me. But before you beat me, if you wish to know my ways, I shall explain them to you. Are you willing?” Harimohon replied, “Are you capable of that? I see that you can talk a good deal, but how am I to believe that a mere child like you can teach me something?” The boy smiled again and said, “Come, see whether I can or not.” Then Sri Krishna placed his palm on Harimohon’s head. Instantly electric currents started flowing all through his body; from the mooladhara the slumbering kundalini power went up running to the head-centre (brahmarandhra), hissing like a serpent of flame; the head became filled with the vibration of life-energy. The next moment it seemed to Harimohon that the walls around were moving away from him, as if the world of forms and names was fading into Infinity leaving him alone. Then he became unconscious. When he came back to his senses, he found himself with the boy in an unknown house, standing before an old man who was sitting on a cushion, plunged in deep thought, his cheek resting on his palm. Looking at that heart-rending despondent face distorted by tormenting thoughts and anxiety, Harimohon could not believe that this was Tinkari Sheel, the all-in-all in their village. Then, extremely frightened, he asked the boy, “Keshta, what have you done? You have entered someone’s dwelling in the dead of night like a thief! The police will come and thrash the life out of us. Don’t you know Tinkari Sheel’s power?” The boy laughed and said, “I know it pretty well. But stealing is an old practice of mine, and, besides, I am on good terms with the police. Don’t you fear. Now I am giving you the inner sight, look inside the old man. You know Tinkari’s power, now witness how mighty I am.” At once Harimohon could see into the man’s mind. He saw, as in an opulent city ravaged by a victorious enemy, innumerable terrible-looking demons and ogres who had entered into that brilliant intelligence, disturbing its peace and composure, plundering its happiness. The old man had quarrelled with his young son and turned him out; the sorrow of losing his beloved child had cowed down his spirit, but anger, pride and vanity had shut the door of his heart and were guarding it. Forgiveness had no entry there. Hearing calumnies against his own daughter he had driven her away and was lamenting over the cherished one he had lost. He knew that she was chaste but the fear of social censure and a feeling of shame coupled with his own arrogance and selfishness had put a curb on his affection. Frightened by the memory of a thousand sins the old man was trembling, but he did not have the courage or the strength to mend his evil ways. Now and then thoughts of death and of the other world came to him and filled him with terror. Harimohon saw also that from behind these morbid thoughts the hideous messenger of death was constantly peeping out and knocking at the door. Whenever this happened, the old man’s heart sank and he frantically screamed with fear. Horrified by this sight Harimohon looked at the boy and exclaimed, “Why, Keshta! I used to think this man the happiest of all!” The boy replied, “Just there lies my power. Tell me now which of the two is mightier — this Tinkari Sheel or Sri Krishna, the master of Vaikuntha? Look, Harimohon, I too have the police, sentinels, government, law, justice, I too can play the game of being a king; do you like this game?” “No, my child,” answered Harimohon, “it is a very cruel game. Why, do you like it?” The boy laughed and declared, “I like all sorts of games; I like to whip as well as to be whipped.” Then he continued. “You see, Harimohon, people like you look at the outward appearance of things and have not yet cultivated the subtle power of looking inside. Therefore you grumble that you are miserable and Tinkari is happy. This man has no material want; still, compared to you, how much more this millionaire is suffering! Can you guess why? Happiness is a state of mind, misery also is a state of mind. Both are only mind-created. He who possesses nothing, whose only possessions are difficulties, even he, if he wills, can be greatly happy. But just as you cannot find happiness after spending your days in dry piety, and as you are always dwelling upon your miseries so too this man who spends his days in sins which give him no real pleasure is now thinking only of his miseries. All this is the fleeting happiness of virtue and the fleeting misery of vice, or the fleeting misery of virtue and the fleeting happiness of vice. There is no joy in this conflict. The image of the abode of bliss is with me: he who comes to me, falls in love with me, wants me, lays his demands on me, torments me — he alone can succeed in getting my image of bliss.” Harimohon went on eagerly listening to these words of Sri Krishna. The boy continued, “And look here, Harimohon, dry piety has lost its charm for you, but in spite of that you cannot give it up, habit binds you to it; you cannot even conquer this petty vanity of being pious. This old man, on the other hand, gets no joy from his sins, yet he too cannot abandon them because he is habituated to them, and is suffering hell’s own agonies in this life. These are the bonds of virtue and vice; fixed and rigid notions, born of ignorance, are the ropes of these bonds. But the sufferings of that old man are indeed a happy sign. They will do him good and soon liberate him.” So far Harimohon had been listening silently to Sri Krishna’s words. Now he spoke out, “Keshta, your words are undoubtedly sweet, but I don’t trust them. Happiness and misery may be states of mind, but outer circumstances are their cause. Tell me, when the mind is restless because of starvation, can anyone be happy? Or when the body is suffering from a disease or enduring pain, can any one think of you?” “Come, Harimohon, that too I shall show you,” replied the boy. Again he placed his palm on Harimohon’s head. As soon as he felt the touch, Harimohon saw no longer the dwelling of Tinkari Sheel. On the beautiful, solitary and breezy summit of a hill an ascetic was seated, absorbed in meditation, with a huge tiger lying prone at his feet like a sentinel. Seeing the tiger Harimohon’s own feet would not proceed any further. But the boy forcibly dragged him near to the ascetic. Incapable of resisting the boy’s pull Harimohon had to go. The boy said, “Look, Harimohon.” Harimohon saw, stretched out in front of his eyes, the ascetic’s mind like a diary on every page of which the name of Sri Krishna was inscribed a thousand times. Beyond the gates of the Formless Samadhi the ascetic was playing with Sri Krishna in the sunlight. Harimohon saw again that the ascetic had been starving for many days, and for the last two days his body had experienced extreme suffering because of hunger and thirst. Reproachingly Harimohon asked, “What’s this, Keshta? Babaji loves you so much and still he has to suffer from hunger and thirst? Have you no common sense? Who shall feed him in this lonely forest, home of tigers?” The boy answered, “I will feed him. But look here for another bit of fun.” Harimohon saw the tiger go straight to an ant-hill which was close by and break it with a single stroke of the paw. Hundreds of ants scurried out and began stinging the ascetic angrily. The ascetic remained plunged in meditation, undisturbed, unmoved. Then the boy sweetly breathed in his ears, “Beloved!” The ascetic opened his eyes. At first he felt no pain from the stings; the all-enchanting flute-call which the whole world longs for, was still ringing in his ears — as it had once rung in Radha’s ears at Vrindavan. At last, the innumerable repeated stings made him conscious of his body. But he did not stir. Astonished, he began muttering to himself, “How strange! I have never known such things! Obviously it is Sri Krishna who is playing with me. In the guise of these insignificant ants he is stinging me.” Harimohon saw that the burning sensation no longer reached the ascetic’s mind. Rather every sting produced in him an intense ecstasy all over his body, and, drunk with that ecstasy, he began to dance, clapping his hands and singing the praise of Sri Krishna. The ants dropped down from his body and fled. Stupefied, Harimohon exclaimed, “Keshta, what is this spell?” The boy clapped now his hands, swung round twice on his foot and laughed aloud, “I am the only magician on earth. None shall understand this spell. This is my supreme riddle. Did you see it? Amid this agony also he could think only of me. Look again.” The ascetic sat down once more, self-composed; his body went on suffering hunger and thirst, but his mind merely perceived the suffering and did not get involved in it or affected by it. At this moment, a voice, sweeter than a flute, called out from the hill, “Beloved!” Harimohon was startled. It was the very voice of Shyamsunder, sweeter than a flute. Then he saw a beautiful dusky complexioned boy come out from behind the rocks, carrying in a dish excellent food and some fruits. Harimohon was dumb-founded and looked towards Sri Krishna. The boy was standing beside him, yet the boy who was coming resembled Sri Krishna in every detail! This boy came and throwing a light on the ascetic, said, “See what I have brought for you.” The ascetic smiled and asked, “Oh, you have come? Why did you keep me starving so long? Well, take your seat and dine with me.” The ascetic and the boy started eating the food from the dish, feeding each other, snatching away each other’s share. After the meal was over, the boy took the dish and disappeared into the darkness. Harimohon was about to ask something when, all of a sudden, he saw that there was neither Sri Krishna nor the ascetic, neither the tiger nor any hill. He found himself living in a well-to-do quarter of a town; he possessed much wealth, a family and children. Every day he was giving alms in charity to the Brahmins and to the beggars; he was regularly repeating the Divine Name three times a day; observing all the rites and rituals prescribed in the Shastras, he was following the path shown by Raghunandan, and was leading the life of an ideal father, an ideal husband and an ideal son. But the next moment he saw to his dismay that the residents of the locality he was living in had neither mutual good-will nor any happiness; they considered the mechanical observance of social conventions the highest virtue. Instead of the ecstatic feeling that had been his in the beginning, he now had a feeling of suffering. It seemed to him as if he had been very thirsty but, lacking water, had been eating dust, — only dust, infinite dust. He ran away from that place and went to another locality. There, in front of a grand mansion, a huge crowd had gathered; words of blessing were on every one’s lips. Advancing he saw Tinkari Sheel seated on a verandah, distributing large amounts of money to the crowd; no one was going away empty-handed. Harimohon chuckled and thought, “What is this dream? Tinkari Sheel is giving alms!” Then he looked into Tinkari’s mind. He saw that thousands of dissatisfactions and evil impulses such as greed, jealousy, passion, selfishness were all astir there. For the sake of virtuous appearance and fame, out of vanity, Tinkari had kept them suppressed, kept them starving, instead of driving them away from within. In the meantime someone took Harimohon on a swift visit to the other world. He saw the hells and heavens of the Hindus, those of the Christians, the Muslims and the Greeks, and also many other hells and heavens. Then he found himself sitting once more in his own hut, on the same old torn and dirty mattress with Shyamsundar in front of him. The boy remarked, “It is quite late in the night; now if I don’t return home I shall get a scolding, everybody will start beating me. Let me therefore be brief. The hells and the heavens you have visited are nothing but a dream-world, a creation of your mind. After death man goes to hell or heaven and somewhere works out the tendencies that existed in him during his last birth. In your previous birth you were only virtuous, love found no way into your heart; you loved neither God nor man. After leaving your body you had to work out your old trend of nature, and so lived in imagination among middle-class people in a world of dreams; and as you went on leading that life you ceased to like it any more. You became restless and came away from there only to live in a hell made of dust; finally you enjoyed the fruits of your virtues and, having exhausted them, took birth again. In that life, except for your formal alms-giving and your soulless superficial dealings, you never cared to relieve anyone’s wants — therefore you have so many wants in this life. And the reason why you are still going on with this soulless virtue is that you cannot exhaust the karma of virtues and vices in the world of dream, it has to be worked out in this world. On the other hand, Tinkari was charity itself in his past life and so, blessed by thousands of people, he has in this life become a millionaire and knows no poverty; but as he was not completely purified in his nature, his unsatisfied desires have to feed on vice. Do you follow now the system of Karma? There is no reward or punishment, but evil creates evil, and good creates good. This is Nature’s law. Vice is evil, it produces misery; virtue is good, it leads to happiness. This procedure is meant for purification of nature, for the removal of evil. You see, Harimohon, this earth is only a minute part of my world of infinite variety, but even then you take birth here in order to get rid of evil by the help of Karma. When you are liberated from the hold of virtue and vice and enter the realm of Love, then only you are freed of this activity. In your next birth you too will get free. I shall send you my dear sister, Power, along with Knowledge, her companion; but on one condition, — you should be my playmate, and must not ask for liberation. Are you ready to accept it?” Harimohon replied, “Well, Keshta, you have hypnotised me! I intensely feel like taking you on my lap and caressing you, as if I had no other desire in this life!” The boy laughed and asked, “Did you follow what I said, Harimohon?” “Yes, I did,” he replied, then thought for a while and said, “O Keshta, again you are deceiving me. You never gave the reason why you created evil!” So saying, he caught hold of the boy’s hand. But the boy, setting himself free, rebuked Harimohon, “Be off! Do you want to get out of me all my secrets in an hour’s time?” Suddenly the boy blew out the lamp and said with a chuckle, “Well, Harimohon, you have forgotten all about lashing me! Out of that fear I did not even sit on your lap, lest, angry with your outward miseries, you should teach me a lesson! I do not trust you any more.” Harimohon stretched his arms forward, but the boy moved farther and said, “No Harimohon, I reserve that bliss for your next birth. Good-bye.” So saying, the boy disappeared into the dark night. Listening to the chime of Sri Krishna’s musical anklets, Harimohon woke up gently. Then he began thinking, “What sort of dream is this! I saw hell, I saw heaven, I called the Divine rude names, taking him to be a mere stripling, I even scolded him. How awful! But now I am feeling very peaceful.” Then Harimohon began recollecting the charming image of the dusky-complexioned boy, and went on murmuring from time to time, “How beautiful! How beautiful!” 1One of Sri Krishna’s names 2Another name for Krishna 3The Gita 4.11.
In the sky, the moon drifted slowly through the clouds. Far below, the river mingled its murmur with the winds, as it danced along on its course; and the earth looked bathed in beauty in the half-light of the moon. All around were the forest retreats of the Rishis, each charming enough to put the Elysian fields to shame: every hermitage was a perfect picture of sylvan loveliness with its trees and flowers and foliage. On this moon-enraptured night, said Brahmarshi (the seer who has known the Supreme) Vashishtha to his spouse Arundhati Devi, “Devi (literally, goddess), go and beg some salt of the Rishi Vishvamitra, and bring it here soon.” Taken aback, she replied, “My lord, what is this you are asking me to do? I cannot understand you! He who has robbed me of my hundred sons…” She could say no more, for her voice was choked with sobs as memories of the past rose up to disturb that sweet home of serenity, her heart, and to fill it with pain to its depths. After a time she recovered her composure to continue: “All my hundred sons were learned in the Vedas and dedicated to the Divine. They would go about in moonlight such as this singing His praises, but he… he has destroyed them all. And you bid me go and beg at his door for a little salt! My lord, you bewilder me!” Slowly the sage’s face filled with light; slowly from the ocean-depths of his heart came the words, “But, Devi, I love him!” Arundhati’s bewilderment increased, and she said, “If you love him you might just as well have addressed him as Brahmarshi! The whole trouble would have ended there, and I should have had my hundred sons left to me.” The Rishi’s face took on a singular beauty as he said, “It was because I love him that I did not call him Brahmarshi. It was because I did not call him that, that he still has a chance of becoming a Brahmarshi.” Vishvamitra was beside himself with rage. He could not concentrate on his tapasya. He had vowed that if Vashishtha did not acknowledge him as a Brahmarshi that day, he would kill him. To carry out this resolve, he armed himself with a sword as he left his hermitage. Slowly he came to Vashishthadeva’s cottage and stood outside, listening. He heard what the great sage was saying to Devi Arundhati about him. The grip on his sword-hilt relaxed as he thought, “Heavens, what was I about to do in my ignorance! To think of trying to hurt one whose soul is so far above all pettiness!” He felt the sting of a hundred bees in his conscience, and ran forward and fell at Vashishtha’s feet. For a time he could not speak, but in a little while he recovered his speech and said, “Pardon me, O pardon me! But I am unworthy even of your mercy!” He could say no more, for his pride still held him fast. But Vashishtha stretched out both arms to raise him. “Rise, Brahmarshi!” he gently said. But Vishwamitra, in his shame and mortification, could not believe that Vashishtha meant what he said. “Do not deride me, my lord,” he cried. “I never say what is false,” replied Vashishtha. “You have become a Brahmarshi today. You have earned that status because you have shed your haughty self-conceit.” “Teach me divine lore, then,” implored Vishvamitra. “Go to Anantadeva, he will give you what you desire,” said Vashishtha.Vishvamitra came to where Anantadeva stood with the Earth resting on his head. “Yes, I will teach you what you want to learn. But, first, you must hold up the Earth.” Proud of his tapasya-won powers, Vishvamitra said, “Very well, relinquish your burden and let me bear it.” “Hold it then,” said Anantadeva, moving away. And the Earth began to spin down and down in space. “Here and now I give up all the fruits of my tapasya” shouted Vishvamitra, “only let the Earth not sink downwards.” “You have not done tapasya enough to hold up the Earth, O Vishvamitra.” Anantadeva shouted back. “Have you ever associated with holy men? If you have, offer up the merit you have so acquired.” “For a moment only, I was with Vashishtha,” answered Vishvamitra. “Offer up the fruits of that contact then,” commanded Anantadeva. “I do here offer them up,” said Vishvamitra. Slowly the Earth stopped sinking downwards. “Give me divine knowledge, now”, importuned Vishvamitra. “Fool!” exclaimed Anantadeva, “you come to me for divine knowledge turning away from him whose momentary touch has given you virtue enough to hold up the Earth!” Vishvamitra grew angry at the thought that Vashishthadeva had played him a trick. So he hurried back to him and demanded why he had deceived him. Unruffled, Vashishtha answered him in slow and solemn tones: “If I had given you the knowledge you asked for then, you would not have accepted it as true. Now you will have faith in me.” And so Vishvamitra came to acquire knowledge of the Divine from Vashishtha. Such were the saints and sages of India in the olden days, and such was their ideal of forgiveness. So great was the power they had acquired by their tapasya that they could even carry the Earth on their shoulders. Such sages are being born in India again, today. They will dim the lustre of the Rishis of old by their radiance, and confer on India a glory greater than any she has ever known.
There is a very famous zen story about a disciple who had come to see his master. The master lives on a hilltop in a dense forest. It is evening, the sun is setting, and the disciple thinks many times to leave the master and go back because he has to pass through miles of forest and hilly track to reach his village. But the presence of the master is so enchanting that he cannot gather courage to leave him, so he lingers on. And when it is almost midnight, the master says, ‘Now it is time — you should go.’ He looks outside — it is dark, there is no moon, so he hesitates. To pass through the woods on such a dark night is dangerous. Seeing that the disciple is apprehensive, the master asks, ‘What is the problem? Why are you afraid?’ The disciple says, ‘Master, it is so dark outside and there is no moon in the sky. I feel afraid.’ So the master takes a candle, lights it and gives it to him, and says, ‘You can take this candle with you.’ When the disciple is about to go out of the door, the master blows the candle out. Suddenly there is darkness, darker than before, and silence. The disciple says, ‘Master, I don’t understand.’ And the master says, ‘There is no need to understand. Be a light unto yourself. My light is not going to help you. A borrowed light is not going to help you. You will have to find your own light. The night is dark, life is dark and there is danger and risk at every step.’ Suddenly something dawned on the disciple at that moment— his first satori. The disciple said, ‘Master, now I don’t understand at all. First it was possible for me to make some effort to understand, but now I don’t understand at all!’ The master laughs, and in the dark night the laughter spreads all over the hilly track and the master says, ‘Now there is absolutely no need. I see that something has happened. I understand what has happened, but I cannot say it to you. I know you cannot understand it but when it happens next time, you will understand. ‘But remember, once you understand it, it will be a dead thing; then throw it away. When you understand a thing, it becomes knowledge. When you don’t understand, it remains learning; in learning, there is an opening..’ The Great Nothing: A Darshan Diary With gratitude to Osho For more stories from Osho
Spiritual vanity and pride are the subtlest and the most dangerous of psychological defects for they are well concealed behind high and noble intentions, thoughts and actions. Even the best of us are vulnerable to these failings. There are many of us who feel a subtle sense of superiority when it comes to our spiritual practices and devotion. There is an interesting incident in the Mahabharat that illustrates this point. At a certain point in Arjuna’s life, he had got into a habit of very elaborate and prolonged prayers and offerings. He would pray to several gods and goddesses and would need to please all of them by his devotion. He would pray to Lord Shiva for hours, every day, and offer hundreds of flowers to him, that too, one by one. And, with each flower he would offer, he would utter Shiva’s name. He would thus spend long hours in such ritual. Over a period of time, a subtle sense of spiritual superiority entered him. In contrast, Arjuna’s brother, Bhima, a simple person, would not pray or offer any flowers. Most people thought he was not religious at all. Bhima loved to eat. So he would eat great quantities of food with great relish. But one thing Bhima would always do: just before commencing his meal, he would put his fingers on his forehead and concentrate for a couple of minutes. That is all he would do. A quiet and complete concentration for a minute or two, and then he would dive into the food. So while Arjuna would spend hours in his religious rituals, Bhima would seem unconcerned and interested only in the pleasure of eating. Sometimes Arjuna, as a brother perhaps, would look down on such an attitude and wish that Bhima would show some devotion to the gods. Sri Krishna being an intimate friend of Arjuna’s, knew of this subtle sense of superiority that had crept into Arjuna. So one fine day, he invited Arjuna to come for a walk with him. The two went for a long walk. As they were walking, they saw a man drawing a cart loaded with flowers, many kinds of flowers, hundreds of flowers! Arjuna became quite intrigued. He stopped the man and asked him what he was going to do with all those flowers. But the man did not stop, saying he was in a hurry and had no time for conversation. So Sri Krishna suggested that they follow him to find out where he was going with the flowers. After a few minutes of walking behind the man with the cart, they reached a market like place filled with several other similar carts laden with flowers. Arjuna was very curious now. “What are you going to do with so many flowers, my good man?” He asked. The man replied, “I cannot explain; I am very concentrated on my task right now. I can speak only to Bhima, your brother, and explain.” “Why so? What is the mystery that you can explain only to Bhima and not to me?” Arjuna wanted to know. “Ah,” said the man, “It is strange, indeed! When Bhima concentrates for a minute or two before his meals on Lord Shiva, hundreds of flowers are offered to Shiva… what you see here are those offerings. Bhima’s sheer concentration causes all these flowers to materialize from the occult spheres. His meditation, though not visible to others, is most sincere and intense!” Arjuna immediately understood and was deeply humbled. He also realized that this was an occult experience arranged by Krishna to reveal to him an important truth of spirituality — that the Divine responds to sincerity and genuineness; it does not matter how much or what one offers, what matters is how, with what consciousness, one offers. From the Bhagavad Gita: पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति । तदहं भक्त्युपहृतमश्नामि प्रयतात्मनः॥ He who offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, a cup of water, that offering of love from the striving soul, is acceptable to Me. (Bhagavad Gita, 9.26) For more stories
There is a beautiful story, a great parable, in the Upanishads: One of the great kings, Yayati, was dying. He was a hundred years old, ripe enough to die — one should be ready by that time — but not grown-up enough; the seed of renewing life was not yet burnt. So when death came, Yayati fell at the feet of Death — a great king, a great conqueror! — and he said to Death, “Spare me only one hundred years more. I don’t ask for more, just one hundred years more. And it is nothing for you, you can do it. All my desires are still unfulfilled because I had never thought about you. I was simply preparing and preparing. I have not enjoyed my life. Now that everything is ready — I have conquered the whole world, I have all the riches, the most beautiful women, the most intelligent and courageous sons, the best army in the world, everything is settled, all enemies killed — I was just thinking to relax and enjoy. Is this the time to come? All these hundred years have been spent simply in preparing for these moments. Spare me just one hundred years more so that I can live to my heart’s content.” Death laughed and said, “I am ready to spare one hundred years more to you, but I will have to take one of your sons because I have to go with somebody who resembles you; if not you, at least one of your sons. I can’t go empty-handed, I have to give the account to my boss himself. He will ask, ‘Where is Yayati?’ What am I going to say? Such a thing has never been done before, but I feel sorry for you. Just ask one of your sons.” Yayati had a hundred sons; he must have had a hundred wives too. He asked his sons. The oldest was eighty, but he started looking downwards, was not ready to say yes. Why should he? He had lived only eighty years; if his father is not contented with a hundred years, how can he be contented with only eighty years? At least twenty years more he is entitled to live. In those days, the story says, people used to live a hundred years. Why should he die a premature death, an untimely death? And this old fellow has lived enough! He did not want to hurt the old man so he didn’t say anything, he kept quiet. The father was very much shocked; he used to think that his sons were ready to sacrifice themselves. But in this world nobody is ready to sacrifice himself for anybody else. He looked around. His sons also started looking at each other, meaning “Why don’t YOU go?” The youngest, who was only twenty years old, stood up and he said, “I am ready. Take me with you, I am coming with you.” Even Death felt sorry for the boy. Death came close to the young man and said, “Are you a fool or something? Your other brothers — one is eighty, one is seventy-five, one is seventy, sixty, sixty-five, fifty — these people are not ready to go and you are the youngest, you have not lived at all. Why are you ready to go?” The young man said, “If my father could not live in a hundred years, if my eldest brother could not live in eighty years, if my other brothers… nobody has been able to live, then the whole project is nonsense. I don’t want to waste time. If I have to die it is better to die now. Why wait for eighty years? If THESE people have not been able to manage, it is absolutely certain it is unmanageable. And let my father try a hundred years more.” Death tried to convince him, but he wouldn’t listen. Death had to take him away. After a hundred years, Death came back and the situation was the same. Again Yayati fell at his feet and started crying and weeping and he said, “I know that now I should be ready, but nothing is fulfilled yet; all the desires are the same. I have LIVED all the desires, I cannot say that I have not lived them, but nothing is fulfilled. I want more! Now that I have lived a hundred years a new desire has arisen — I want more! I want to live at least one time more, a hundred years more, just one time more.” And this went on happening again and again. When Yayati became one thousand years old and Death came, he was just going to fall at his feet. Death said, “Wait — enough is enough! Can’t you see the point, Yayati? Are you so blind? You have lived one thousand years, and you have been doing the same things again and again. You have done nothing new in these one thousand years, and still you want more? Can’t you see the simple point that mind lives in the more, it goes on asking for more? There is no end to it. Now you come with me — I am not going to listen anymore. Now even my boss is feeling angry with me. He says, ‘This is too much! This man has been given too much time.’ But I also wanted to try — let us see what you can make out of one thousand years. You have not made any progress, you are exactly in the same place, going in circles.” Osho – Dhammapada : The way of the Buddha With gratitude to Osho For more stories from Osho
The great mystic, Rabia of Basra, was immensely beautiful. And a beauty not of this world. Once a rich young man from Iran comes to Basra. He asks people, “Is there anything that is out of the way, something special here?” “Yes,” they all tell him. “We have the most beautiful woman of the world!” The young man naturally becomes interested and he asks, “Where can I find her?” And they all laugh and say, “Well, where else?… in a brothel!” That repulses the rich young man, but finally he decides to go. And when he gets there, the matron asks for an exorbitant fee. He pays the fee and is ushered in. There, in a silent and simple room, a figure is praying. What beauty she has! He has never seen such beauty and grace, not even in his dreams. Just to be there is a benediction, and the prayerful atmosphere starts affecting him. He forgets about his passion. He is entering into another kind of space. He is drugged. He is turned on to God. An hour passes and he intensely feels he is in a temple! Oh, such joy and such purity! He goes on feasting on her beauty. But it is no more the beauty of a human being – it is God’s beauty. It no more has anything to do with the body – it is utterly other-worldly. And then Rabia opens her eyes, those lotus eyes, and he looks into them, and there is no woman in front of him – he is facing God. And this way the whole night passes, as if it were only a moment. The sun is rising and its rays are coming through the windows, and he feels it is time to go. He says to Rabia, “I am your slave. Tell me anything, anything in the world that I can do for you.” She says, “I have only one little request.” He asks, “What is it?” Rabia says, “Never tell anybody what you have seen and experienced here. Allow the people to come to me – this beauty is nothing but a trap set for them. I use it as a door for them to enter God. Please, promise me that you will never tell others what you have experienced here tonight. Let them come to a whore and a brothel, because otherwise they will never come to me.” “Oh!” he says, “So this is the secret of this city. The whole city clamours after your beauty, yet nobody tells me about his experience.” Rabia laughs and says, “Yes, I extract the promise, this promise, from all of them.” Rabia used her beauty as a trap. Buddha used his words as a trap. Krishna used his flute as a trap. Meera used her dance as a trap. Osho: Walk Without Feet, Fly Without Wings and Think Without Mind With gratitude to Osho For more stories from Osho
King Janak and Rishi Yajnavalkya were both very illustrious and learned sages, and were the best of friends too. Both loved a discussion or debate on subjects related to Truth and Self. Neither would let an opportunity go to engage in such discussions. Janak was especially fond of Yajnavalkya and was always badgering him with questions of the Self. And Yajnavalkya would accept no gift from the King without satisfying fully Janak’s thirst for knowledge. King Janak was a master of the Vaisvanara Vidya, the Secret Knowledge of the universal, all-pervading Self. Once a discussion happened between Janak and Yajnavalkya on this subject. There were several other bright students and disputants in that discussion and several intricate questions were thrown at Janak. Janak promptly and authoritatively responded to all the queries, and this pleased Yanjnavalkya immensely. As was the custom with such noble sages, Yajnavalkya offered a boon to Janak — “Ask for whatever you wish, O Friend!” Janak immediately said, “May I have the privilege of asking you any question, anytime and anywhere!” The boon was happily granted. So it happened that the two met after some time, on another occasion. Yajnavalkya was radiant and concentrated in consciousness and decided he would not speak much, only listen to Janak. But Janak was his usual eager and questioning self. He certainly did not wish to miss even one opportunity — and especially now, when Yajnavalkya seemed to be radiating wisdom. So Janak called upon his boon to break the Sage’s silence. “O revered Sage,” he began, “I wish to know what is the Light that illumines a being, that awakens him and makes him do all that he does?” Yajnavalkya replied: “The Sun, O King! The Sun is the source of Light and it is for this that a man does all that he does — his actions, his works, his rest and return.” “True,” said Janak, “but what if the Sun has set?” “The Moon.” replied Yajnavalkya, “When the Sun has set, it is the Moon that is the source of Light!” “And what when the Sun and the Moon both are not there?” asked Janak, “what illumines and guides man then?” Yajnavalkya replied, “When the sun has set and the moon is absent, Fire is our light, for by that Fire we sit, we work, we go out and come back.” “I understand, O Sage,” said Janak then, “but when the Fire too is not there?” Yajnavalkya paused for a brief moment and said, “Then it is Speech, O Janak, that becomes the illumination. Though we cannot see our own hand in the dark, but the sound of our speech can guide us to the hand.” Janak was deeply satisfied and was absorbing. Another question then arose in him: “O revered Sage, when there is no Sun, no Moon, no Fire and no Speech — then what illumines? What is the Light?” Yajnavalkya paused again and slowly spoke: “O King, it is the Self then that is the Light. It is by the Light of the Self that we see, we move, we work, we go out and we come back.” Janak became peaceful and contemplative. He understood then that the Self is the Light of all lights, the supreme illumination. Yajnavalkya continued to reveal layer upon layer of the Knowledge of Self: The Self is pure awareness that shines as the Light within the heart.. It is this Self that is one with Brahman, the One Reality.. This Self is free from desire, from evil and from fear.. The one who has realized this Self and is in union with it, sees without seeing, smells without smelling, tastes without tasting, speaks without speaking, hears without hearing, touches without touching, thinks without thinking, knows without knowing, for there are no divisions and separations in him. This state of oneness without separation and division is the state of non-duality, the realm of Brahman. This indeed is the supreme goal of all existence, the supreme attainment and the highest delight! From Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
I am reminded of one of the most beautiful stories that I have come across in my life. A king in Japan sends his son to a mystic, to a master, to learn awareness. The king was old. And he said to the son, “Put your total energy into it because unless you are aware, you are not going to succeed me. I will not give this kingdom to a man who is asleep and unconscious. It is not a question of father and son. My father has given it to me only when I attained awareness. I was not the right person, because I was not his eldest son, I was his youngest son. But my other two brothers, who were older than me, could not attain. “The same is going to happen to you. And the problem is even more complicated because I have only one son: if you do not attain to awareness, the kingdom is going into somebody else’s hands. You will be a beggar on the streets. So it is a question of life and death for you. Go to this man; he has been my master. Now he is very old, but I know that if anybody can teach you, he is the man. Tell him, `My father is sick, old, can die any day. Time is short, and I have to become fully aware before he dies; otherwise I lose the kingdom.’” A very symbolic story too: If you are not aware, you lose the kingdom. The king’s son went to the old master in the mountains. He said to the master, “I have been sent by your disciple, the king.” The master was very old, older than his father. He said, “I remember that man. He was really an authentic seeker. I hope you will prove to be of the same quality, of the same genius, of the same totality, of the same intensity.” The young prince said, “I will do everything.” The master said, “Then start cleaning in the commune. And remember one thing — that I will be hitting you at any time. You may be cleaning the floor and I may come from the back and hit you with my stick, so be alert.” He said, “But I have come to learn about awareness….” The master said, “This is how you will learn.” One year passed. In the beginning he was getting so many hits every day, but slowly slowly he started becoming aware. Even the footsteps of the old man… he might be doing anything — howsoever absorbed in the work, he would become immediately aware that the master was around. The prince would be ready. After one year the master hit him from the back while he was deeply involved in talking with another inmate of the ashram. But the prince continued to talk, and still he caught hold of the stick before the stick could reach his body. The master said, “That’s right. Now this is the end of the first lesson. The second lesson begins tonight.” The prince said, “I used to think that this was all. This is only the first lesson? How many lessons are there?” The old man said, “It depends on you. The second lesson is that now I will be hitting you while you are asleep, and you have to be alert in your sleep.” He said, “My God. How can one be alert in sleep?” The old man said, “Don’t be worried. Thousands of my disciples have passed through the test. Your father has passed through the test. It is not impossible. It is difficult, but it is a challenge.” And from that night he was getting hit six times, eight times, twelve times in the night. Sleep was difficult. But within six months he started feeling inside himself a certain awareness. And one day when the master was just going to hit him, with closed eyes he said — “Don’t bother. You are too old. It hurts me; you are taking so much trouble. I am young, I can survive these hits.” The master said, “You are blessed. You have passed the second lesson. But up to now I have been hitting with my wooden staff. The third lesson is that now I will start hitting, from tomorrow morning, with a real sword. Be alert! Just a moment of unconsciousness and you are finished.” Early in the morning the master used to sit in the garden, just listening to the birds singing… the flowers opening, the sun rising. The prince thought, “Now it is becoming dangerous! A wooden stick was hard, difficult, but it was not going to kill me. A real sword….” He was a swordsman but he was not given any chance to protect himself; only awareness was going to be his protection. An idea came to his mind: “This old man is really dangerous. Before he starts his third lesson, I would like to check whether he himself can pass the third test or not. If he is putting my life at risk, I cannot allow him to do it without checking whether he is worthy of it or not.” And these were only thoughts that he was thinking lying down in his bed; it was a cold morning. And the master said, “Come out of your blanket, you idiot! Do you want to hit your own master with a sword? Feel ashamed! I can hear the footsteps of your thoughts… drop the idea.” He had heard. Nothing was said to him, nothing was done to him. Thoughts are also things. Thoughts also, while moving, make sounds, and those who are fully alert can read your thoughts. Even before you have become aware of them, they can become aware of them. The prince was really ashamed. He fell at the feet of the master and he said, “Just forgive me. I am really stupid.” But because it was a question of a sword, a real sword, he became aware of everything around him, even his own breathing, his heartbeat. Just a small breeze passing through the leaves, a dead leaf moving in the wind, and he was aware. And the master tried a few times but found him always ready. He could not hit him with the sword because he could not find him unconscious, unalert. He was just alertness. It was a question of death — you cannot afford to be anything but alert. In three days’ time the master could not find a single moment, a single loophole. And after the third day he called him and told him, “Now you can go and tell your father — and this is the letter from me — that the kingdom is yours.” Awareness is a process of being more and more awake. With gratitude to Osho This story is from The Osho Upanishad
Janak is widely known as the the King-philosopher of ancient India. He was a Rishi, a Seer, as well as a noble and accomplished king. His court was famous for patronizing philosophers, sages and poets. He used to hold debates on philosophy and dharma. These were known as shastrarthas. Leading scholars, young and old, were invited to these shashtrarthas. Janak himself was an ardent thinker and had a deep yearning for knowledge. But, in spite of all his knowledge, he lacked the spiritual wisdom and so became increasingly arrogant as his knowledge grew. However, he was perhaps aware of this deficiency in him and so his deepest aspiration was to meet a spiritually realized being, a sage, who would consent to be his Guru and lead him to perfection. He met countless sages but never did he meet the one he was awaiting. One day, it so happened, that the Sage Ashtavakra, known as much for his profound wisdom as for his physical deformities, was visiting Janak’s kingdom. He heard about a shastrarth that was being conducted by King Janak, and so he reached the palace and entered the court of King Janak. As he entered, the courtiers and scholars present there looked up at him and could not suppress their emotions as they saw the deformed young boy walking into the court. The name Ashtavakra itself meant eight bends or deformities in the body. The story goes that Ashtavakra was cursed by his father while he was still in the womb, and so was born deformed. Some felt pity, some a bit of horror, and some laughed out in obvious derision. Ashtavakra remained calm as he looked around the assembly. And then he spoke in a voice clear and sharp: “I thought I had come into the company of wise men! Isn’t this King Janak’s court? But I only see cobblers here — for you see only my skin and try to assess me, even as a cobbler assesses quality by seeing the skin! Know you not that a river may run a crooked course but never the water?” As the words rang out loud and clear, all the courtiers and guests fell silent, embarrassed by their own action. The King himself stood up and did his namaskara to the young stranger. “I see force in your bearing, young man, and a power in your voice. There is also a calm in your eyes. I can sense a wisdom and light around you. Can you give me the highest knowledge?” The King asked his young guest. Ashtavakra said, “Yes, O King, I can.” Suddenly feeling inspired and confident, the King asked more directly: “Will you give me the knowledge of Brahman in the wink of an eye?” “Indeed,” replied Ashtavakra, “I will. But for that you have to give me Gurudakshina first!” Gurudakshina is the gift that the disciple gives to the Guru to repay him for all that he has gained at the feet of the Guru. “What is it that you would want, Sir?” Asked the King “Everything that you have,” replied Ashtavakra. In the presence of all the scholars and courtiers, King Janak immediately and unhesitatingly agreed. “Your throne and kingdom, first, O Janak!” Said Ashtavakra. Janak said quietly, “Yours, Noble Sir” Ashtavakra then asked Janak to leave his throne and sit amongst the courtiers and scholars as the throne no longer belonged to him. Janak quietly obeyed. Then Ashtavakra said, “Cease all your planning and thinking about your kingdom for it is no longer yours.” Janak threw out all his planning and scheming and sat still, his mind empty. Ashtavakra then asked Janak to drop the body awareness — “Your body is no longer yours, Janak. Drop your identification with it!” Next Ashtavakra asked Janak to give up all thoughts, for the mind, and all its activities, were not his anymore. In the proximity of a realized Guru, Janak could empty his whole consciousness and become utterly still in mind and body. In a trice, the realization of the Self came upon him. Janak, enlightened, bowed deeply before Ashtavakra, the great rishi who had given him the knowledge of Self in “the wink of an eye”. Ashtavakra then asked the King to return to the throne, saying: “O King, now rule your kingdom as a custodian, a trustee, for you are now free of all ownership and doership. Live your life as a witness, for you are free of all identification.” And so it came to pass that Janak became one of the legendary Sage-kings of ancient India. Even the highest knowledge can come to one who is willing to give up his all in a single moment if asked by the Guru. The Guru’s Presence and Grace are inestimable in one’s spiritual quest. Retold by Nirakara
Swami Vivekananda visited Kashmir in the year 1898. While visiting the ‘Mother Kshira Bhavani’ temple he saw all the destruction the Islamic invaders had done to the statues and the temple. Swami Vivekananda was hurt and was angry at the foolish invaders. He prayed to Mother Kshira Bhavani — Mother, why do you let them do this? Why did you let them destroy your own temple and your own statues? Immediately, as a response, Swamiji heard a voice speak to him — How is it your business? Why do you bother with ‘why I let the invaders do this’? Is it you who protects me? Or is it me who protects you?
King Janaka was one of the favorite students of sage Yajnvalkya. Yajnavalkya would always keep an empty front seat in his classes, so that if Janaka came, he could sit there and listen to his teachings. Yajnavalkya had many bright students, and some dull ones too. The dull ones complained among themselves that ‘Sage Yajnavalkya valued wealth of King Janaka more than the knowledge of his “bright” students and that was why he always kept an empty seat in the front’. Sage Janaka was aware of his students’ dissatisfaction about this. One day King Janaka was listening to a discourse by Sage Yajnavalkya at his forest Ashram along with the other students of sage Yajnavalkya. There was a huge forest fire at a distance, it was moving everywhere rapidly, one of the soldiers came running to the king and informed, “Lord the forest fire has burnt parts of the palace.” “Go do what is necessary then.” said the King, instructed him on whom to contact and what to do and kept listening to the discourse. The other students of the sage ran in various directions to save their clothes and stuff, while King Janaka was attentively listening to the words of Sage Yajnavalkya. When the other students of Yajnavalkya came back after the forest fire receded, they saw Janaka sitting there, fully involved in the learning not bothered about the kingdom. They felt ashamed. Sage Yajnavalkya retorted “The king with all his wealth, queen and palace wasn’t as much worried as you were for the sake of your torn loin clothes. Now you must have realized why we keep an empty seat for him to occupy whenever it is possible for him to take time out and come here from his busy life. Come on now, sit, let’s study.”
There is a very famous Zen story: A man was standing on a hilltop. Three persons saw him; they started arguing about him, about what he was doing there. One said, ‘He must have lost his cow — I know that man — and he must be looking for his cow from the hilltop.’ And the second said, ‘I cannot agree, because when one is looking for something one does not stand like a statue, unmoving; one moves, looks this way and that. But he is just standing like a Buddha-statue. He is not looking for something — he is waiting. Maybe a friend has come with him for a morning walk and is left behind and he is waiting for him to come.’ The third said, ‘I disagree, because when somebody waits for somebody who has been left behind, once in a while he looks back to see whether he has come or not. But that man is not looking back at all; he is not even moving. He is not waiting. My feeling is that he is meditating.’ They could not agree on what that man was doing so they decided to go to the man and enquire. The first man said, ‘Are you looking for your cow?’ The man said, ‘No, I am not looking for anything.’ The second said, ‘Then I must be right: you must be waiting for your friend who has been left behind?’ The man said, ‘No, I am not waiting for anybody.’ The third said, ‘Then I have to be right — now there is no other alternative left — you must be meditating.’ And the man said, ‘No, I am not meditating either.’ Then all three asked ‘Then what are you doing?’ He said, ‘I am just standing.’
A milkmaid used to supply milk to a Brahmin priest living on the other side of a river. Owing to the irregularities of the boat service, the milkmaid could not supply him milk punctually every day. Once, being rebuked for her going late, the poor woman said, “What can I do? I start early from the house, but have to wait for a long time at the river bank for the boatman and the passenger.” The priest exclaimed, “Woman! There are people who cross the ocean of life by uttering the name of God, and can’t you cross this little river?” The simple-hearted woman became very glad at heart on learning this easy means of crossing the river. From the following day, she started to supply the milk early in the morning, as she was supposed to. One day the priest said to the woman, “How is it that you are no longer late now-a-days?” The milkmaid replied, “I cross the river by uttering the name of the Lord as you told me to do, and don’t stand now in need of a boatman.” The priest could not believe this. He said, “Can you show me how you cross the river?” The woman took him with her and began to walk over the water. Looking behind the woman saw the priest in a sad plight and said, “How is it, Sir, that you are uttering the name of the God with your mouth, but at the same time with your hands you are trying to keep your cloth untouched by water? You do not fully rely on Him.” Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once said, “You can force your demands on God, he is in no way a stranger to you, he is your eternal companion.”
The Upanishads are profound meditations on the truth of the Supreme Self, and constitute the principal source of Vedantic mystical knowledge. The word Upanishad (उपनिषद्) is derived from the roots upa (by) and niṣad (sitting down). Literally, Upanishad means the student or seeker sitting in the presence of the Guru, the Master, and receiving the knowledge of the Self. However, the Upanishadic process was always dialogic — questioning, and even challenging, the Master to dispel one’s doubts was very much expected and encouraged. This particular story, amongst the most popular in the Vedantic tradition, illustrates one of the great Upanishadic Mahavakyas — Tat twam asi, That thou art. (Ed) “No idiot has yet been born in our line nor has any in our family neglected the study of the Vedas. So, young soul, go to a gurukula, be a brahmachari and learn the Vedas.” The sage Uddalaka Aruni thus addressed his young son, Svetaketu, when he attained the proper age to go to a preceptor for study. The dutiful son obeyed his father. After studying all the Vedas for twelve long years at the feet of his guru, he came home. When the father saw him, he could at once perceive that his son had become a man of learning but that he had missed spiritual training and teaching. Instead of humility he had developed conceit and instead of peace, there was turmoil in his mind. One day the father said to him, “Dear child, did you not ask your guru to teach you that mystic wisdom which is the key to all other knowledge, to all other thought, and that wisdom which unfolds the Unknown to man?” Svetaketu was not a little surprised when he was thus accosted by his father. He instinctively felt that something was lacking in his own education. So he said to his father, “Dear father, what is that wondrous knowledge that you speak of? Do teach me that yourself. Obviously my guru did not know the knowledge you refer to, otherwise he would not have failed to impart it to me.” “Dear child, it is something like this. You know that these earthen pots and toys are made of clay. Once you understand the essential nature of the clay of which these are all made, you know and understand all these things also. Then all these are mere forms and names of forms, which the clay has assumed. The essence of them all, the thing that matters is the clay. So too if you understand the nature of a particular metal, everything that is made of that metal is known to you. The various things that are made of that metal are then mere names and forms. What matters is the metal and its nature. Take the various things made of steel such as a sword, a razor, a knife, a needle. When you know the nature of steel, all these are but names and forms, which that steel assumes. What matters is the steel and your knowledge of it. That is the essential truth. All else is mere verbiage. So you should get to know the essence of things, the one thing that underlies this vast and multitudinous mass of name and form. “In the beginning of things there was pure Being, one without a second. It willed that it should become many. Then it manifested itself in many forms, such as light, liquid, solid and so on. This rich variety of things came into existence by permutation and combination of these forms. Then life appeared, and among the living beings, man with his varied powers and functions.” After listening to all this the son said, “Father, all this is very interesting. Excuse me for a question. Where does a man go when he sleeps?” Uddalaka replied, “When a man sleeps he becomes for the time being one with the Spirit or one with the one eternal Being. He is merged in himself as it were. A man’s mind is like a beast tied to a peg by a long rope. It turns round and round the peg but cannot get away. So too does the mind turn round the prana or the vital power in the body but cannot leave the body. When a man is about to die, his power of speech is merged in his mind, his mind is absorbed in the prana, the prana is again in its turn merged in light and this light merges in the power beyond. That power is subtle. It pervades the universe. That is the Truth. That is the Spirit. That thou art, O Svetaketu!” The son again said, “I am not fully satisfied. Tell me more of this great wisdom, so that I can understand.” “Dear child, bees bring tiny particles or droplets of honey from various flowers and store it in the hive. Once in the hive, do the droplets know from which flower they came? Need they know it? So too all these beings when they merge in the ocean of Being, they know not whence they came. They lose all individuality. Whether it is a lion, a tiger, a mouse or a worm before merging, all become one when they have once merged in the ocean of consciousness. That in which all these merge is the One Being. That is subtle. It pervades everything. It is the Spirit or Atman or Pure Consciousness. That thou art, O Svetaketu! “Dear child, various rivers from the four quarters flow into the vast seas. They all become one with the seas. Can you then make out the waters of the various rivers? No. So is the case with these various beings when they merge in the One Being. That thou art, O Svetaketu! “If you strike a tree at the root, or in the middle or at the top, some sap oozes out but the tree still lives. If you cut off a branch here and there from the tree, that branch fades and dies away but the tree still lives on. Thus that which is deprived of its life dies but life itself does not die. The power by which life lives eternally is the Spirit. That thou art, O Svetaketu!” Svetaketu listened to all this very attentively but he was still at a loss to know as to how to comprehended the intangible Atman. So he asked his father, “How to know this subtle thing, dear father? Tell me that.” Then Uddalaka thought of a simple device. He pointed out to a big banyan tree nearby and asked his son to bring a ripe fruit from that tree. When he brought the small red berry-like fruit, he told his son, “Split it into two, dear child.” “Here you are. I have split it into two.” “What do you find there?” “Innumerable tiny seeds of course, and what else can these be?” ‘Well, take one of those tiny seeds and split it again.” “Yes, here it is. I have split a seed.” “What do you find there?” “Why, nothing at all.” “O dear child! This big tree cannot come out of nothing. Only you cannot see that subtle something in the seed from which springs forth this mighty tree. That is the power, the spirit unseen, which pervades everywhere and everything. Have faith. It is that spirit which is at the root of all existence. That thou art, O Svetaketu!” “’This is something very baffling, father. But how on earth can I realize it, even if I merely know it?” Uddalaka said, “Just do one thing. Take a few crystals of salt and put them into a bowl of water while you go to sleep and bring it to me in the morning.” The obedient son did as he was told and on the next morning took the bowl to his father. The father said, “Dear son, take out the salt please.” Svetaketu felt exasperated and said, “Father, what do you mean? How is it possible to take out that salt?” “All right. Then just taste the water on the surface. How does it taste?” “It is saltish and is bound to be so.” “Take the water in the middle and at the bottom and tell me how it tastes.” “Well, that too is saltish and is bound to be so.” “My dear child, do understand now that the Spirit I spoke of pervades all existence like the salt in this water in the bowl. That is the Subtle Spirit. That thou art, dear Svetaketu!” “Dear father, how to go about all this? It looks so simple and yet is so very difficult.” Uddalaka said, “Now I shall tell you how to go about trying to realize the Spirit. Suppose we blindfold a man and lead him into an unknown forest away from his usual residence. What would he do? How would he try to find his home? As soon as he is left to himself, he would just remove the cover from his eyes. Then he would wander about inquiring for the region from which he was taken away. He would go from village to village and ultimately he would come across someone who would lead him in the right direction. Thus would he reach his home. That is the way to find out the spiritual home from which we have all strayed into the wilderness. The Spirit is the one reality towards which we have all to direct our steps. That thou art, O Svetaketu!” Thus spoke Uddalaka Aruni in the Chandogya Upanishad.
The immutable calm of the Sannyasi irritated the fellow passenger, a petty trader. He looked upon the hordes of Sadhus as parasites and saw an opportunity to give a piece of his mind to this young man in ochre who, he decided, ought to earn an honest living instead of hoodwinking people. This incident in the life of Swami Vivekananda had taken place in the summer of 1890 when he was a young unknown sannyasi and not a world celebrity after the Parliament of Religions at Chicago (September 1893). Swamiji had been on a visit to the ruler of a Princely State and was now traveling in a third class compartment. He had refused to take anything from the ruler who would have been glad to offer much wealth to Swamiji, but the latter was adamant. Only a ticket — that too by the third class — was all that he needed. In those days in the hot summer months, because of a great shortage of water in Rajasthan, drinking water sold for one paisa a glass on wayside stations. Swami Vivekananda, not having a single paisa with him, could not buy water. The trader had noted this. He asked Swamiji how it was that he didn’t have even a few coins with him, to buy water, or food! Swamiji replied that God carried his purse and always looked after his needs; he didn’t burden himself with money or other possessions. This was a good point to nettle the Sannyasi, thought the trader. He had with him a surai — an earthen pot filled with water — and a basketful of food. From time to time he drank some cool water and took a sweet or a fruit. And all the time he kept taunting Swamiji with the negligence of his God, who didn’t care how much his disciple suffered! Swamiji refused to get annoyed or to retort. He remained calm. This infuriated the passenger even more. At about lunch-time they reached a small junction station of Uttar Pradesh where they had to change trains. The other train was to come after an hour or so. In those days some of the out-of-the way small stations didn’t even have a shed for the passengers to relax under. This station had a single tree to provide shade to the third class passengers. The trader at once took out a duree, a thick cotton spread and unrolled it under the most shady part of the tree and brought out food from his basket, cool water from his earthen pot and partook of a hearty meal, all the while taunting Swamiji and his God about the inability of the latter to provide even a drop of water to his hungry and thirsty disciple. Swamiji kept smiling as he sat on the ground. Suddenly they saw a man hurrying towards them. He had a clean mat and a covered basket in one hand and a large tumbler in another. He spread the mat at a clean place, took out a leaf and arranged on it cooked vegetables, pooris, two or three types of sweets and then came with the tumbler towards Swami Vivekananda and with folded hands said, “Come, Swamiji, be pleased to take some food.” The trader was watching this with intense curiosity. Swamiji answered the stranger, “Brother, surely you are mistaken. You do not even know me. I am here for the first time. How could you have brought food for me? It must be meant for someone else.” The man answered humbly “I am a food vendor. In the morning I prepared some vegetables and pooris and some sweets and sold them. At noon, having finished my business, as usual I lay down to sleep. While I was asleep I saw Ram-ji standing by my side. With the touch of his foot he woke me up. I thought it was a dream, so I changed sides and went back to sleep. This time Ram-ji prodded me with his foot and told me, ‘Wake up, one of my devotees, a Sannyasi, is sitting on the station platform. He is thirsty and hungry. Carry food and water for him.’ I woke up and prepared these fresh pooris and came running. Here is some cool water. Please wash your hands and feet. Due to you I had the darshan and touch of Ram-ji.” The man prostrated himself before Swamiji. Tears of love flowed from Swamiji’s eyes as the trader fell at his feet and begged forgiveness. A True Story Retold by Shyam Kumari (Courtesy: The Heritage, August 1987)
There is a beautiful Buddhist story in China. In a certain town a very beautiful young lady suddenly arrived out of the blue. Nobody knew from where she came; her whereabouts were completely unknown. But she was so beautiful, so enchantingly beautiful, that nobody even thought about where she had come from. People gathered together, the whole town gathered – and all the young men, almost three hundred young men, wanted to get married to the woman. The woman said, “Look, I am one and you are three hundred. I can be married only to one, so you do one thing. I will come again tomorrow; I give you twenty-four hours. If one of you can repeat Buddha’s Lotus Sutra, I will marry him.” All the young men rushed to their homes; they didn’t eat, they didn’t sleep, they recited the sutra the whole night, they tried to cram it in. Ten succeeded. The next morning the woman came and those ten people offered to recite. The woman listened. They had succeeded. She said, “Right, but I am one. How can I marry ten? I will give you twenty-four hours again. The one who can also explain the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, I will marry. So you try to understand – because reciting is a simple thing, you are mechanically repeating something and you don’t understand its meaning.” There was no time at all – only one night – and the Lotus Sutra is a long sutra. But when you are infatuated you can do anything. They rushed back, they tried hard. The next day three persons appeared. They had understood the meaning. And the woman said, “Again the trouble remains. The number is reduced, but the trouble remains. From three hundred to three is a great improvement, but again, I cannot marry three persons, I can marry only one. So, twenty-four hours more. The one who has not only understood it but tasted it too, that person I will marry. So in twenty-four hours try to taste the meaning of it. “You are explaining, but this explanation is intellectual. Good, better than yesterday’s, you have some comprehension, but the comprehension is intellectual. I would like to see some meditative taste, some fragrance. I would like to see that the lotus has entered into your presence, that you have become something of the lotus. I would like to smell the fragrance of it. So tomorrow I come again.” Only one person came, and certainly he had achieved. The woman took him to her house outside the town. The man had never seen the house; it was very beautiful, almost a dreamland. And the parents of the woman were standing at the gate. They received the young man and said, “We are very happy.” The woman went in and he chit-chatted a little with the parents. Then the parents said, “You go. She must be waiting for you. This is her room.” They showed him. He went, he opened the door, but there was nobody there. It was an empty room. But there was a door entering into the garden. So he looked – maybe she has gone into the garden. Yes, she must have gone, because on the path there were footprints. So he followed the footprints. He walked almost a mile. The garden ended and now he was standing on the bank of a beautiful river – but the woman was not there. The footprints also disappeared. There were only two shoes, golden shoes, belonging to the woman. Now he was puzzled. What has happened? He looked back – there was no garden, no house, no parents, nothing. All had disappeared. He looked again. The shoes were gone, the river was gone. All that remained was emptiness – and a great laughter. And he laughed too. This Buddhist story says that he was led slowly, slowly. The woman was the Master. The woman is symbolic of the Master. She led him slowly, slowly. First, recite the sutra; Second, understand intellectually; Third, give a sign that you have lived it. These are the three stages. Then she led him into no-thingness. As Retold by Osho
I had gone a-begging from door to door in the village path, when thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream and I wondered who was this King of all kings! My hopes rose high and methought my evil days were at an end, and I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth scattered on all sides in the dust. The chariot stopped where I stood. Thy glance fell on me and thou camest down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life had come at last. Then of a sudden thou didst hold out thy right hand and say “What hast thou to give to me?” Ah! what a kingly jest was it to open thy palm to a beggar to beg! I was confused and stood undecided. And then from my wallet I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to thee. But how great my surprise when at the day’s end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a least little grain of gold among the poor heap. I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give thee my all.