The Tree of knowledge
We published last week two inspiring stories of faith and wisdom as well as love, laughter and life that offer us solutions to most of the modern-day problems. These stories have come down to us from our sages and seers, who since time immemorial have echoed the noble guidelines in human relationships through tales and parables apart from other forms of imparting knowledge. Here’s another two inspiring stories. Payerfulness is an intimate feeling: Tolstoy has written a beautiful story. He says that behind a mountain somewhere in Russia or China there were three saints. The Bishop of the town came to know about them and their fame, and he became a little jealous. So he went there, went right to the mountain with all his paraphernalia and pomp and show. When he arrived, the saints welcomed him. He felt a little better to see that they respected him. People who have an inferiority complex want respect. So the Bishop asked them, “Who made you saints? You have proclaimed yourselves saints. And then what is all this you are doing, calling so many people around you?”
The saints said, “No, Sir, we are just ordinary people. We tell these people not to come, but more and more they are not listening. The more we say not to come, the more they are coming. Please help us.” Now the Bishop felt even happier, so he said, “OK, what is it that you do here?” And the saints said, “We do some prayers.” He again said, “OK, what is the prayer you are doing?” In a church they would have set prayers. They repeat prayers from the Bible. So the Bishop said, “What prayer are you using? Say it and let me see if you are making a mistake or doing it correctly. I’ll guide you.” People who are misguided feel they want to guide others. Who is going to guide whom? These saints felt really ashamed to say their prayer.
They said, “How can we say the prayer, Sir? It is so personal, so intimate, we feel a little shy to say it.” But the Bishop insisted and so they said, “OK, this is what we pray. We say, ‘You are three, we are three. Please bless us. Let thy grace be on us. We are three, you are three.” The Bishop started laughing. He said, “What, is this prayer? Are you making a joke out of the whole thing?” Then he said, “Come, I will teach you a prayer.” So he dictated a long prayer with very tough words in it. When he had finished, these three illiterate saints could not understand it. Very politely they asked the Bishop, “Would you kindly repeat it for our sake, Sir?”
The Bishop said, “OK, all right.” So he recited the prayer once again. Now he was very happy because he thought he had corrected these misguided people, that he had brought them back onto the path. Thinking so, he left. There was a small lake which he had to cross by boat. He must have crossed to the middle of the lake when he saw something behind him, and when he turned back he saw these three saints coming toward him, walking on the water, running. The saints called to the Bishop and said, “Please, Sir, would you repeat the prayer once again? We are very dull-headed people. We have forgotten. Kindly repeat the prayer once again for our sake.”
The Bishop’s eyes were wide open. He said, “No, no. Whatever prayer you were doing before, please continue that.” Then he said, “Now please add one more. You were saying, ‘You are three, we are three.’ Now please say, ‘You are three and we are four.’ Pray for me too. And take me with you also.”
The Principle: Prayer is very personal and intimate. It is not the repetition of something. You don’t have to say one thousand times, one hundred times, “Ram, Ram Ram, Ram, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” No. Once you call from the depth of your heart, that is prayer. It’s not repetition. It is original. Even prayer can be made stale by repetition. Prayer is very original. Every devotee, every saint has sung in his own words. There were many songs before Meera, before Kabir, but .they did not sing the same old songs. They made their own songs. They sang in their own way. They connected themselves very personally to God. There are no rules. All rules’ fall away in prayer. When Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was asked to pray, he prayed in his own way. He broke all the rules in the temple. He said, “My Mother knows me, and I know what my Mother wants.” There are no rules in love. When you so love somebody, it’s not that you must sit on this side, you must love like this. Nobody goes to a school, to college, and reads books to learn to love. You don’t have to become a scholar to love. Love, devotion is your nature. No one else can do your prayer. Your prayer is your own prayer. Your prayer is your own flowering. No other bud can bloom for you. Any other blossom that blooms, blooms for itself. Being thankful, being grateful is what prayer is.
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Distortion of Love: There is a story in the Ramayana, where Lord Rama needed the help of Garuda, one of his devotees, at a time when he was under the spell of a poisoned arrow, and Garuda saved him from that. After he did this, a doubt came in his mind. “I thought Rama was my savior all these years, I thought he was going to help me, but today if I had not saved him he would have died. Today he needed my help; I saved him. How can I depend on him? I seem to be more powerful than he is, he seems to be ordinary for without me he would have died, both he and his brother would have died in the war.”
When this doubt came to Garuda, it kept eating at him. When a doubt starts to overtake the mind, the consciousness starts to go down. Doubt is one thing that can eat and destroy you. When doubt enters the soul they say that the person will have neither success in this world nor the next world, the inner world. Such was the doubt of Garuda. He was in such dismay because all his trust had been shaken. What could he do now? He could not tell Rama that he doubted whether he could continue to be his devotee because he now perceived Rama to be weaker than himself. He could not dare to go and ask him, so he quietly went and asked Narada, another teacher who was the exponent of divine love, and the author of the Bhakti Sutras.
Narada tells Garuda to go and ask a particular crow in the Himalayas. He told him to go and sit at the feet of the crow and he would learn. This was very humiliating for Garuda because Garuda was known as the king of birds and now has to go to the lowest of the birds to seek advice.
The Principle: Garuda had to go and sit at the feet of a crow to clear his doubts. The crow then tells Garuda, “Oh, you fool, the master has uplifted you so much by giving you the chance to serve him in that manner. Couldn’t you see this? It is so obvious. His love for you was so great that that he put himself down and put you up so that you could feel better in serving him by saying that you saved him. Who could save Lord Rama? He is the saviour of the whole creation.” The crow gave him a good lecture. With this knowledge his doubt and his ego vanished and he went back to the master and started serving the master. Humility came back to Garuda. Humility is the perfection of the soul, of the being.
Source: ‘Tales for the Young and the Old’
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