The Tree of Knowledge
Some inspiring stories
Spiritual stories have always been used to teach, inspire and motivate. Here are some about spirituality, inner strength, inner peace, spiritual growth and the power of the mind.
Observe and Serve
Sage Kautilya was a great scholar and exponent of the laws of human relationships. He had many disciples, one of whom became the emperor of India. Gurudev, as he was affectionately called, often used to say, “Observe before you serve. Only then service becomes more fulfilling. Avoid serving unworthy causes for it becomes Apathra Dhana, that is charity misplaced.”
Many of his disciples were unable to understand the depth of his advice for they had learnt by tradition that charity should pour like rain on all and should not be selective to a few. The master used to laugh at their confusion and dilemma. One day a crafty person from a nearby town came and said, “Sir, I learn that you are a great exponent of wealth and wisdom. I request you to make me rich,” On hearing this, the disciples became surprised and angry at the insolence and craftiness of the man and wanted to throw him out. But the master just smiled and said, “My dear son, wealth is of two kinds, spiritual and material, and I will teach you the variety which you deserve. Before that, I will put you to a small test. You’ll have to pick up two pebbles – one white and one black from the sand mass – and put them in your bag. I will ask one of disciples to pick up one of the pebbles. If he picks up a white pebble, I will teach you the spiritual wealth, but if he picks up a black pebble, then I will teach you how to become materially wealthy.”
The crafty fellow agreed, smiled in mischief and without anybody’s notice picked up and bagged two black pebbles only, feeling sure that he could outwit the great sage. He wanted only material wealth and whichever pebble the disciple took out, it would only be black and the master would be forced to make him materially rich. However he did not know that Gurudev and one other disciple had observed his tricks and kept quiet.
When the fellow said he was ready, the master called the observant disciple and said, “Please pick up one pebble and we will fulfill his wish.”
While the other disciples smiled in faith and the cunning fellow smiled in mischief, the disciple put his hand into the bag, took out a pebble and, before anyone could notice, he dropped it on the sand mass, as if by mistake. He then profusely apologized to the master for his clumsiness. The others watched the disciple with curiosity and the crafty man watched with confusion. But the master said, “It does not matter if you have dropped one pebble. As the seeker had collected a black and a white pebble as per my instructions, the pebble left over in the bag reveals the colour of the pebble, which you have dropped. Hence take out the other pebble in the bag.” The other pebble was taken out from the bag and it was black.
“So,” the master said, “My disciple has taken out the white pebble, though he dropped it later. Hence I take it that you need spiritual wealth and I shall give it to you.” When he observed that his evil action was punished without public exposure, the cunning fellow was shocked and stricken with fear and remorse for his mischief. He then fell to his feet, revealed his crooked plan and requested that the master to forgive him and to accept him as one of his disciples. To the amazed devotees, the master smiled and said, “When this fellow came for help, I utilized this opportunity to put him as well as all of you to a test. But none of you except me and Chandra, the observant disciple, did keenly watch him and found out his tricks. As we wanted to help him, we remained silent and later taught him what he really needed, that is honesty, integrity and sobriety in life than money.”
“This incident,” the Master continued, “gives you a clear indication that you have to observe anyone, so that you render to the person the best which he deserves though he may not desire it.”
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God helps those who help themselves
Long ago, there lived a sage (in a riverside village) to whom many people went for advice and assistance. One day a villager who was a simpleton went to him and wept. When questioned by the sage, he said, “Many people in my village are bad and they treat me badly. I do not know how to protect myself. Please help me.” The sage consoled him and said, “Don’t worry, depend on God and everything will be alright.” The villager was overjoyed, and went away.
After a few days, the village was flooded by the surging waters of the river. All the people ran for safety except the simpleton, who climbed on the roof of his home and prayed. When the floodwaters reached the roof, one kind person who saw him, swam towards him and offered to save him. But the simpleton refused the offer and said, “I don’t trust you, I depend on God to save me.” But the flood level rose and came up to his neck. Seeing this, a group of people escaping in a boat offered him a place in the boat. Again he declined the offer of help, and said: “I depend on God only.” After a while, he was drowned. However a few kind souls took pity on him and rescued the unconscious villager and nursed him back to life. Instead of thanking his benefactors, the villager became angry and ran to the sage, and said, “You nearly killed me with your· advice to depend on God. He never came to my rescue.”
The sage smiled and said: “My dear foolish fellow, in answer to your prayer, it was God who sent the swimmer and the boat-men, but you refused his assistance. However in his infinite mercy, he sent the rescue party and saved your life. Otherwise you would have been dead by now.” “Remember,” the sage continued, “by your prayer, you can expect God to guide you in your actions and activities, but you cannot expect Him to take over your functions. God has given you brains, why did you not use them?”
This story from the Puranas emphasises the adage: God helps those who help themselves.