The sage Bhrigu tests the cosmic gods


These are not my own stories. These are ancient stories. I do not claim even an iota of originality. The original authors are buried in oblivion, but the successors are following in the footsteps of their predecessors with gorgeous embellishment. I, too, have indulged lavishly in my own way of embellishment. Long live my humour-wisdom-flooded predecessors, who loved anonymity.

May these tales liberate us from the heavy dryness of the mind, and may they transform the dryness of the mind into an ever-blossoming fountain-ecstasy.

–- Sri Chinmoy

The fearful mouse

There was a little mouse who was very sad and depressed all the time. What could he do? A magician noticed that the little mouse was living under a cloud of depression, and he felt very sad. He asked the mouse, "Why are you so sad all the time? Why are you so depressed?"

The mouse said, "I am always afraid of the cat. At any moment the cat can spring out of nowhere and devour me. My life is entirely at the mercy of the cat. What am I going to do?"

The magician said, "That is very easy. I shall turn you into a cat."

The magician kept his promise and turned the mouse into a beautiful cat. Then the cat was very, very happy.

A few days later, the magician noticed that the cat was the picture of misery. The magician said, "Why are you so sad? You wanted to be a cat. Now what has happened to make you unhappy?"

The cat said, "I am so unhappy because there is a dog in the neighbourhood. This dog scares me to death. I never know when it will appear and chase me. The dog can easily kill me at any time. I am at the mercy of the dog constantly."

The magician said, "All right, if that is what is happening, then I shall solve the problem by turning you into a dog."

The cat now became a dog, and it immediately started barking and growling to show how strong and powerful it was. The dog was in the seventh Heaven of delight. A few days later, however, the magician discovered the dog sunk in depression. The magician said, "Why are you depressed? You wanted to become a dog, and I have made you a dog. You are so strong and powerful. What has gone wrong?"

The dog said, "Now I see there is a panther living nearby. This panther will surely kill me. A panther is the most ruthless of all animals. I am positive that it is planning to attack me and kill me. What am I going to do?"

So the magician said, "All right, I am turning you into a panther. Try to be happy!"

So the dog became a panther, and all the ferocious qualities of the whole world entered into him. He was so powerful and aggressive. Everybody was afraid of the panther. But in a few days' time, the panther succumbed to depression once again. This time his depression was far worse than the previous times. The magician could not understand at all. He said, "Why are you so depressed? I have done everything possible to make you happy. What is it this time?"

The panther said, "I am now at the mercy of a hunter. At any moment the hunter may see me and then kill me. Even now he may be looking for me. What shall I do? I am terribly afraid of the hunter."

"It is impossible to deal with you!" said the magician. "In the beginning, you were a mouse; now you are a panther. Now what am I going to do? You are always dissatisfied with your life. When I give you a promotion and transform you into something else, you find fault with your new life. It has become a habit for you to feel sad and depressed. It is too much! I am turning you back into a mouse. You deserve this fate!" The magician turned the panther back into a mouse and said, "Go your way!"

I have told this story because it has some spiritual significance. Many times when we make a little spiritual progress, when we succeed in going upward or inward, we become frightened because we are afraid of the unknown. But the unknown is unknown only because today we do not know it. A child does not know tomorrow's lesson, but will he be afraid of tomorrow's lesson? He has the inner wisdom to go forward. But quite often when we enter into the inner life, the spiritual life, we are afraid of making progress. We want progress — we want to go infinitely higher and deeper — but the moment we make a little progress, we are uncertain. We say, "What will happen next?" This fear of the unknown is delaying the progress of many spiritual seekers.

The king chooses his bodyguard

There was a king who was not at all satisfied with his bodyguards. He wanted to have a bodyguard who would be able to please him in his own way, someone who was stronger than the strongest and wiser than the wisest. So the king sent a message to the prime minister to hand-pick a few very strong men who were also endowed with wisdom. The prime minister chose four most powerful men. The king was very pleased when these candidates stood in a row in front of him. He said, "They are such strong men!" Then the king asked the prime minister to ask them a question. The question was, "If the king is attacked quite unexpectedly, what will you do?" One by one they answered.

The first one said, "If the king is attacked, I will draw my sword and kill the villain. Whoever comes to attack the king will be slain by me." Then he sat down.

The second one said, "If the king is attacked, immediately I will grab whichever weapon the attacker is carrying. Whether the assailant has a gun or a knife or a sword, I will remove the weapon that he was going to use to kill the king." Then he sat down.

The third one said, "If the king is attacked, I will stand in between the king and that undivine person. I will protect the king from the assassin."

The king was listening in silence to all the answers. The fourth one said, "I shall not allow anybody to attack the king. I will protect the king in such a way that nobody will dare to come near the king. Why should I give anybody the opportunity to attack my king?" When the king heard these words, he stood up and shook hands with that man and said, "You are my true bodyguard."

This story applies to our own lives. Why should we allow wrong forces to attack us? Can we not be forewarned? Can we not pray and meditate before the attack comes? If we start praying early in the morning, then we will be well protected. We can pray to God, "My Supreme, do protect me and illumine me." We can pray for all the divine qualities to come forward in our lives. These divine qualities will come to us as protection.

The fourth candidate said, "Why should I allow anybody to come near the king and attack him? If I suspect someone, I will not allow that person to come near the king." In our spiritual life also, we should not allow wrong forces to come near us. When they are attacked, some seekers try to counter-attack those forces; other seekers try to take away their force; still others try to stand between the hostile forces and themselves. These approaches invariably fail. But the fourth type of seeker says, "No, no, I will not allow myself to be attacked by wrong forces." So this is the best approach. Long before those forces try to attack us, we have to be fully protected.

The queen chooses her successor

There was a king who was extremely good and kind. Unfortunately, this king died at a young age. The kingdom was then ruled by his wife. Unlike her husband, she was very, very bad. At every moment she showed her autocratic nature, her cruelty and her lack of compassion for her subjects. She ruled the kingdom in a very uninspiring way.

The days and years passed. The queen was now in the evening of her life. Now that her days were numbered, she said, "Since I do not have any children of my own, I must think of choosing a successor. The kingdom has to be ruled by someone."

The queen had many nephews. She decided to choose her successor from among them. One day she invited all these nephews to the palace so that she could make her choice. Right in front of them she placed lots of apples. Then she said, "I will blow a whistle, and in five minutes whoever brings me the most apples will be the winner."

There were six candidates. The queen blew the whistle and all but one rushed to the apples. They each grabbed two or three and then began fighting with the others to steal whatever apples they had. A vicious fight broke out. In the process, quite a few apples fell to the ground. Still they were grabbing each other's hands and trying to snatch away their apples. It seemed that they were more interested in fighting. Their faces were bruised, their noses were bleeding, and they were all badly injured. They had forgotten that the goal of the contest was to gather the most apples.

Only one nephew stood apart. He said, "What is the use of fighting? Let them fight." He did not participate. He stayed a metre or two away. When he saw that the others were dropping their apples, he quietly went and collected them. In this way he collected far more apples than the others.

Eventually the queen blew the whistle to signal the end of the contest. Each nephew came to the queen. One came with two apples, another with three, another with four and so on. But the one that only observed the fighting and did not participate came forward with twenty apples. Because he did not become involved in fighting, he collected twenty apples.

The queen was so pleased with this nephew. She said, "This is the one to be the future king." Then she went on, "I have been a very bad queen. I did all kinds of undivine things — quarrelling, fighting, challenging other kingdoms — and I deeply repent what I have done. Now I realise that a ruler should be a good person, an honest person. That is why this particular nephew is the right choice. When I pass away, he will rule my kingdom with wisdom-light."

In the spiritual life also, many seekers waste time in insecurity-battles, jealousy-battles, impurity-battles, inferiority-battles and superiority-battles. Why should you be involved in these things? Like the nephew who stood aside, just say, "If I have something within me, I will increase it. If I have an iota of sincerity, purity, self-giving or any other positive quality, I will only try to increase it." Quite a few seekers try to grab all kinds of good qualities. They fight with others to see who is going to get more purity, who is going to get more sincerity, more simplicity, more divinity, more inspiration, more aspiration. While they are engaged in fighting, the seeker who is only observing discovers that his own divine qualities are increasing and increasing. Then that seeker comes to the Supreme and the Supreme says, "You are My choice instrument."

The traveller's payment

There was a traveller who was very tired, so he stopped to eat the food that his wife had made for him. As he ate, he was offering gratitude to his wife. He was sitting at the foot of a particular tree. Adjacent to that tree, a man was cooking various items and selling them in a stall. Most delicious things he was preparing. People were coming and buying things from the stall. Then they would sit down nearby and eat them.

The traveller finished eating, and he wanted to resume his journey. But the vendor of the food stall came up to him and said, "Come, come and eat something."

The traveller said, "No, no, I have eaten. My wife made a most delicious meal."

The vendor said, "No, you come and eat something."

The traveller said, "I cannot just now, but on my way back, definitely I will eat something from your stall."

The vendor said, "Then you have to pay one quarter of the price."

The traveller said, "What do you mean? I have not eaten anything from your stall."

The vendor said, "No, you have smelled my food." Then the vendor asked some of his customers, "Tell me to which side the wind is blowing."

The customers said, "To the north."

"And where is he sitting?" asked the vendor.

They said, "He is sitting on the north side."

The vendor said, "The wind is blowing towards the north, and he is sitting there. Definitely he has smelled my food. Therefore he has to give me a quarter of the price. Otherwise, I will not let him go."

The traveller was perplexed. He said, "What kind of logic is this? All right, I promise, on my way back I will buy a very large quantity of food from your stall."

The vendor said, "No, that will not do. You may not come back. I do not trust you. You have to pay a quarter of the price now."

Finally a young man came forward. This young man was very wise. He said, "Wait!" Then he said to the vendor, "Come here." The young man took out a small coin and asked the traveller to hold it up. The traveller held up the coin, and the shadow of the coin fell on the vendor.

The young man asked the vendor, "Do you see the shadow of the coin?"

The vendor said, "Yes, but what does it mean?"

The young man said, "You say he has to pay you because the wind was blowing towards the north, and he enjoyed the smell of your food. Now he is holding the coin, and its shadow is falling on you. So he has paid for the privilege of smelling your food!"

The traveller was very pleased and went on his way.

Who is the real mother?

This is a true story. It took place in India thousands of years ago.

One morning a young mother went to a lake to bathe. Before entering the water, she placed her little baby under the shade of a large tree. While she was in the lake, she saw a strange lady playing with the child very affectionately. This lady said to the mother, "Do you mind my playing?"

"No, no, no," said the mother.

The child itself was not so happy, but from a distance the mother could not see her child's discomfort. She continued bathing, swimming and so on. All of a sudden, she saw that the lady was taking away her child. She quickly came out of the water. In the meantime, the stranger had covered a considerable distance. The mother ran and ran and ran to recover her child. When at last she caught up to the stranger, they had a fight. Alas, the stranger was much stronger than the mother.

The poor mother cried and cried, "Please give me my child."

The stranger insisted, "No, it is my child."

They went on fighting and the little child was in between the two. Meanwhile, some villagers who heard the mother's screams came rushing to the scene. The mother cried, "Please help me! She is abducting my child."

The stranger said, "This is clearly my child."

What could the villagers do? They did not know whom to believe. Finally they said, "Let us take these two ladies with the child to the wisest man in the village." The wisest man in the village happened to be a very, very old doctor. For years and years he had guided the villagers in all their problems. When they all arrived at his house, somebody explained the situation to him. The real mother was crying pitifully, but the other lady was screaming for justice and only pretending to have genuine love and concern for the child.

The village doctor said, "Ah, it is a very difficult problem. I hope I can succeed in solving it." Then he asked both the ladies, "Tell me honestly, whose child is it?" Both of them claimed it was their own. So the doctor made a small circle on the ground and placed the child in the middle. Then he told both ladies, "One of you will grab the child's arms and the other will grab its legs. When I give the signal, both of you will start pulling. Whichever one is able to pull the child out of the circle towards her will be declared the winner."

Both ladies agreed to this arrangement. As soon as they started pulling the child's arms and legs, the child started crying pitifully. The real mother immediately released her grip. She cried, "How can I do this kind of thing to my child!"

The false mother easily pulled the child towards her. She was so happy. Dancing with joy, she said, "Look, I have won, I have won! So it is mine!"

"Wait a minute," said the doctor. "Have you truly won?"

"Yes," said the lady. "You told us that whoever wins this tug-of-war will keep the child."

The old doctor said, "No, only a mother's heart is full of concern for her child. The real mother was supposed to fight, but she saw that her child was getting hurt. How could she deliberately hurt her child? This child belongs to the loser."

The other lady got furious. She said, "You did not keep your promise!"

The old doctor said, "My promise? It was my wisdom to catch you. I knew from the beginning that this was not your child."

As soon as he said this, the bad lady started running very fast in the direction of the forest. Nobody could catch her. Then the old doctor said, "She is an asura." This wise doctor was the Bodhisattva, the Lord Buddha, in one of his previous incarnations.

The sage and the restless king

There was once a very good king. Near his palace there lived a sage. This sage was a man of few words. He would only meditate and meditate at the foot of a tree. The king felt that this sage was extremely sincere, so the king used to send him fruits and other kinds of food on a daily basis. One of his servants used to go and place the king's offerings before the sage, and once a day the sage used to eat. The king was very pleased that in the evening of his life he was doing something good by meeting with the earthly needs of the sage.

Now this sage was always occupied with his prayer and meditation. He did not do anything else. He only prayed to God and meditated to receive enlightenment. He was very simple, sincere and innocent. There were some people who were extremely jealous of him. They felt that he was an idle fellow, that he did not do anything. They could not understand why the king had to send food for him. But they did not dare to complain to the king. They only harboured their jealousy inwardly. The prince, on the other hand, was openly against the sage. The prince would say to all and sundry, "He is an idle fellow; he does absolutely nothing. I do not know why Father likes him. When the time comes and I become the king, the first thing I will do is command that food is not sent for him. Let him perish."

In the course of time, the king died. Then the prince was so happy that he did not have to send food to the sage. Since the prince was not sending food, the old sage used to go out once a day and beg for a little food from the villagers. Many times he received next to nothing. When the new king came to hear that the sage was begging for food, he said, "I will punish him." He went to the sage, who was meditating beneath the tree, and said, "Tell me, why do you waste your time here? I have never seen such an idle fellow as you. You just walk a short distance and beg for food once a day. Then you eat it here. The rest of the day you do nothing, nothing, nothing! I have never seen anybody as idle as you in my entire kingdom. So tell me, why do you not go to some other place?"

The sage replied, "Please wait a little, O King, and I will answer your question. Kindly take a seat. Forgive me, I do not have a proper chair. If you do not mind, could you please sit on the ground? I am such a poor man."

The king said, "No, I am not going to sit. Just answer my question! Otherwise, I shall punish you."

The sage said, "Can you not wait a little longer? I will answer your question in due course."

In the meantime, the new king had become very restless. He was boiling over with anger. The sage said, "Now you can see which is more difficult, to remain calm and quiet or to be like you. In the space of half an hour you have become so restless. You are saying that I am idle, that I do nothing. I tell you, I do my inner work. I sit here calmly and quietly, and I pray to God. You do your work, the things that you are supposed to do for your kingdom. But my work you cannot do. Can you sit here for hours and hours? No, you cannot remain quiet even for ten minutes. So which is more difficult, your work or mine?"

The king said, "You are only seeing one half of the picture. Let me see you try to rule the kingdom. I am sure you will not be able to do it."

The sage said, "But I am not challenging you, O King. You are challenging me by saying that I am doing nothing. So I am asking you to do what I am doing. I know I cannot govern the country. That is not possible for me. But you are challenging me. You are saying that I am wasting my time, that I am useless to your kingdom. Whether you believe it or not, I say that I am doing my inner work. I am praying to God. See if you can succeed in this kind of work."

Then the king fell at the feet of the sage and said, "What you have said is absolutely true, O sage. I cannot keep my mind quiet even for a fleeting second. Worries, anxieties, problems and responsibilities plague me day in and day out. In your case, you do not have any."

The sage said, "My only responsibility is to pray to God, to surrender to Him. I do not have anything in this world. I have renounced everything. But my life I am surrendering to God through my prayers and meditations."

Then the king said, "Please forgive me and bless me. I shall not harass you any more, and I shall send food for you every day as my father used to do. Something more, I shall come to you quite often to seek advice from you about my inner life and my outer life. You shall guide me in ruling my kingdom."

The end of the thief's tradition

A certain thief was caught red-handed and sentenced to two years in jail. This thief had actually stolen very little, but there were many expensive things he wanted to steal. He served his time in jail, but inwardly he still cherished the desire to steal. On his last day, the superintendent of the jail said, "Now you are being released. You will be free, so be careful. Do not steal any more. You have been in jail for two long years. So you know how thieves are punished. From now on, try to live a normal, decent life."

The thief said, "How can I? Theft is in our family tradition. My father was a thief, my father's father was a burglar and my grandfather's father, my great-grandfather, was a hooligan. So it is in our tradition. It has been handed down from father to son. It is said that if you break your family tradition, you will be tortured in hell. That is why I am doing it."

The superintendent of the jail said, "What kind of philosophy is this, that you are carrying on your family tradition by stealing and robbing? We have come into the world to become better human beings, not to do the wrong thing time and again. If we do something wrong, we should try to rectify it. We should not repeat our mistakes."

The thief said, "But I cannot mend my ways. I have to follow my tradition. This is the only profession that I know."

"What is the first thing you will do when you leave here?" asked the superintendent.

The thief was shameless. He said, "The very first thing I will do is go and steal something."

"It is a hopeless case," sighed the superintendent. Then the thief added, "Something else has occurred to me. Before I commit a theft, I will do something else."

"What is that thing you will do?" asked the superintendent hopefully.

"I will clean my ears," said the thief.

Now the superintendent was really puzzled. "Clean your ears?" he said.

"Yes, I will clean my ears thoroughly," affirmed the thief.

"What do ears have to do with it?" asked the superintendent. "You could not have done that in jail?"

"No, no, no," said the thief. "Here I could not have done it to my satisfaction. I will go to a doctor and have my ears cleaned properly."

The superintendent said, "I cannot understand you at all. Make it clear to me. Why do you have to clean your ears before you start stealing? What have your ears to do with stealing?"

The thief said, "You do not know? The last time, I was caught while I was stealing a safe. It was in the middle of the night. As I was making my getaway, the safe fell to the ground. Poor me, I did not hear the sound, but the owner and his servants heard the noise and came running. That is how they caught me. I am planning to go to that house again. This time I will clean my ears thoroughly so that if I happen to make a sound, I can run away and avoid being caught. I know those householders have thousands of rupees. This time I am bound to be successful."

This time the superintendent became very strict. He said, "You will run away? Where will you run? Again you will be caught. And next time you are put into jail, no matter what offence you have committed, I will give you a lifelong sentence. Now that I have heard your story, all my sympathy for you has vanished. Truly, I have never seen such a bad person. You come from a long line of thieves and you yourself are incorrigible. Luckily you made the mistake of revealing your future plans. Once again I am telling you, this time your punishment will be most severe. If you are caught this time, you will be given a lifelong sentence. By the way, do you have any children?"

"Yes," admitted the thief. "I have a son. I am training him to follow in my footsteps."

"All right, you teach your son. Then when I put you into jail for life, from jail you can teach your son how to steal." The superintendent was looking at the thief most pitifully, and he was shedding tears. "I have never seen anybody as bad as you are," he said. "Here we punish people with the idea that they will stop doing bad things. In your case there is no punishment that will make you change your ways. You are not afraid of punishment."

"But I was afraid of punishment once upon a time," interrupted the thief. "If I had broken my family tradition and followed some other profession, then my punishment would have been really severe."

Suddenly the superintendent grabbed the thief and said, "I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry for you. God exists. God will listen to my prayer. He has to change your mind."

By this time something had happened in the heart of the thief. For the first time he was experiencing remorse. He started crying and said to the superintendent, "You have convinced me that stealing is a very bad thing. Now can you do me a big favour?"

"What is the favour?" said the superintendent. "I will definitely give you any favour you want."

The thief said, "Can you go to that zamindar's house, the place where I was caught?"

"Yes," said the superintendent. "What will I ask him?"

The thief said, "Please beg him to give me a job and a decent salary."

The superintendent was so pleased. He said to the thief, "I will definitely get a job for you."

Then the thief became a little bit hesitant. "But will he not remember that I was the one who came to steal?" he asked.

"I will take responsibility," said the superintendent adamantly. "I will go personally and request him to give you a chance. If someone wants to change his nature, then we should all help him."

So the superintendent of the jail went to the zamindar's house where the thief had tried to steal the safe. He spoke to the zamindar, and the zamindar said, "Definitely I will give him a chance. In this life to change one's nature is so difficult. I will give him a chance. I will give him a very decent salary, more than he deserves. Let us hope that this will prevent him from stealing."

So the thief came and took the job. He never, never stole again, and he discouraged his son from stealing as well. The zamindar was so pleased with the worker that he also gave the son a good job at his house. In this way the stealing tradition came to an end.

The zamindar's son challenges the bull

There was a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple priest was excellent in every way. His name was Ram. He used to worship Lord Shiva most devotedly, and everybody had a very high opinion of him.

A certain bull belonged to the temple. Unfortunately this bull was very restless, powerful and aggressive. Only in front of Ram did the bull behave well. In his presence, the bull was under control. But in his absence, the bull was totally destructive. Nobody could come near it. The bull would charge at the person, throw him to the ground ruthlessly and break his limbs. When innocent villagers saw the bull charging at them, immediately they would run into the bushes to hide from the bull.

The villagers suffered tremendously because of the bull, but they did not dare to say anything against it because the bull belonged to the Shiva temple. They learned to be very, very careful. Only when the bull was sleeping or distracted would they pass by the temple. At other times, they all avoided the temple precincts.

The zamindar of this village had only one son. This son was very proud and haughty. He lived at his maternal uncle's place in a distant town because there was a very good school in that town. One day he returned home for a holiday, and he heard all the stories about the bull from his friends, dear ones and relatives. He said, "I am the zamindar's son. It is beneath my dignity to surrender to an animal. I will thrash it if it dares to charge me."

Everybody said, "Oh, do not go near it, do not go near it!"

He said, "No, I will go."

They were all begging him, "Do not go, do not go! You will be killed!"

They were all afraid of the bull, and they were afraid for the young man's life because he was challenging this destructive bull.

The zamindar's son bravely set out in the direction of the temple, and his friends and relatives followed a few metres behind him. He was not carrying a gun or any other weapon, and they were also unarmed.

The young man said, "Nothing will happen. I will tell that bull that I am the zamindar's son. When my father passes away, I will be the zamindar. At that time I will not allow the bull to be anywhere near the temple."

Before long, they arrived at the temple. The young man was ahead of the others, and he saw a mendicant passing by the bull. The mendicant muttered a few words and, lo and behold, the bull did not charge at him. It just continued munching the grass. Only the zamindar's son was able to hear the words the mendicant had uttered. He had said very soulfully, "Shiva Shankara, Shiva Shankara, Shiva Shankara." "Shankara" is an epithet, another name, of Lord Shiva. The mendicant repeated Shiva's name very soulfully, and the bull was pacified. It did not do anything. On the contrary, it was very, very calm and quiet.

The zamindar's son said, "I have learned the secret mantra from this mendicant. Now nothing will happen to me. I can easily pass by the bull."

Everybody said, "Are you sure you know the secret mantra?"

The zamindar's son proudly said, "Yes, I know it. The bull will do nothing to me. The bull will even respect me."

By this time the group had come very close to the bull. Now it was time for the bull to show its true nature. The zamindar's son said, "Now watch me. I will pass by the bull and nothing will happen."

The young man had only walked a few steps closer to the bull when it suddenly charged him, as if it were going to kill him. The zamindar's son immediately chanted, "Myself, myself, myself."

But the bull was not deterred. It continued towards him at full speed. Then the zamindar's son shouted, "What is this? The bull is not listening to me even though I said the secret mantra."

His friends said, "What did you hear?"

He said, "I heard 'Shiva Shankara, Shiva Shankara'. Since my own name is Shiva Shankara, I simply said 'myself, myself'. Why is the bull not listening to me?"

No sooner had he said these words than the bull reached him and injured him very seriously. His dear ones took him to the hospital, and he had to remain there for many weeks. To everyone who came to visit him, he said the same thing, "When the mendicant said 'Shiva Shankara', the bull remained calm and quiet and very respectful. But when I said 'myself', the bull charged at me. Why? Why? Why?"

Some Indian parents name their children after the cosmic gods. They also give names like Krishna or Rama or Buddha, or they invoke some other spiritual figures of the highest order. By giving this kind of spiritual name, they feel they are killing two birds with one stone. Actually they are not praying to Lord Buddha or Lord Krishna or Sri Ramakrishna each time they repeat their children's names. They are only calling their own child to come and be near them. Some even give the names Bhagavan or Ishwara, the Names of the Supreme Being. These parents are not thinking of the real Bhagavan. They are thinking of their own children first and hoping to please God in the process.

So we have to be careful. When we receive a spiritual name, it does not mean that we have automatically become something. In India we say " /Shivaham"/ — "I am Shiva" — or " /Brahmosmi"/ — "I am the Brahman." But these are things we have to practise. We have to bring forward the divinity of that name in our own lives. If your name is Shiva, for example, you have to repeat, "Shiva, Shiva, Shiva," until you feel Shiva's consciousness descending into your own life. If you do not realise the inner divinity of your spiritual name, you will meet with the same fate as the zamindar's son in this story.

The sage Bhrigu tests the cosmic gods

Lord Shiva has another name — Ashutosh. It means 'one who is easily pleased'. You can please Lord Shiva sooner than the soonest, in the twinkling of an eye. Brahma, Vishnu and other cosmic gods take time to be pleased, but they have many other divine qualities.

There is a famous story about the great sage Bhrigu. Bhrigu wanted to examine the cosmic gods to see who was the greatest. He went to the abode of Brahma, the Creator, and very abruptly entered Brahma's room without any permission. Brahma became furious. He said, "How is it you did not take my permission before entering?"

Then Bhrigu went to see Shiva, the Transformer. There also he misbehaved and angered Shiva.

Finally, Bhrigu went to see Vishnu, the Preserver. Vishnu was fast asleep. Seeing him sleeping, Bhrigu said, "Why does Vishnu have to sleep now?"

Then the sage jumped up and down on Vishnu's chest. Suddenly Vishnu awoke. He grabbed Bhrigu's feet and asked, "Are you hurt? Are you hurt? I am so sorry."

Bhrigu was the one who had jumped on Vishnu's chest, and yet Vishnu said, "I am so sorry."

Then Bhrigu declared that the greatest of the cosmic gods was Vishnu, not Shiva and not Brahma. They both became angry, but Vishnu did not get angry even when Bhrigu provoked him. Vishnu had conquered anger, and he did not have any pride. So in the opinion of the sage, Vishnu was the best.

Bhrigu was a great sage. He cast horoscopes thousands of years ago, long before we were born. According to Bhrigu's system of casting horoscopes, at the age of twelve I would come to my Master, and after that my fate would depend on my Master. My ordinary horoscope would cease to operate from that moment. It would be whatever my Master wanted me to do. That prediction, based on Bhrigu's system, was absolutely right. I came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at the age of twelve.

My horoscope was also drawn up according to another system. That one said I would be an educated person, a scholar, a householder and so on. That one did not apply to me, but the horoscope cast according to Bhrigu's system did.

According to Bhrigu's system, my maternal uncle's horoscope says that he would not have children because in his previous incarnation he was a hunter and he had killed a deer. As it was dying, the deer pronounced a curse on him: "You will have no children in your next incarnation." In this incarnation also, that particular uncle was deeply interested in hunting. So in Bhrigu's system, the horoscope can be extremely detailed. It is unimaginable what Bhrigu said so many years ago.

King Shivaji's fort

This is a story about King Shivaji, the unparalleled hero supreme of Maharashtra. I am a supremely great admirer of Shivaji, and I have been a great admirer of Shivaji since my childhood.

Once Shivaji was building a fort on top of a hill. It was to be a very strong and impregnable fort. He appointed thousands of workers, labourers, technicians, architects, engineers and masons, and he himself supervised the work in progress.

Every day King Shivaji promised himself that he would go and visit his Guru Ramdas, but he was so involved in building this fort that he neglected his spiritual life. His time was completely taken up in supervising the throng of workers, and he was deeply moved by the workers' dedicated service. He paid them good wages, and they were very fond of him. They all worked very, very hard and everything was going on well. Shivaji watched the fort take shape and offered the workers his love, joy, gratitude and pride. Every morning he resolved to go and visit his Master, but somehow he would always forget.

One day Ramdas came quite unexpectedly to where the fort was being built. Shivaji was shocked. He fell down at his Master's feet and begged for forgiveness. He said, "Master, every day I have been planning to come and see you to offer you my love, devotion and surrender. But somehow everyday I have failed to keep my promise. Please forgive me, forgive me."

The Master gave him a broad smile. Then Shivaji started showing his Master around the new fort. "Master, Master, see how beautiful it is here," he said excitedly.

Shivaji took his Master to many, many places around the fort and showed him all their good points. Every time he would say, "How hard the labourers have worked! Does it not look nice?"

His Master would say, "Yes, it looks nice."

Then Shivaji would say proudly, "It is all done by my workers, and I pay them very well."

This went on and on. Ramdas saw inwardly that Shivaji was hoping to receive more and more appreciation from his Master. So Ramdas said to Shivaji, "Why have you stopped? I know that you have done many more things which you are not mentioning."

Shivaji said, "What am I not telling?"

The Master replied, "I can see some insects hovering around. Who feeds them? You feed them. There are some cats and dogs outside the fort. Who provides them with leftover food? You do."

"Are not all these creatures being sustained by you? How is it that you are not mentioning these?"

Then Shivaji got the point.

The Master went on, "Come outside. Look at the birds flying. Look at the vast sky. Who created the sky? Look at your little fort in comparison to the vast sky. Look at God's creation! He has given us the trees, the river, the animals — even the marble blocks that you are using. How can you boast of your creation when God has given us infinitely more?"

King Shivaji fell at his Master's feet and said, "Master, forgive me, forgive me. I know what happened. My ego came to the fore. Forgive me. I will never behave in this way again!"

The Master gave him a most affectionate embrace and said, "You are not only supreme in the battlefield, but also in acknowledging your mistakes."

Shivaji asked, "Have you forgiven me?"

The Master said, "I have forgiven you."

Shivaji said, "Then prove that you have forgiven me."

The Master asked, "How am I going to prove it?"

Shivaji said, "I am leaving this fort. I do not want to complete this project. I am going with you. I do not want anything from you. I only want to be your disciple. This life I am leading is all temptation and illusion. I do not want it. I shall follow you. Wherever you go, I shall go. I will have nothing more to do with this fort."

The Master embraced him and said, "Oh no, that cannot be. Now that I have smashed your pride, you have to rule your country. You are so devoted to me. Through you, I will be able to guide your kingdom. At every moment, I will protect you, I will illumine you. And all the time I will guide you."

The Master gave Shivaji a piece of ochre cloth and said, "From now on, this will be your banner. You have to use this as your flag. Remember, it is I who am going to rule the country. It is under my guidance that you will do everything."

Shivaji again fell at his Master's feet and said, "Master, I shall abide by your command."

The Master blessed his disciple and then embraced him. Ramdas said, "You are a supreme hero, not only in the outer battlefield, but also in the inner battlefield of life."

The doctor's diagnosis

There was an excellent Ayurvedic doctor who lived in a particular village. This doctor was very generous. He frequently treated poor people for free. He had a student who aspired to be like him in every way. This student said to the Ayurvedic doctor, "If I study devotedly and seriously, will I not eventually become a good doctor like you?"

The doctor said, "You can study, but I cannot say what the result will be. It is very difficult to become a really good doctor. I will try my best to teach you." This young boy went on studying with the doctor and learning from him very devotedly. One day the doctor went to visit a rich patient. By this time the doctor had become well known. The student accompanied the doctor as his assistant. Before giving the patient any medicine, the doctor felt his pulse and said, "How can I cure you? You are not taking me seriously."

"What do you mean?" said the patient.

The doctor said, "I can clearly see that you are eating sugar cane. It is inside your blood. Did I not forbid you to touch sugar cane?"

The patient was astounded that the doctor had this kind of capacity. He said, "In the future I promise I shall always listen to you. I will not take anything other than what you say. I shall not take sugar cane any more. Please cure me."

Then the doctor said, "I shall be able to cure you before long if you obey me implicitly."

The rich patient agreed, and the doctor and his assistant returned home. The young man said, "I did not know you were so great! How could you tell by taking the pulse that he had eaten sugar cane? It is a miracle!"

The doctor said, "You fool! There was no miracle involved. I saw a few pieces of dried sugar cane under his bed. Then I was absolutely sure that he had secretly eaten some. Otherwise, how is it possible to know from the pulse whether someone has taken sugar cane or not?"

A few days later, the doctor was supposed to pay a visit to another patient. This patient was also extremely wealthy. Unfortunately, the doctor himself was sick on that day. He tried his best to get up out of his sickbed, but it was too much for him. He had all kinds of problems and ailments. By this time, the young man had learned a considerable amount. He was eager to go and cure the rich man. The doctor said, "You do not even have to diagnose his problem. I know what he is suffering from. I am giving you medicine. You will not need to do anything else. Just go and give him the medicine and make enquiries whether he has developed any new symptoms."

The young man went to see the patient and said, "The doctor has given me some medicine for you, but before that, let me feel your pulse. I have to give him a fair report."

He felt the rich man's pulse and said, "I can clearly see that you have gobbled frogs!"

The rich man said, "What? I have eaten frogs? How dare you accuse me of such a thing!" The patient happened to be very strong and he delivered six blows one after another to the young student. Everybody in the household was shocked. They kept repeating, "How can there be frogs in the blood? What does it mean?"

The poor student came back to the doctor's house, very badly injured from the rich man's blows. The old doctor said, "What has happened? What has happened?"

The student said, "Right after taking his pulse, I said to him that he had gobbled frogs."

The old doctor was horrified. "What did you say?" he exclaimed.

The young student continued, "The other day you told me how you were able to deduce that the patient had eaten sugar cane. Today, while examining the patient, I saw one tiny frog under his bed. So, very confidently, I told him that he had gobbled frogs. The patient got furious, and I received a volley of blows. Now this is my fate!"

This is how deception is eventually exposed. The first deception was successful, but the second deception did not succeed, and the perpetrator was dealt a severe punishment!

The rich man renounces the world

There was a man who had amassed a fortune, but not always by honest means. He had adopted foul means countless times to procure money. In the evening of his life, this man said to his family, "Look, I have done many, many undivine things in the course of my life, and now I must leave you all. I have to go into the forest and pray to God for forgiveness and for my illumination."

The wife said, "Oh no! If you go, I shall accompany you. You have to take me with you."

The son said, "Father and Mother, if you go away, then I will have nobody. I shall also follow you."

Then the rich man's mother stepped forward. She was very, very old. She said, "My son, my daughter-in-law and my grandson are leaving the house. Who will take care of me? I will not be able to live all by myself. Let me come, too."

The whole family wanted to follow this rich man into the forest and lead a life of austerity. The rich man said, "I am in such a predicament! I cannot take you all with me. All right, I shall compromise. Let me live a mile away from this house in a small hut. There I shall live alone and on very rare occasions I will allow you to come and see me. I will devote myself only to spirituality. For the rest of my life I will only pray and meditate."

Immediately his son said, "Father, then let me build you the hut." Now, instead of building a hut, the son constructed a very beautiful house. It was small, but it was very, very charming and convenient in every way.

The father said, "Is this what I wanted? All right, what can I do? I shall live here, but please do not come to visit me every day. I will live only on fruits and practise spirituality with utmost sincerity. I want to pray and meditate and nothing else. So please come only on rare occasions."

The wife promised that she would only send a small quantity of food on rare occasions and that she herself would not come. But what happened? Every day she used to bring her husband most delicious food that she prepared herself. She had many servants, but she insisted on preparing the food for her husband and bringing it herself.

Then the wealthy man's friends began to visit him quite often.

"I have come here to pray and meditate," lamented the wealthy man, "but I have not had a moment's peace."

One night he began praying to God with utmost sincerity and with tears in his heart, "O God, I wanted to give my life to You, but I have only met with obstructions. Do guide me." At that moment, he saw a cosmic god descending from Above with a chariot. The cosmic god said, "Now God wants you to be in Heaven. I shall take you there."

The rich man was so thrilled. He was fully prepared to go to Heaven. Alas, just as he was leaving his hut, his wife arrived with most delicious food.

"Where are you going? Where are you going?" she cried.

He said, "Do not bother me, do not bother me! I am going away now."

"Oh no, I have to go too!" she said. Then she entered into the chariot and started weeping.

Time had passed and it was getting late, so the son came to see why his mother was not returning home. He thought that perhaps his father was very sick. The son came running and saw that his mother and father were seated in the chariot. "I must come with you!" he said.

Then the son felt very sad that his poor wife was at home. He knew she would miss him. So he begged his parents to wait while he went to fetch his wife. When the son returned with his wife, the wealthy man's old mother also came. She said, "How am I going to manage by myself? Who will take care of me? And my other son also has to come with his wife!"

Eventually the entire family was seated in the chariot. They started flying very high on their way to Heaven. As they climbed higher and higher, the chariot began to go out of control. It was shaking because it was too heavy. It seemed that it was about to crash.

The rich man said, "I cannot remain here! It is not safe!" Then he jumped out of the chariot. When he fell down, he landed in a place full of undivine beings. They ruthlessly attacked him and tried to devour him. The rich man began screaming. Then all of a sudden he woke up. The whole thing had been a nightmare. It was not reality. But this dream had a special significance. When morning came, the rich man went to his old house and said to his wife and all the members of his family, "I want no more attachment! This time I am leaving you all for good. I need only God and nobody else — no wife, no son, no mother, only God, God, God. I am leaving this place. I will never come back and you must never, never follow me. I shall spend the rest of my days praying and meditating."

Then he left, and the family never saw him again.

From: Sri Chinmoy, The sage Bhrigu tests the cosmic gods - , Agni Press, 2002
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