Sage Stories #6

Once God sent one of his angels to earth with a special divine camera, to click a picture of the prettiest and most fragrant hands.

The angel spread his celestial wings and descended upon the earth, in the midnight hour. The angel reckoned that was the hour when the denizens of earth would be in a state of restful slumber which would facilitate his task of observing and clicking the prettiest hands, at leisure.

The angel made a beeline for the palace. For who else but the queen, could have the prettiest hands? All queens as is well known are pampered daily by the ministrations of numerous handmaidens who attend to the intricate science of the Queens’ toiletry and beauty care.

So in flew the angel into the Queen’s opulent chamber. He approached the bed where she lay in royal repose, and sure enough he noted that her hands were milky white, shapely and pretty, and ornamented too, with many gem studded rings on slender fingers. He quickly opened the shutter but before he could click a bad odour started emanating from the spot where the royal hands lay. Startled, he retreated remembering that the divine order required the hands to be both fragrant and pretty. Disappointed he clicked his camera shut. He understood now why the ‘fragrant’ condition had been added! The Queen’s hands looked mighty pretty but the bad odour was the residue of bad, unkind actions…

He then tried the King. But even approaching the King became a near impossibility because from afar itself a noxious odour started assailing him.

Oh he thought ruefully I’ve got the wrong number here. I better look out for intellectual, scholarly souls who are bound to have executed good deeds by virtue of their wisdom and intelligence.

He went to numerous scholars, intellectuals and self proclaimed wise men but everywhere he was dogged by the foul odour. He understood it to be the odour of ego.

The angel felt disheartened. He roamed the world but could not find the right pair of hands to click. How would he face God? A simple task and he was not being able to accomplish it. His angelic face looked crestfallen.

With a heavy heart, he finally came to an open field and sat under a leafy green tree. What a soothing feeling it was! Just the perfect sylvan spot, he thought, to take stock of the situation. And then, just as this thought crossed his mind, suddenly an exquisite fragrance wafted to him giving his nostrils the much needed reprieve from the overdose of bad odours he had been subjected to!

He looked up at the tree to see if it had summer blossoms that were exuding the fragrance. No. It had only an abundance of leaves. He looked left and right but could see no flowering bushes anywhere.

Where was this beautiful fragrance coming from? He searched all over and then, following the direction from where it came, saw a farmer, sleeping on the ground on his mat in the open fields.

The angel bent near him and the fragrance increased. Excited, he looked at the hands of the farmer. But, they didn’t fit the bill as they didn’t look pretty at all. On the contrary, they were rough and brown, with coarse skin. And yet, the sweetest fragrance was coming directly from them! The farmer was fast asleep, and from his hands wafted this divine fragrance!

The angel, a tad confused, nevertheless hurriedly opened the shutter of his camera and clicked a picture of the farmer’s hands. He was a bit perturbed about the hands not looking the prettiest but the fragrance prompted him to click the farmer’s hands.

He flew back to the celestial abodes and showed his picture to God.

And waited hopefully, a wee unsure..

And wondrously, God patted him lovingly in hearty appreciation! The angel had done a fine job. Handsome is he who handsome does, said God. And this farmer exemplifies that perfectly. He is a simple straightforward hardworking soul, who tills the land daily, feeds his family and others, and is honest and charitable. From the produce of his land he marks out a portion to be given to the temple priest for feeding mendicants and other needy who come there. Much good flows from his coarse hands, which are worthy instruments for helping himself and others in a spirit of selfless service.

Yes, all helping hands which serve fellow beings, are the prettiest hands in the world, said God.

The angel beamed.

PS: This post is a paean to all the Covid workforce, frontline workers and helpers who are using their beautiful hands tirelessly in serving in various capacities and healing and providing relief and succor across our beleaguered globe.

Gratitude­čÖĆ

Sage Stories #8

In the early part of the 20th century a steamer arrived and docked at the San Francisco harbor. In the motley crowd disembarking one passenger stood out starkly amid the hustle and bustle. He was in ochre robes and had a radiant face. Oddly he had no luggage whatsoever. 

An American fellow traveler struck by the ascetic’s demeanor watched him curiously. He wondered if anybody was coming to receive him. The ascetic looked in no hurry and stood there calm and confident with an unfurrowed brow,  suggesting that everything was in control.

Finally, intrigued and not being able to contain his curiosity the American gentleman opened a conversation with the ascetic.

“Excuse me Sir, where is your luggage?”

“I have no luggage besides these garments on my body.”

“You must have some money on you which will need to get converted to American dollars.”

“I have no money,” replied the ascetic calmly with a smile, “My values and my faith are the only wealth I own.”

“You will have to give the reference of a respectable American citizen and the address of your host in this country. Who is going to arrange for your meals?”

“I know only one person in America”

“Who is that?”

“You!”

The American was stunned.

“My dear brother, I know you,” said the ascetic confidently. Saying which the ascetic touched the gentleman’s shoulder lightly.

The American had never had an encounter nor conversation like this in all his life. Moreover he was greatly impressed and moved by┬áthe ascetic’s serenity, confidence, and feeling of brotherhood. It touched a chord deep within him.

The American smiled at the ascetic, and invited him to his home and made all arrangements for his stay!

The ascetic was a great Indian mystic Swami Ramtirth, a professor of mathematics who gave up everything to gain the knowledge of that knowing which everything is known.

Well.

The world cannot always understand the workings of mystics and saintly souls and often dismisses them as crazy. However, when you study the lives of these rare souls whose quest goes far beyond worldly wealth and gains, an intriguing new hemisphere, not known to all, is revealed, which appears to hold some secret, some answer, to the enduring questions of life.

Sage Stories #7

There was a mighty king called Raja Bhoj who ruled over a vast empire.

Once, a thought struck him – In this world, what is greater, worship of God or goodness?

This thought made him restless day and night. Finally, he called for a big discussion in the royal court, and invited many intellectuals and scholars. But though there were many opinions, (as always there are) there was nobody who could provide a satisfactory or conclusive answer. The Raja’s question remained unanswered.

The Raja thought that if his quest for the answer was sincere, it would be revealed to him, in due course, on its own one day.

Some time elapsed. One day the Raja left for the forest. Some of his courtiers and ministers accompanied him. They reached the interiors, when an untoward thing happened. The tribal people of the jungle thought them to be enemies and attacked them. There was total confusion at this unexpected invasion. The Raja’s entourage was broken up and he lost contact with them.

On realizing that the party was of the Raja’s the tribals fled. But now Raja Bhoj found himself to be alone, roaming the dense forest all by himself.

He was tired and thirsty but there was no sign of water anywhere. His limbs were aching and his throat dry and parched. Suddenly, after trudging a fair distance, he came upon an ancient small temple near the edge of the forest. Somehow he managed to reach it.

He stumbled inside. He saw a priest-like man engaged in worship. His palms were folded in reverence, before a deity beautifully decorated with colorful bunches of wild flowers. Incense sticks were burning, emitting an enchanting sandalwood fragrance.

The atmosphere was very peaceful. But the Raja’s entry was not noiseless! He entered and crumpled on the floor in exhaustion, with a loud thud.

This made the priest engaged in worship, stop his prayers and look up. He immediately got up and rushed to the Raja. He sprinkled water on his face, and fanned his face with a fan made of dried leaves.

He then lovingly offered him water to drink and fruit to eat. The Raja gratefully accepted and felt considerably revived. However, he felt concerned on one score. His untimely intrusion had disturbed and interrupted the priest’s worship. He felt contrite as he had become an obstacle in the priest’s rituals. And he was well aware of how much importance was attached to these ritual devotions and their strict compliance!

He asked the priest frankly, “Your meditation and worship got disturbed because of me, and you had to leave it midway. I posed an obstacle to you, didn’t I? I came between you and your worship of God.”

The priest had a gentle smile on his face. He said, “My son, my God doesn’t need my worship. I need it, to purify my instincts and sanctify my time. The flowers I offer Him, the incense I burn, the mantras I chant all come from Him…so how can I offer that to Him?

If there is anything I can offer and what really pleases Him are the flowers of compassion and service to all living beings, as He dwells in each and every one of them. That offering from the heart, is the highest and gives Him greatest satisfaction.”

“Yes, my son,” the priest continued in dulcet tones, “Goodness to fellow beings is even greater than worship of God.”

The King sat up with a start on hearing these significant words. He smiled. He had got an answer to his question! And in the simplest most natural way. The learned scholars in his court could not satisfy him with their convoluted logic, but this simple priest, had answered his question!

Truly, hands that help are holier than lips that pray!

Let’s sanctify our lives with this worship and offer God the flowers of service to fellow beings from our purified hearts..

Small Wisdoms #4

Shoreless

‘The quiet mind is richer than a crown. Such sweet content, such sleep, such bliss. Beggars enjoy what princes oft do miss.’ Robert Greene

Who wouldn’t want it? ‘Such sweet content’… ‘such bliss??’

But where to get it?

We have heard it ad infinitum. Look within. Still the mind. Be present. Be mindful. Etc. Etc.

But the question is,

HOW?

Meditation – is the prompt response. No words in recent times have got so much mileage as meditation and mindfulness. There are only million blogs and teachers and courses to tell you how to touch the serenity of monks.

Sit peacefully in a comfortable position. If possible in lotus posture or if not just any which way feels comfy. And then…begin. Some say still the mind, some say don’t bother let the thoughts come and go, sort of flow through you, allow them free movement without latching on to any. Fair enough. But do thoughts listen??

In any case, only a zillion thoughts a day course through our mind in crazy zigzags. Which one to tell to go where? Why, they hound us even when we sit obediently in the right posture, and sincerely admonish them to behave. Shoo we say, get lost can’t you see I’m trying to meditate? But the pesky creatures cackle and jump around us chattering with greater gusto.

Of course, you can learn techniques of meditation and succeed in quieting the mind, after regular and persistent practice. But what about the balance hours of the day? In a matter of no time the dykes are open again and in come the thoughts in a rush and a wave.

I read somewhere a great quote about this. A guru once said that meditation is not only about crossing of legs or squatting on a mat with eyes shut for an half hour or so. It is much more than that. It is a day-long process! This does not mean sitting in the meditative pose, of course, but keeping your mind in the meditative state as you go about the business of the day. So, the idea of meditation is not to carve out a small portion of your day to be calm but to work toward making your whole day like that.

So how does that happen? How to make your day into this beautiful work of art? Simple. The mind is like a handkerchief. The handkerchief is made of threads. One by one you remove the threads and voila the handkerchief disappears.

What are the threads of the mind made of? Desires. It is the countless desires big and small that agitate our minds and keep us in a state of constant restlessness.

We are constantly craving something or the other. The delusion is that what we crave will bestow the happiness we seek. It will fill some gap we perceive to be blocking our satisfaction and fulfillment. But the funny part is getting what we crave gives fleeting satisfaction and we move on to craving for something more or something else. Desires are a raging fire that burn more the more they are fed.

So the catch is we may crave a thousand things and more and feel transient glee on getting them too, but behind the scenes a wily act is on…every fulfilled desire is springing up goblins of more desires which hop around and rob you of the richest treasure – your peace of mind.

Peace of mind. Ahh how to describe it? It is the soul’s art upon your inner landscape. It is ineffable contentment. It is a lake of shoreless bliss.

When you touch this peace that passeth all understanding, everything else feels like tinsel. You become the richest person in the world!

Confessions Of An Unconventional Mother

Before you become a mother, you see many others, starting with your own.

My earliest memories of my mother and me is that I was called her tail. Wherever she went, I followed her. No doubt she must have exerted her utmost patience when she found me everywhere she was. In the kitchen, in my parents’ bedroom, just outside the bathroom door, waiting for her to emerge.

Mothers are like that. Just their warm presence is enough. It enfolds small children in a snug embrace, irrespective of what other tasks the mother may be engaged in. (And we all know, mothers have a lot of tasks). They are to put it simply, the softest comforters of all.

However, in retrospect what really makes me marvel about my mother, to this day, is how she gave and gives us emotional space. There were no cloying expectations from her that we should be one way or the other. She brought us up with ease and without too many standard do’s and dont’s. For one the atmosphere was never school like with rigid timings or severe punishments. It was supremely relaxed and as children we were given the freedom to make some mischief and some mistakes. (My father and she made a great team as they shared the same views on bringing up children. In fact my father hid my study books and asked me to go chase butterflies in the garden, instead).

It was a happy childhood and I vowed that when my turn came I would try and be a relaxed mother and give enough leeway to my kids to enjoy their childhood.

As luck would have it my husband too had the same thoughts. So, I had support!

I never for starters read Spock or any other. I followed my gut instead and grandmother’s wisdom. Some things are natural and instinctive. Mothering a child is one. You don’t need reference books for that. As children my mother attended to our every need but never fussed over us. And importantly, she never force-fed us! Her maxim – when the child is hungry she will eat. So true. So one badge of honor I can lay claim to is that I’ve never forced my kids to eat. On the contrary – now this is radical – I’ve always discouraged them from overeating. This is because of my own experience of it. The extra mouthfuls that I succumb to for taste in overeating have always given me hours of discomfort. So I told my kids, eat when hungry and try to avoid overeating. Many mothers will feel aghast for sure, reading this one!!

Then, I let them be easy about marks in school. I said do your best but leave the rest and don’t fret about getting the highest grades etc. Just do reasonably well, it’s enough. My maxim – Don’t fret about marks so much as good remarks! I told them to earn good remarks from teachers was important. Values added value, I said, as it was of little use if they came first in class but were not helpful or kind to their schoolmates. To drive the point home I said, the marks would be forgotten when they left school but their good values would support them for the rest of their lives.

Then, another shocker. For most children some things are iron-cast taboos. Drinking tea is one of them. Now, I’m a passionate tea-lover and I know from experience how it has helped me in the journey of life. I had to ensure that this delightful panacea for all travails should not be denied to my kids. How to ensure? Make sure they develop a taste for it early. I knew of cases where grownups confessed ruefully to never having tea as they had not been allowed within its aromatic radius as children. The result: They never took to it later. That sounded like a horror story to me so I surreptitiously made my kids, after the age of 7 yrs or so, take occasional sips from my cup of ambrosia. My testimony in my defense, is that tea is nothing if not a soul brew. It is love and hugs and comfort in a mug. How could I deny them that?

Another radical concept they were introduced to as kids was that too much money comes in the way of happiness. Money is important yes, but too much of it is a headache and robs you of good sleep, true friends, and slashes your time with nature as you are always cooped up in enclosed spaces having board (bored) meetings! Now, I also made it a point to emphasize that money was a good thing, an absolute necessity for all, but being super rich was not the holy grail. And if ever one did land up making lots of it, its best use would be the good it could do to others, after attending to your own needs of course!

There were some conventional aspects too. I encouraged them to drink milk, haha, have lots of Vitamin C preferably from fresh fruit, read books, develop love for nature, the hills and the outdoors, to never waste food, time or money, and try try try never to tell a lie. And, finally, being one who has experienced spiritual joy myself, I encouraged in them, the belief in some Higher Power, but only after they had tested it out for themselves, through individual experience.

There’s lot more my kids could add to this space, about my unconventional modes in bringing them up, which would spice it up more, but for the moment, maybe this much is enough.

The bottom line is, that mothers, whether conventional or not, are all angels in disguise. Salute to them all.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sage Stories #5

In a forest lived a holy man who had many disciples. One day he discoursed on the omnipresence of God and His presence in all things. He wished to inculcate reverence for all creation in his disciples.

He therefore said, “All is divine, my children. Bow before this truth in every living thing and in the inanimate too.”

A while later, a disciple, along with few others who had heard the Guru’s discourse went to the forest to gather wood.

Suddenly they heard a frantic voice cry out, “Get out of the way! A mad elephant is coming!”

All but this one disciple took to their heels. He remembered the words of the guru that God resides in every being, and one should bow before all. Thinking in this way, he bowed down before the mad elephant! (He had taken the words of the Guru a wee too literally). In the meanwhile the mahut or keeper of the elephant was shouting, “Run! Run!” But the disciple did not budge.

The wild elephant (who poor creature, did not know about all living beings being divine!) seized the man unceremoniously with his swaying trunk and flung him to one side. The disciple lost consciousness.

The petrified mahut ran to the Guru’s ashram to inform him about the mishap. The Guru along with other disciples ran to the spot. The Guru applied some healing herbs on the forehead of the disciple and slowly he regained consciousness.

The Guru asked him, “You knew very well that the mad elephant was coming your way, then why did you not leave the place?”

The disciple replied, “Guruji you had told us to see God in all living beings, so I thought He must be in the elephant too and I did not run away like the others.”

Listening to his disciple’s response the guru lovingly said, “Yes, my child God was in the elephant, but He was in the Mahut too, wasn’t he? who was warning you to get out of the way! Since all is God, why didn’t you pay attention to his words?”

The Guru with this reasoning taught the disciple the importance of discrimination. He explained that in this creation all is pervaded by the divine element, which is the prime mover. However, this world is built on duality where opposites exist, both negative and positive. It is the play of maya or illusion. The task is to discriminate wisely in making decisions in life. Though the divine is the core of all beings, not all beings, manifest the divine! That manifesting of the divine and bringing it to the surface is the task of many lifetimes!

The disciple who had learnt his lesson, bowed to the Guru in gratitude. Though he would think twice before bowing to all and sundry now, he knew that his Guru manifested divine qualities in abundance, and so, it was safe and wise to bow to him without any qualms!

Sage Stories #4

Once, a mighty King directed his elephant to a holy spot, where the Buddha often spoke wise words, to those who were willing and ready to hear. The King dismounted and quietly joined the congregation. He sat, intently listening to the Buddha speak. The sermon was on contentment and renunciation.

“Who is the richest man in the world, O wise sage,” asked the King.

“The richest man in the world, is the one who is content,” replied Buddha.

“And who is poorest?” asked the King curiously, knowing that the answer would be different to what most people would give.

“He who has multiple, endless desires is the poorest man,” answered Buddha, with a serene smile.

The King digested this wisdom. He understood that the content man has no wants so he is rich as he lacks nothing, and the discontented man is constantly in want, so naturally he is in need and so poorer!

Feeling impressed with the explanation the king had a keen desire to win the approbation and praise of the holy man.

Just then, he saw a curious object lying next to the Buddha. On enquiring he was told by his companion that it was a rattle drum. The Buddha had placed it next to him and announced that he would play the rattle drum on the day, the greatest sacrifice was made by a person.

Wishing to attain this distinction and please the Buddha the king returned to his palace and immediately ordered his elephants to be loaded with all kinds of treasures. Plenty of gold and silver and fruits and all manner of delectable treats were piled on as offerings.

He went back with this lavish bounty hoping to offer it to the Buddha and earn his praise.

On the way, an old woman greeted him and pleaded, “I am hungry. Will you give me some food?”

The King took out a pomegranate from his palanquin and gave it to her.

The old woman enquired as to where the King was headed. The courtiers told her he was on his way to make these offerings to the Buddha.

The Buddha? The holy One? The old woman paused. A strange urge to see the Buddha rose up in her. She had heard so much about this holy personage.

So, she too, though frail and old, headed to the holy spot, trudging to where the Buddha sat.

In the meanwhile the King reached and with considerable fanfare, made all the grand offerings to Buddha. He sat expectantly. Though he tried hard to stay focused on what Buddha was speaking, his one eye was constantly roving to the rattle drum placed beside Buddha.

When would he shake it, wondered the King? For a long time he sat waiting to hear the music his ears longed to hear, but there was not the smallest shake given to the rattle drum to disturb its repose and tranquility.

Suddenly, an old woman came staggering into the congregation. Everybody looked at her, surprised. Their surprise grew manifold when the Buddha instructed she should be allowed to come right up to him in the front.

The old woman in her tattered clothes and bedraggled state, came to Buddha. With a joyful shining face she took out a pomegranate and offered it to Buddha.

The King realized with a start, it was the same old woman who he had given the pomegranate to.

Buddha lovingly accepted it. And then to the acute consternation and bewilderment of the King, took up the rattle drum and sounded it loudly for all to hear.

The King was dumbfounded. He humbly sought permission to clear a doubt, which was granted.

“O Sage I offered you spectacular wealth and you did not sound the drum. But on receiving a solitary pomegranate, you did! I have a problem with this. Be kind enough to enlighten me.”

“O King,” replied the Buddha, “it is natural and easy for a wealthy king like you to offer gold and silver, but the greater sacrifice is when one who has very little, yet offers it to another. A hungry person offering their share of food to another is the greatest sacrifice.”

This story touches me a lot.

Big is not necessarily big and small not always small. It is the feeling behind the act which makes it big or small – not the quantity or amount.

So we don’t have to be kings or queens to have the rattle drum sound its music to our ears. It will rattle loudly and sonorously, if whatever we have, lots or little, we develop the spirit to share it willingly with someone in need.

Poppy madness

Small Wisdoms #4

“Summer set lip to

Earth’s bosom bare,

And left the flushed print

In a poppy there.”

Francis Thompson

In trying times there is nothing more soothing than shutting out the news and opening a book of poems. This is a kind of self preservation against the anxiety and fear that troubled times generate, the likes of which we are experiencing right now.

To keep our equilibrium is half the battle won. However this is not possible without engineering a fair distance between yourself and the news channels and social media.

So I put my phone away. And the remote.

And I opened a poem. In a moment I was in a poppy garden. Words have so much power. They can inspire, console, motivate, and even trigger happiness, through their associations. Reading the above poem sent a quiver of delight down my spine. Maybe it was the word ‘poppy’ used so beautifully by the poet that did it. There’s a reason for my sharp reaction. Just recently when I was sheltering in my childhood home our garden was ablaze with poppies. There were masses and masses of colorful poppies stacked closely together in flowerbeds, slightly stooped like ballerinas in a dance movement. And tumbling around, and into their black centres were these nectar-intoxicated bumble-bees on a spree…

Sitting on my verandah watching this scenario I realized how pleasurable and deeply satisfying is the wine of nature, not only for bees but also for us, only if we will raise our goblets to be filled!

Oliver Sacks, the brilliant neurologist observed thus:

“In 40 years of medical practice I have found only two types of non- pharmaceutical therapy to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.”

I read a very interesting line in a book the other day. It was to the effect of one character telling another the difference between adults and children in the pursuit of happiness. He opines that the key difference is that children really want to be happy … suggesting that adults don’t really want to be happy as can be surmised from their efforts to the contrary!

We can safely say that we clamor for happiness but don’t take the simple path to it. And if we agree that day to day happiness is the sum total of simple joys, how difficult is it to be in a garden? Or how difficult is it to listen to some uplifting classical music or junk the channels occasionally and pick up a physical book, with gorgeous print on paper, and pages to turn? No. We prefer to scroll mindlessly even when there’s nothing of real interest, and in the bargain stifle our soul.

Walt Whitman, looking back on what helped him return to life after a paralytic stroke wrote that what aided him was:

“…the open air, the trees, fields, the change of seasons – the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night…The trick is to tone your wants and tastes low down enough and make much of mere daylight and the skies..”

“Make much of mere daylight and skies” makes a lot of sense in our ravaged world where we are imprisoned in lockdowns more often than not. Ah to have the simple freedom of being outdoors under the open blue skies, in a garden of summer flowers, with a bunch of friends, unmasked, laughing with abandon, clinking glasses, and making merry in real life, not on a zoom platform or facetime.

According to Sacks, nature calls to something very deep in us. Biophilia the love of nature and living things is an essential part of the human condition. The denial of this to people working long days in windowless offices, children in city schools, and for those in institutional settings like nursing homes and hospitals is deleterious for emotional and overall well-being. “The effects of nature on health are not only emotional and spiritual but physical and neurological. I have no doubt they reflect deep changes in the brains physiology, and perhaps even its structure.”

A garden is always a symbol of hope and continuity. Anybody who, on their knees, has dug into the soil and planted a seed in the brown earth to see the miracle of its tiny shoot spring up one fine day will testify to the richness of the emotion experienced in this display of fecundity.

Olivia Laing describes it thus:

“The gardener is daily confronted by good news…A peony returns, alien pink shoots thrusting from the bare soil…”

Yes, there are the dry leaves and faded flowers too but alongside that, the miraculous hope, always, of renewal, and the inviolable sweet guarantee of new buds bursting forth in the upcoming dawn.

Admittedly we are urban creatures most of us. But that is not our natural state. To maintain a link with the natural world may help in tranquilizing our minds and better manage our emotional states and well being for more happiness and less angst and disconnectedness.

Reading the 4 lines of the poem quoted on top put a smile on my lips and a funny kind of sweet hope in my heart, that there is always beauty and goodness in the world, and nothing, nothing, not even a pandemic can squash it..

Sage Stories #3

A holy man once came to a small village. People heard about his extraordinary and saintly qualities and flocked to get his blessings and darshan (sight of a holy soul). It is believed that an encounter with a saint can endow not only spiritual credit but worldly gains too, so many were eager to get there.

Amongst the hordes of people rushing for benediction there was a thief too. He thought that maybe the vision of the holy man may bless him too and grant him more success in his particular line of work – thieving!

When he saw the holy man’s serene face and demeanor a feeling of peace descended upon him. He felt a sudden desire to get some upadesh or spiritual instruction from him.

“Please guide me, Oh wise soul, with some valuable instruction,” he said to the holy man, in an earnest tone. “I have heard you can transform destinies with a mere look from the corner of your eyes or a simple word of blessing..”

The holy man looked at the thief and smiled gently. He then said,

“Give up 3 vices – stealing, gambling and speaking lies.”

At this the thief said, “Oh saint, I cannot give up stealing and gambling as they are my livelihood. But since you are advising, I will take an oath not to speak untruth hereafter.”

The holy man replied,

“Yes, my son I am glad you are casting off at least one bad habit. May God bless you.”

The same night the thief decided to commit theft in the King’s palace. He climbed to the terrace in the late night when all was silent and the world slept. But he found another person on the terrace. He got startled. Was he another fellow thief he wondered. The person was the King himself but there was no way for the thief to realize this in the dark. The King asked the thief, “Who are you?” The thief, remembering the promise he had given the holy man, told him, he was a thief.

The King was surprised to receive such a straight forward and truthful reply. He felt intrigued. He told the thief, “I too am a thief. Come I will help you in the theft.” The thief felt mighty pleased at this sudden turn of events and felt the blessings of holy men are not to be taken lightly!

The King gave the keys of a safe to the thief and said “Go raid it while I keep watch here.”

The thief opened the safe. Three huge glittering diamonds winked back at him. Even in his wildest daydreams he had never imagined diamonds could be so big! However, he only took out 2 of them and left the 3rd one in the safe, and then returned hastily to where the King was keeping watch.

“Here,” he said excitedly “I have got these 2 diamonds…there were 3 there but since we can’t divide 3 between us I brought only 2 so you can have one and I the other..” He returned the keys and thanked his “accomplice” for his help. The King, further impressed by the thief’s sense of fair play, took his address telling him he would help him in his future endeavors also.

The thief felt very chuffed and grateful on his way home, with the diamond tucked in his pocket. The holy man’s blessings were showing up very fast indeed!

Next morning the King announced the theft and asked his chief Minister to investigate the crime. The Minister opened the safe and saw one diamond still lying there. His mind working fast he quickly pocketed it thinking he would announce to the king that all were stolen.

The King summoned the thief to his house and asked him to recount what had happened last night. The thief not recognizing the King recounted the tale truthfully, telling about the stranger who helped him and the 2 diamonds he had stolen. Keeping his oath in mind he recounted the events honestly.

The King was very happy to hear him speak the truth, even though that could implicate him. On the other hand his Minister had committed theft and spoken lies.

Result?

The King fired the Minister and employed the thief!

The thief was jubilant. His keeping of his promise to the holy man of giving up just one vice had yielded rich dividends. Now he didn’t need to gamble or steal for his livelihood (and not hear the recriminations of his wife about being a loser!) as now he was appointed in the King’s palace itself!

This is just a tale but it has deep meaning.

My takeaway from it was this:

1) One step in the right direction eventually leads to a good place. Or, in other words, one good thing leads to another.

2) The words of wise souls have hidden transformative power.

3) Truth is a great power or force and yields good results.


Do you agree?

What is your feeling or take away? Humorous or otherwise…

Small Wisdoms #3

“Whatever lifts the corners of your mouth

Trust that!”

The Sufi poet and scholar Rumi said that.

Simple words. But crammed with delightful instruction and deep meaning.

You ask, does magic exist? I say, have you seen a smile? How it transforms a face? How a mere movement of muscles pours light upon a face and makes it radiant and beautiful?

Apart from the effulgence a smile imparts to a face, it works other magic too. When we smile neurotransmitters in our brain are activated, and release dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. This relaxes us, lowers our heart rates, relieves stress and elevates mood. In fact smiling is a natural drug that works as a mild pain killer too! It is said, that in times of stress even a fake smile can produce to some measure, some of the good effects of a genuine smile.

The point is not only does a smile light up the face of a smiling person, it beams out cheer to others present. There is nothing more disconcerting than having to be at the receiving end of sullen scowling faces, isn’t it?

And, what of laughter, the boisterous hearty kin of the smile. Aah it is on another level. A non- pharmaceutical tonic that can do wonders. Laughing from our gut is a joyful experience. It is like a soul-workout expressing itself outwardly in the laughs that animate the body. Laughter makes us feel so good! It makes us forget awhile all the worries and cares piled up in our minds. Files and files of worries..

This cliche is not a joke! Laughter is the best medicine – and the best natural workout too, as it stimulates many organs. It enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air and stimulates your heart and lungs. The generous dose of endorphins released by laughing relieves stress and elevates mood.

Norman Cousins, an American journalist and professor, used laughter therapy to cure himself of a debilitating illness. He developed his own treatment based on mood elevation through laughter. His experience is recorded in his famous book, Anatomy of an Illness (1979). Cousins said, “Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally, without having to go outdoors.” That is good news for humanity stuck in lockdowns. By the way, Cousins overcame his illness and lived till 75 years of age!

The other day something happened which I found so funny, I burst out laughing. And it was such a hearty burst of laughter it released visibly loads of tension from my body. I could feel the knots of anxiety related to the current times of fear and uncertainty, that we are experiencing, loosening and my whole being lightening up. It felt so therapeutic! And the other thing I realized was that I hadn’t laughed like this in a long time.

So, rather than going here and there, let’s trust that spontaneous smile that crinkles our eyes and laughter that makes us rock from side to side, more, to create the well being we seek, in our troubled times.

It is not far from us. A child’s prattle, a pet’s antics, a funny book, the humorous pulling of each other’s legs, a comedy movie, the blossoming potted plant, a sweet poem, cute jokes, can all put a smile or laugh on our face. Maybe we should look to create more such simple yet rewarding moments in our lives..?