Being in the world, but not of it!

This is a story that I tell usually at the end of the “Art of Living” programs that I facilitate and it lucidly illustrates the spiritual path.

One day, the king Akbar, asks his witty and clever minister, Birbal, to bring him someone who was “Here and not There”.

Not obeying the order would mean death.

Birbal thought deeply and brings a thief to the King and says “This thief lives here in this world and steals trying to grow his wealth Here. He has no concern for the other world. So he is fit to be one who qualifies for the one who is “Here and not There”.

Akbar, not to be outdone, then orders him to bring someone who is “There and not Here”.

Birbal, ponders and a while later brings an ascetic and tells Akbar: “Here is a person who is concerned only about the world beyond and has nothing to do with the world here. He qualifies for one who is “There and not Here”.

Impressed, Akbar now tells him to bring him someone who is “Neither Here nor There”. Birbal brings a beggar and tells the King that the beggar is neither Here nor There, because he is not participating in the world in any sense and has no concern for anything related to spiritual matters either.

Akbar, then asks Birbal if there is anyone in the world who is both Here and There?

Birbal, brings a simple household couple and says “The man and woman work in the world and tend to their family, but do everything in the world with God in their thoughts. Because they do the work of the world and allow their spiritual practices to carry them through both the good and the bad times, they are a man and woman who are both Here and There.”

Source: The Path of the Everyday Here by Lorna Catford.

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The 84th problem.

Read a wonderful parable today in Indian Express and while I couldn’t find the link, I found the same story on [http://wisdomquarterly.blogspot.in/2011/07/83-problems-buddhist-sutraparable.html] Posting it out here.

 

THUS HAVE I NOT HEARD. Once while the Buddha was staying near the fields, a farmer came to him, paid his respects, sat to one side, and said:

“O, great teacher, I am but a simple farmer. I love farming. But sometimes there is drought, at other times flooding. I am a husband. I love being married. But sometimes my spouse is indifferent, at other times smothering. I am a father. I love being a parent. But sometimes my children are dull [incorrigible], at other times unruly. What am I to do?

The Buddha looked at the farmer with great compassion, extended both hands, and said: “Sorry, I can’t help you with those kinds of worldly problems.”

The farmer was dumbstruck for a moment. When he regained his composure, he argued: “Wait a minute. People speak in praise of you from all quarters. They come to you seeking advice for all things. And they go away enlightened. You’re famous!”

“Sorry,” the Buddha repeated, “there’s nothing I can do to help you. Every person has 83 problems. And I can’t help them with that.”

“Well, tell me,” the farmer asked calmly hoping to make the best of his visit, “what can you help me with?”

“I can help you with the 84th problem.”

“O, and what’s that?” the farmer leaned in.

“The 84th problem is the desire not to have any problems.

The farmer was overjoyed. And the Buddha taught him how to overcome suffering.

“Hari ke hazaron haath” ~ Vignettes from Banaswadi Satsang

Last evening was a memorable one – an evening with Guruji, that too in our own backyard. A day that we had waited for years. And what a evening it was!! If you missed it, you can catch it on video here. And as is the case with any event with Guruji, there are several stories – stories full of love, devotion and grace. And needless to say, there are several stories associated with this event too. More than hearing stories, experiencing them first hand is an incredible experience.  Personally for me encountering people from various walks of life rooted in devotion, faith and service and deep love for Guruji was soul stirring.

There are several such folks who crossed my path in the last few days and helped me re-look at my own commitment towards the path,  devotion and service. I want to take this opportunity to write about one such individual in this post.

Donald and I were tasked with taking the souvenir to print. As usual, things were running behind schedule. We reached the Ashram Rishimukh office on Friday evening only to find that the person tasked with this was out sick and we had almost 80 advts for the souvenir – all in various different formats from scribbled on the visiting card to scanned pamphlets to various document format ads from Word documents to PowerPoint PPT etc – that had to be converted into proper ad layout and converted to PDF or JPEG images. We started making frantic calls to all and sundry trying to find someone who could help us out on friday evening. And we didn’t want this task to slip to Saturday at any cost.  Thanks to Kiran, we eventually ended up talking to Abijith who sounded very enthusiastic and agreed to meet us at Lingarajapuram. We drove all the way back from Ashram to Lingarajapuram, worrying, working out alternatives etc. It was already 9.00PM when we met Abijith and explained the work to him. We went home, had a quick bite of dinner and went back to Abijith’s shop in NarayanPillai street in ShivajiNagar. He owns a small printing press. It was already 10 and he had already started working on putting things together. And to my astonishment he worked all through the night, with absolutely no break at all. He just got up once to drink water and once to stretch himself. There was a point at 3AM in the morning where I was ready to give up and go home, but Abijith persisted and worked all the way till 8AM in the morning. That is a 11 hour work straight through, without any tea/coffee breaks.

But more than the effort, it was his attitude, making sure that he gave his best to each and every ad layout, paying incredible attention to detail and quality and to top it he spoke knowledge all through the night, quoting Guruji and sharing his experience of how the practices and Guruji’s grace has changed his life.   

As Donald and I wound up and left his shop on saturday morning, he said – Before coming on this path, my life was useless, today I am very useful. 

I bumped into Abijith much after the Satsang was over last evening as we were winding up the stall where we had put the souvenir and I asked him, how did he like the Satsang and he replied I was in the Parking seva and did not attend.  Not a trace of disappointment on the face of not getting a chance to have a glimpse of the Master. Yet, he had a beaming smile on his face.

A perfect example of someone demonstrating how spirituality and knowledge can be embedded in daily life.

The scriptures talk of the Lord having a thousand names, but I am sure that not only he does he have a thousand names, but also thousand hands. As the saying in hindi goes – “Hari ke hazaron haath” and it came back again and again looking at the way how the event unfolded.

So, if you have some printing work to be done, I wholeheartedly recommend Abjith- reachable at abijith.g@gmail.com

Learn the True Religion

From Bachchan’ blog, a beautiful story for these times:

LEARN THE TRUE RELIGION 

An old man was visiting a city for the first time in his life. He had grown up in a remote mountain village, worked hard raising his children, and was then enjoying his first visit to his children”s modern homes.

While being shown around the city, the old man heard a sound that stung his ears. He had never heard such an awful noise in his quiet mountain village. Following the grating sound back to its source, he came to a room in the back of a house where a small boy was practising on a violin.

“Screech! Screech!” came the discordant notes form the groaning violin. When he was told that it was called a “violin”, he decided he never wanted to hear such a horrible thing again.

The next day, in a different part of the city, the old man heard a beautiful sound, which seemed to caress his aged ears. He had never heard such an enchanting melody in his mountain valley. Following the delightful sound back to its source, he came to a room in the front of a house where an old lady, a maestro, was performing a sonata on a violin.

At once, the old man realised his mistake. The terrible sound that he had heard the previous day was not the fault of the violin, nor even the boy. It was just that the young man had yet to learn his instrument well.

With a wisdom reserved for the simple folk, the old man thought it was the same with religion. When we come across a religious enthusiast causing such strife with his beliefs, it is incorrect to blame the religion.

It is just that the novice has yet to learn his religion well. When we come across a saint, a maestro of her religion, it is such a sweet encounter that it inspires us for many years, whatever their beliefs.

But that was not the end of the story…..

The third day, in a different part of the city, the old man heardanother sound that surpassed in its beauty and purity even that of the maestro on her violin. What do you think that sound was?

It was a sound more beautiful than the cascade of the mountain stream in spring, than the autumn wind through the forest groves, or than the mountain birds singing after a heavy rain. It was even more beautiful than the silence in the mountain hollows on a still winter”s night. What was that sound that moved the old man”s heart more powerfully than anything before?

It was a large orchestra playing a symphony.

The reason it was, for the old man, the most beautiful sound in the world is that firstly, every member of that orchestra was a maestro of their own instrument; and secondly, they had further learned how to play together in harmony.

“May it be the same with religion,” the old man thought. “Let each one of us learn through the lessons of life the soft heart of our beliefs. Let us each be a maestro of the love within our religion. Then, having learned our religion well, let us go further and learn how to play, like members of an orchestra, with other religions in harmony together!”

 

That would be the most beautiful melody!