The punishment is compassionIn India there was a Muslim mendicant who had a certain amount of occult power. His name was Bajit Bastami. In Chittagong there is a special place where many Muslims worship him. Even the Hindus have tremendous love for him. When I was quite young I went to this place to see his tomb, and also to see something else. There was a pond near his tomb, and in the pond there were fifteen or twenty very large turtles. Those turtles were actually human beings once upon a time. It is absolutely true. Bajit Bastami got angry at them because they were not nice to him, so he turned them into turtles. Do you think this is all a cock and bull story? No, I am not telling a cock and bull story. That kind of power some people really do have.
Bajit Bastami turned them into turtles and gave them all names: Rajali, Majali, Pujali and so on. He said that when the time came, he would turn them into human beings once again, but not ordinary human beings. He would turn them into great human beings. Because they were going through such a severe punishment, his compassion would work later on, and at that time they would become great human beings. But this is only an introduction to the story I want to tell. This story is different.
Once at midnight Bajit Bastami was walking along the street praying and meditating when he saw a man playing on a flute. He was heavily drunk, but he was playing extremely well. Since the flutist was playing most melodious haunting tunes, people gathered around him. But when they started appreciating him, he insulted them using very foul language. Some people cursed him and left, while others, in spite of being scolded and insulted, stayed there. They were enjoying the fun, and the man was playing very well, so they didn’t take him seriously, since he was obviously drunk.
As soon as the musician saw Bajit he started insulting him, and this time he used the filthiest, absolutely the most foul tongue. Bajit was annoyed and said, “You stop using these kinds of words.”
But the drunk flutist got furious. He approached Bajit and struck him mercilessly on the forehead with his flute. Bajit’s forehead started bleeding, and the drunkard’s flute broke. Bajit went home with his forehead bleeding profusely. By that time he had many, many disciples and followers, and when they saw their Master’s plight they wanted to go and kill this flutist. But Bajit said, “No, no! You can’t do that. Tomorrow morning I will have something for him.” The disciples were very happy that their Master was going to punish the man.
The following morning Bajit asked one of his servants to do him a favour. He gave him some Indian sweetmeats — most delicious — plus a few rupees to take to this man along with a message. The message was that Bajit was extremely sorry that his head was responsible for breaking the man’s flute, and he was sending this money so that the musician could buy a new flute. Also, yesterday he experienced a little bit of the foul tongue of that flutist, so he was sending some sweets, which he hoped would sweeten the flutist’s tongue.
When the flutist received the gifts and heard the message, he simply ran to Bajit’s cottage. All his friends and admirers followed him and fell at Bajit’s feet to be illumined by his forgiveness. In later years they all became Bajit’s extremely good disciples. In this way Bajit transformed some undivine drunkards into aspirants through compassion.