Great Indian meals: divinely delicious and supremely nourishing, part 5
Rammohun keeps his prestige1The Governor-General of India was an Englishman named Lord Bentinck. He was very strict and everybody was frightened to death at the very mention of his name.
Raj Rammohun Ray at this time was very well known as a man of knowledge and a great patriot. He was also a linguist who knew many languages.
One day, the Governor-General sent a messenger to Rammohun with the message: “The Governor-General wants to see you immediately.”
Rammohun said to the messenger: “I know he is the Governor-General of India, but that does not mean that I have to listen to him and come immediately.”
The messenger was shocked. “What do you mean?” he said.
“I will come if I have to, but in my own time,” said Rammohun.
“I cannot believe this,” said the messenger. “Even in my dreams I would not be able to believe this kind of thing. You Indians are at our feet, and yet you are acting so proud and haughty. You will see what kind of punishment you will get from Lord Bentinck.”
Rammohun only said, “I am fully prepared. I know what kind of punishment I shall get, but also I know what I have to do with a foreign boss.”
On hearing the story, Lord Bentinck became furious. But he said to himself, “By becoming furious, what am I going to accomplish. I need some help from Raj Rammohun Ray, so let me be wise. Since I am the needy one, I have to be very careful.”
He wrote a very polite letter to Rammohun: “I am ready to see you at any time that is convenient for you. I will send my car to bring you here. Please let me know when you can come. I will be extremely happy and honoured to receive you.”
The messenger came with the letter, and as soon as Rammohun read it, he said, “I am ready to see the Governor-General.”
Rammohun explained to Bentinck when he saw him, “My skin may be dark, but I do have my own sense of prestige. You asked for me to come to see you immediately, but I did not come because my pride and prestige were hurt. When you wrote me a polite letter, then I felt sympathy for you. You may feel that the Indians are inferior, but you cannot treat us in that way.”
The Governor-General shook hands with Rammohun and agreed, “I know it is absolutely necessary to preserve one’s prestige. It was wrong on my part to address you in that way.”
Rammohun said, “Your nobility has touched the very depths of my heart.”
Wherever Rammohun went, he played the role of a leader most successfully. Everybody admired and adored him. The great poet Tagore wrote of him, “He is the traveller of India.”
Indeed, Rammohun was the traveller who spread India’s love-message, wisdom-message and oneness-message all over the world.
GIM 81. 21 January 1979↩
Surya Sen of Chittagong2Surya Sen was a great patriot, a great revolutionary and a great martyr. Far beyond human imagination were the number of hours he worked to liberate his Mother India. The people of Chittagong adored this great hero. His very name used to give them tremendous joy, tremendous inspiration, tremendous encouragement and a tremendous sense of fulfilment. They called him Master-da. Master means teacher; da is the elder brother. He was everybody’s elder brother; even people who weren’t much younger than he called him Master-da.
He was a teacher. To him belonged the duty of transforming the British schools into Indian national schools. He used to teach in one of these national schools, and he conquered his students’ hearts with his affection, love and concern.
He was not rich, nor handsome, nor striking in any way, but his inner strength was indomitable. His eyes used to shine brighter than the brightest. His inner personality conquered everybody’s heart. Bande Mataram — “Mother, I bow to Thee” — was his sole mantra.
On February 18, 1930, the revolutionaries of Chittagong, led by Surya Sen, broke into the British armoury and stole a large quantity of guns and ammunition. Chittagong was thrown into the vortex of revolution. Previously, the military used to torture any revolutionaries whom they caught. Torture is an understatement! But after the armoury was robbed, the British Government resolved to put an end to their problems by capturing Surya Sen. So they offered a 10,000-rupee reward to anyone who could tell them about Surya Sen. Whether he was brought to them alive or dead, the British Government would pay 10,000 rupees.
But who among the people would do this kind of thing? Everybody loved Surya Sen dearly and adored him highly. But alas, God’s creation is very peculiar. One of Surya Sen’s relatives became jealous of this great hero and reached the height of meanness and treachery. His name was Netra Sen.
Surya Sen was always in hiding, moving from one place to another. Sometimes he used to take a job as a workman; sometimes he would take a job as a farmer, or milkman, or priest, or houseworker. This is how he used to avoid being captured.
Either because of money, or out of jealousy, or because of both, Netra Sen told the British Government that Surya Sen was at his house. As a result, the police came and captured him. This is how India’s supreme hero was arrested. But before Netra Sen was able to get his 10,000-rupee reward, he was sent to God.
This is how it happened. Netra Sen’s wife was all for Surya Sen, and she was horrified by her husband’s deed. She felt mortified by her husband’s betrayal of Surya Sen. She couldn’t believe her eyes; she couldn’t believe her ears.
One evening she was serving her husband food when a great admirer of Surya Sen came into the house. He was carrying a very big knife, which is called a dal. With one stroke of the dal he chopped off the head of Netra Sen in the presence of his wife. Then slowly and stealthily he went away.
When the police arrived to investigate, they asked Netra Sen’s wife if she had seen who the murderer was. She said, “I saw with my own eyes, but my heart will not permit me to tell you his name. I am sorry. I feel miserable that I was the wife of such a treacherous man, such an undivine man as Netra Sen. My husband betrayed the greatest hero of Chittagong. My husband betrayed a great son of Mother India. My husband cast a slur on the face of India. Therefore, I cannot tell the name of the person who took his life. He has definitely done the right thing.
“You can do anything with me. You can punish me, you can even kill me, but I shall never tell the name of the person who killed my husband. Our Master-da will be hanged, I know, but his name will forever be synonymous with India’s immortal freedom-cry. Everybody loves him. Everybody adores him. I, too, love him and adore him, for he is the brightest sun in the firmament of Chittagong. Surya means sun and he is truly our sun.”
On 12 January 1934, before the sun rose, Chittagong’s sun, India’s sun, was hanged. Before he was hanged, this great lover of India, this supreme lover of India, uttered his heart’s mantra once: Bande Mataram — “Mother, I bow to Thee”.
GIM 82. 22 January 1979↩
Khudhiram3In 1905 Bengal was divided in two by Lord Curzon. Bengal’s great political leaders were dead against it, but they were helpless. So there was a great revolt in Bengal. The political leaders and the adorers of Mother India were all fighting against the British. But the British were ruthless. Whenever they heard people chanting Bande Mataram, they used to arrest them. For the Indian patriots, Bande Mataram was the slogan. Bande Mataram was their mantra; Bande Mataram was their life-breath. By uttering Bande Mataram, thousands and thousands of people embraced death.
Of all the English, Judge Kingsford was the worst. He used to torture the revolutionaries mercilessly; his activities were atrocious. This led the revolutionaries to decide that Kingsford must be killed.
Two young men, two great revolutionaries, were chosen to execute this task. One was Peraphulla Chaki, the other was Khudhiram. They were young, they were spirited, they were devoted and they were sincere. They were two jewels of Mother Bengal. Their leaders were all appreciation for them and their friends were all admiration for them. So they took up the challenge; they would kill Kingsford.
Every evening, it was Kingsford’s custom to go out in his carriage for a short ride. One evening, they hid near Kingsford’s bungalow and when the carriage pulled away from the bungalow, the two young men attacked it. They threw a bomb into the vehicle and completely destroyed it. Alas, on that particular day Kingsford was not inside. Instead, his friend, Mrs. Kennedy, and her daughter were in the carriage, and both of them were killed.
Peraphulla Chaki was arrested but Khudhiram somehow managed to escape. Before the British Government could punish Peraphulla Chaki, this hero of heroes committed suicide. In a few days’ time Khudhiram was also arrested. He was caught in a railway station.
There was only one way in which the British Government dealt with such cases: on 11 August 1908, Khudhiram was hanged. But before he was hanged he sang a particular line from a song with all his heart’s soulfulness:
“Mother, farewell! I am going out just for a short while. Mother, farewell! Do give me the permission to go out and come back.”
This particular line he sang a few times, and then he was hanged.
Yes, Khudhiram did come back to Mother Bengal. He came back in different bodies, in different names, in different shapes — with new determination, new boldness and a heart of supreme sacrifice from Heaven.
GIM 83. 22 January 1979↩
The child Narendranath4Swami Vivekananda’s earlier name was Narendranath and his nickname was Bile. During his childhood and even in his adolescent years, he was extremely mischievous. This did not diminish his divinity. But his parents, especially his mother, sometimes would get puzzled and worry about him.
She used to say, “O Lord Shiva, I prayed to you to grant me a son like you. But instead of coming into my life, you have sent me your ghost. He is nothing but a ghost, my Bile, always breaking things and creating problems for me. How long can I tolerate his endless mischief?”
But there were quite a few good qualities that his mother also saw in him, so inwardly she was satisfied. But outwardly she always told everyone, “My Bile is so notorious!”
One day, when he was only five years old, Vivekananda saw in the living room a few Indian hookahs or smoking pipes. One was for the Brahmins, one for the Kshatriyas and one for the Muslims. He tasted each one, and to his surprise discovered that all the hookahs tasted the same.
Alas, he was caught by his own father. “What are you doing, Bile?” he asked.
Vivekananda replied, “Father, I was just examining the smoking pipes. I thought that the one for Brahmins would be better than the one for Kshatriyas, because Brahmins are so great. And the Muslims are so heroic and spirited, so I thought that the Muslim pipe would be special. But they are all the same. I wish to tell you, Father, that they are all the same. No one pipe is superior to another.”
Vivekananda’s parents were simply shocked. “How is it that you have started smoking at such a tender age?” they asked. “And what kind of things is a small boy like you saying?”
Then his mother said, “My son, you are too spoiled. You have become too smart. Come here.” The child came to the mother and she took him upstairs to his room and closed the door from outside.
In two hours’ time the maid came running to the mother, screaming: “Bile is throwing away all his clothes. Everything he has in his room he is throwing out through the window! There are a few beggars below who are grabbing his garments as they fall. And he himself is so happy!”
At this the mother ran upstairs and demanded, “What is the matter with you, Bile? Such expensive clothes you are throwing away!”
Vivekananda replied, “Mother, we are so rich. We can have whatever we want, whenever we want. But these are poor people. They have nothing, nothing. If we do not give to them, then who will give to them? We have enough, more than enough; so my heart wants to give these things away. They need them more than I do.”
His mother’s heart was full of joy and delight. She embraced her son and shed tears of delight that his heart was so sympathetic, so vast and so all-giving, and that he had so much oneness with the poor and with the Supreme Pilot in all.
GIM 84. 22 January 1979↩
Swami Vivekananda smokes with an untouchable5Swami Vivekananda enjoyed smoking. In the days of his pilgrimage, when he used to walk along the streets of India, here, there and elsewhere, smoking was his great avocation.
One evening, as Vivekananda was walking along a village street in northern India, he came to a small cottage where an old man was smoking an Indian hookah. Vivekananda had a tremendous desire to smoke, and he asked the old man if he would give him his pipe.
The man said, “Oh, Swami, I am a scavenger, I am an untouchable. How can I give you my hookah? How will you smoke from the hookah of an untouchable? I am so happy to see you. You are so handsome, so spirited. I am so fortunate to see you. But, alas, I come from an untouchable family.”
Vivekananda felt sorry that the old man was an untouchable. He said to him, “I am sorry, I am sorry. Alas, I won’t be able to smoke.” Vivekananda left him and continued walking.
In a few minutes he felt miserable. He said to himself, “What am I doing? What am I doing? What have I done? What have I done? Did not Thakur teach me that wherever there is a human being, there also is Lord Shiva? Each human being embodies God. This is what I have learned from my Master, Sri Ramakrishna.
“I have given up everything; I am a sannyasin. So I am one with the rest of the world by virtue of my renunciation. Yet although I have renounced everything, still I have preserved this sense of discrimination. Here is a cobbler, here is a scavenger, here is a Brahmin, here is a Shudra. Low caste, high caste! How can I have the heart to distinguish? Are they not all God’s children? The sense of separativity, the sense of superiority and inferiority: How can I have that kind of feeling?”
Vivekananda then went running back to the old man and said, “Please, please, give me your hookah. Each man is God Himself.”
The old man fearfully and, at the same time, happily gave the hookah to Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda smoked to his heart’s content and then said to the old man, “I am divinely happy, supremely happy, for two reasons. My human desire is fulfilled; I am able to smoke. And my divine desire is fulfilled, because I have been able to realise my inner vision of universal oneness. My Supreme Lord abides in all. This vision of mine I have been able to manifest today by smoking here from your hookah at your house.
“God is for all. He is not only for me, but He is for all. In each individual Him to see, Him to please unconditionally, is my only goal. I shall remain ever grateful to you, for it is through you that my Lord has taught me the supreme lesson: that we are all one, we are all equal, we are all children of our Absolute Lord Supreme.”
GIM 85. 22 January 1979↩
Vidyasagar: the ocean of compassion6Vidyasagar was the ocean of knowledge and also the ocean of compassion. There were people who used to think of him early in the morning and pray to God to make them as kind and as great as Vidyasagar. He was loved by everyone and adored by everyone.
Vidyasagar was one of those who helped to elevate the consciousness of the Bengalis tremendously, and in hundreds of ways he served the people of Bengal. He helped the Bengalis infinitely more than anyone can imagine in social activities and in fighting for the education of women and the early remarriage of widows. He also helped the poor and the needy, not only unreservedly, but also unconditionally.
Once he went to a particular district that was not well-known and where the people were not well-educated. He happened to be sitting at a railway station, watching the trains coming and going. In a short while a particular train stopped and a few passengers began to step down from it.
It was a very small railway station and there were very few coolies, so the passengers had to carry their own luggage. One young man began shouting, “Coolie! Coolie! Coolie!” He had only a small briefcase, but he was shouting for a coolie and nobody was there to come.
Vidyasagar stood up and went over to the young man. “I will carry it,” he said. The young man did not know that Vidyasagar was a great man. He always wore the most modest clothes. And perhaps the young man had never even heard of Vidyasagar. God knows. Anyway, Vidyasagar took his briefcase and pretended to be a coolie because he was so modest and humble.
Carrying the briefcase, Vidyasagar followed the gentleman to the house of his parents-in-law. It was to be their first meeting since he had married their daughter. Vidyasagar and the young man arrived at their house and the hosts came out to greet them. Although they were simply delighted to see their new son-in-law, they were shocked to death to see Vidyasagar carrying his briefcase.
They fell at Vidyasagar’s feet and said, “How can you do this? How can you do this? Will God not curse us? In knowledge, in compassion and in love, you are the greatest man in Bengal, and yet you carry this briefcase for our son-in-law! He is such a stupid fellow. He did not know who you are. Even now there is no remorse on his part!”
All the members of the household were so shocked, and they begged Vidyasagar to forgive the young man. Gradually, gradually, the son-in-law began to realise what he had unconsciously done.
Then Vidyasagar said to him, “It is because of you that Bengal is not progressing. You will never do your duty. It is such a tiny briefcase, and so light, but still you cannot carry it yourself. You have to wait for a coolie. Yes, when it is heavy, I understand; but when it is something that you can do yourself, that is incomprehensible to me. I am desperately trying to encourage people to be active, dynamic and self-sufficient. It is because people like you don’t do your duty, which is so easy to do, that today Mother Bengal is so inferior to other parts of the world. You are all a disgrace to our country.”
In this way Vidyasagar scolded them. The members of the family gladly accepted his scolding. “We deserve it. We deserve it. But we are very glad and grateful that you have come to our house. We could not have brought you to our house otherwise.”
Vidyasagar replied, “No, you are wrong. I go to everybody’s house. You people have made me great. You people have made me good. But I want everybody to be great and good. Then only my sister and brother Bengalis will really make progress. If you are not self-sufficient, if you are not active, if you are not dynamic, then you can never become good instruments for God and good instruments to achieve something great for Mother Bengal.”
At this point the young man also fell at Vidyasagar’s feet and said, “Vidyasagar, in addition to being the ocean of knowledge, you are also the ocean of compassion. Forgive me. From now on I will be a totally different person.”
Vidyasagar blessed him, saying, “I need young people like you who will really work very hard, who will offer their heart and soul to raise the standard of Mother Bengal. I offer you my blessings unreservedly.”
GIM 86. 22 January 1979↩
Love is love7There was once a Muslim king who had a most beautiful daughter. Unfortunately or fortunately, his daughter had tremendous admiration for a Hindu king. This Hindu king was unmarried and the Muslim king’s daughter wanted to marry him. But the Muslim king said, “Impossible! I will not allow you to marry a Hindu!”
The Muslim princess protested in the strongest terms. She said, “No, you have to allow me to marry him, because love is love. I admire him and love him. I must have him.”
What could the Muslim king do? His daughter’s happiness was dear to his heart. So he sent a messenger to the Hindu king seeking his views on the matter. As it happened, the Hindu king also loved this Muslim princess. So he replied, “If she loves me and I love her, then I don’t see why we can’t get married.”
In due time, the two were married. The Muslim king tolerated the fact, whereas the parents of the Hindu King were very agreeable to the union. They said, “To please you, son, is our only desire.” As this old couple had advanced in years, they had made their son the king and now, in their support of his marriage, they once more showed their tremendous love for him.
Over the years the Muslim king became terribly jealous of his son-in-law. Everybody appreciated and admired the Hindu king because of his courage, wisdom and sense of charity. Even the Muslim king’s own subjects had tremendous appreciation for the Hindu king. The Muslim king could not tolerate this. He wanted to conquer his son-in-law’s kingdom, especially the capital, and throw his son-in-law in jail.
So, quite unexpectedly, he and his army attacked the Hindu king’s palace. There was a terrible fight, but after a few days the palace was captured and the Hindu king was arrested. The Muslim king brought him to his palace and would not allow him to go back to his kingdom. He said, “You have to stay here in exile. Only on one condition shall I allow you to go back: if you send my daughter back to me and say that she is no longer your wife.”
The Hindu king said, “I love your daughter; your daughter loves me. Our love for each other is tremendous. What will she think of me if I do this?”
The Muslim king said, “If you won’t divorce my daughter, then I shall kill you.”
What could the Hindu king do? He was helpless.
The wife of the Hindu king was furious that her father had attacked her husband without any advance warning. She put on her husband’s uniform and started fighting against the Muslim king’s army. Some of the soldiers laughed at her because she was so weak, although she was determined to fight and kill them. Some ran away out of fear that while defending themselves from her blows they might kill her, and they were extremely fond of her. Only a few completely took their king’s side. “If you come near us,” they said, “we will kill you.”
In the meantime, a messenger came to the Hindu queen with a letter from her captured husband. When she read the message, she could not believe her eyes: “If I don’t divorce you, your father will kill me. Therefore, I am divorcing you and returning you to your father. You go back to your father and let me come back to my kingdom. All I want to do is rule there peacefully.”
The wife cried out, “Is this a Hindu heart? I loved a Hindu heart and against my father’s will I married this man. I gave my all to him, I sacrificed everything for him. Now he has divorced me. And I am fighting to bring him back! I love my husband so dearly, but he loves his kingdom more than he loves me. His kingdom is more precious to him than my life’s own sacrifice.”
The wife grabbed a dagger. “You will get your kingdom back, but my father will not get his daughter back!” she said, and then she killed herself.
In a few days the Hindu king returned. At first he shed sincere tears over the loss of his wife, but then he became involved in ruling his kingdom peacefully and he began to forget her.
The Muslim king was struck with grief for what he had done. Instead of getting back his daughter, he lost her for good. The Muslim queen became mad at her husband and she said, “You should be hanged! Because of you we lost our dearest daughter. She loved her husband and he loved her. Is not love more important, infinitely more important, than your religion? Who is Hindu, who is Muslim? The dear ones will always remain dear. There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim; there is only oneness. Because of your stupidity, today I have lost my dearest daughter. Had I been in your place, I would have destroyed my life.”
The Muslim king said, “Stop your philosophy! If I die, it is you who will be the sufferer. Already you have lost your daughter, and now you want to lose your husband as well? You will not be able to bear your suffering!”
The queen said, “No, I will be able to bear my suffering because I love justice. Because of you, I have lost my dearest daughter. If you die, I will feel that this is real justice.”
The king said, “You may love justice, but I also have some sense of justice with regard to my subjects. If I die, they will be fatherless. I have made one serious blunder. So what? If I stay on earth I can still do many good things for my subjects. I want to stay on earth.”
“Yes, stay on earth,” the queen cried, “and I shall also stay on earth with a broken heart. But the whole world will hate you, and I will be the one to hate you most. I will stay on earth, not because I am needed, but in order to treasure the memory of my dearest, sweetest daughter. If I die, I do not know what will happen or where I will go, but if I stay on earth I will be able to repent. And my repentance is my consolation, my repentance is my illumination. For that purpose I will stay, whereas you can stay to lead a shameless life!”
GIM 87. 22 January 1979↩
The tragedy of Dasharatha8There was once a great King named Dasharatha. He was the father of the great Ramachandra, one of India’s Avatars. King Dasharatha was an expert in the art of archery and his teacher, Bhargava, was extremely pleased with his student. There was only one particular knowledge which Bhargava did not impart to his student. It was a special type of archery in which it is not necessary to even see the prey. By just hearing the sound of the animal, no matter where it is, the archer can shoot it. This secret knowledge Bhargava did not want to give Dasharatha because he was a Kshatriya. Although Kshatriyas are very spirited, courageous and determined, they have one weakness: they lack a disciplined life and sometimes they become a victim of restlessness. Therefore, Bhargava was unwilling to give Dasharatha the necessary skill.
But Dasharatha begged and begged his teacher. Repeatedly he declared, “I will not misuse it, I will not misuse it. I promise you.”
Finally, Bhargava acceded to the King’s entreaty. “All right,” he said, “I will give it to you, since you are begging me. But I am afraid that one day you will bring a serious calamity to yourself and to the members of your family and also to some innocent victims through your unfortunate use of this knowledge. However, as you are begging me so earnestly, how can I displease you, my son?” So Bhargava gave the secret knowledge and secret capacity to his dearest student, Dasharatha.
Dasharatha was now extremely happy and delighted, for he knew that he had mastered all the strategies of archery.
A few years passed and one day a strong desire entered into Dasharatha’s mind. He said, “Let me go into the deep forest and test the secret capacity that Bhargava has given me. Then I shall be able to discover whether I actually have learnt how to aim at animals without seeing them.”
So Dasharatha went into the forest. When evening came, a sound reached his ears, which he was sure was the trumpeting of an elephant. Dasharatha immediately pulled back his bow and let the arrow fly. Then lo and behold, this time a human sound came back to him in the night: “Mother, Mother, I am finished.”
Dasharatha followed the sound to its source and what did he see? He saw a little boy of nine who had come to fetch water from a pond. The little boy’s father, a great sage, was blind. His mother was all affection and love for her only child, her darling son. Because his parents were old, the son helped them in many ways, even at this early age. This particular evening his parents had been thirsty, so he had come to draw water from a pond near their cottage. As he was approaching the pond, the arrow came flying towards his heart and struck him down.
When Dasharatha came and saw the scene, he felt intensely miserable at what he had done. He cried out piteously, “Oh, Guru Bhargava, you were right, you were right! I was not meant for this sacred, sacred knowledge, these extraordinary capacities.”
The little boy turned his eyes to Dasharatha and said to him, “I am dying. No harm, I shall die. But do me a favour, will you? Will you go and carry this pitcher to my parents? My parents are thirsty and they are expecting me at any moment. Please, please do me this last favour. Don’t you worry about me. This is my fate, but please go and give water to my parents. They are thirsty, extremely thirsty.” Then the little boy, Sindhu, turned his face to Heaven and died.
Dasharatha burst into tears. With one hand he took up the dead body of the little boy and with the other he carried the pitcher, full to the brim. Slowly, and with a heavy heart, he made his way to the cottage of Sindhu’s parents.
When Sindhu’s father heard the sound of footsteps he said, “Sindhu, Sindhu, my Sindhu, you have come! We are waiting for you. What happened to make you so late today, my child? Both your mother and I are pinched with thirst, and you have come to quench our thirst. You are our dearest child, our only darling. Please, please, always try to be on time. Do not waste any time when you go on errands that take you away from us. We need you badly at every moment.”
Dasharatha could remain silent no longer. He said, “Oh sage, I am the wretched Dasharatha. Forgive me, forgive me. Your dearest, sweetest child, Sindhu, is no more. I have come and brought your son. But, alas, he is without life. Now, although I am the King, I am at your mercy entirely. Do anything you want with my life.”
The father and mother could not believe their ears. As soon as the mother saw her son lying dead in Dasharatha’s arms, she fainted and immediately her husband followed her. In an hour’s time, when they had both recovered, they said to Dasharatha, “O King, please do us the kindness of arranging for a pyre to be made straight away. Our last request of you is this: As soon as the pyre is lit, we wish to join our son on it. As soon as the fire starts blazing, we shall place our son on it first and then we shall also enter into the climbing flames.”
In great distress, the King said, “No, no, no! That cannot be done. One soul has died. Already I am responsible for one human being’s losing his life, and at such a tender age! Now must I be responsible for two more? Oh no, no! Please forgive me, I am the King. I will do everything that is within my limited human capacity to console you, but this thing I cannot do.”
With one voice the parents answered him. “No, King, stay we cannot. We cannot be dissuaded from joining our son. He was dearer than the dearest to us. Without him our life is meaningless and will always remain meaningless. Therefore, let us go with him.”
“Then,” Dasharatha said, “what will be my punishment?”
“No punishment,” the mother replied. “Why should we blame you? This is our fate. We forgive you. Our son forgave you and we also forgive you.”
Her husband, the sage, said, “Wait! My son has forgiven him, you can forgive him, but I cannot. Although I have done yoga and practised austerities all my life — infinitely more than my son and you — I cannot forgive him. I simply cannot!
“Dasharatha, you are responsible, totally responsible, for our son’s death and I am compelled to curse you. You too, will one day miss your son the way I am missing mine. You will be obliged to send your son into the forest because of your foolish fondness for one of your wives and, through this unthinkable behaviour, you will lose your dearest, eldest son.”
At the time of these events, Dasharatha didn’t have a son. But when he heard the curse he cried out, “O God, O God, don’t give me a son, don’t give me a son. I don’t need one, I don’t need one. It is better not to have a son and not to miss the son than to send the son into the forest to be killed. But I cannot conceive how this death could take place. How could it happen? Why would it happen? Who among my wives would be so unkind as to compel me to send my son into the forest? Impossible, impossible! Yet the curse of the sage may come true. O God, I beg You either to give me a son who will escape this curse or to give me no son at all. For to lose a son and enjoy the kingdom would be simply impossible for me. O Lord Supreme, forgive me, forgive my misdeed. Let this curse remain unfulfilled, I pray.”
But, alas, how can the curse of a great sage pass unfulfilled? There came a time when Dasharatha was indeed compelled by his second wife, Kaikeyi, to send his son, who was dearer than the dearest to him, into the forest and there the inevitable happened. It was simply impossible for Dasharatha to bear the shock of his son’s death and, lamenting the loss, he died.
GIM 88. 23 January 1979↩
The defeat of Britrasur9God alone knows when this particular story took place. As you know, the gods and asuras always fight. They fight over Heaven, since they both want to possess it. Sometimes the asuras possess Heaven, and sometimes the gods do.
Why does it happen so? The gods lose Heaven when they misuse their freedom and enter into the enjoyment-life. At that time they are driven out by the asuras, or undivine forces. Then, when the asuras misuse their capacities and become extremely wicked, they are driven out by the cosmic gods. While we can expect this kind of undivine behaviour from the asuras, it is really painful when the cosmic gods also enter into the life of undivine enjoyment and are compelled to lose Heaven.
Now, each time the gods are driven from Heaven, they pray like anything in order to win back Heaven. They pray and pray and meditate and meditate, and gradually they regain their power. Then they drive out the asuras, who have been losing their capacities because of the undivine life they have been leading in Heaven. Then everything is reversed. The asuras pray and meditate and become stronger, while the gods become weaker because they have entered into the enjoyment life. Then finally the asuras drive out the cosmic gods. It has been going on like this from time immemorial.
Thousands of years ago there was a most powerful asura named Britrasur, who was the King of the asuras. Britrasur was able to drive the gods out of Heaven, and then he ruled Heaven mercilessly. Gradually, his subjects became very undivine and cruel, and they lived a very undivine life.
It happened that the King’s wife developed a strong desire. She wanted to bring Indra’s wife, Sachi, to her palace and make Sachi her maid. Indra was the King of the cosmic gods, but he had been driven away by Britrasur along with the other gods.
Britrasur said to his wife, “It is an excellent idea, my dear. I am sending my soldiers to arrest Sachi, and she will definitely become your maid. Your happiness is my happiness.”
When news of this reached Indra, he became furious. He said, “What an insult! My wife, my Queen to become the maid of Britrasur’s wife! True, I have been driven away by him. True, he is stronger than I am right now; he is stronger than any of the cosmic gods. But how does he dare to even think of taking my wife away from me? Such an insult I will not brook!”
So saying, Indra went to Brahma, the Creator. “O Brahma,” he pleaded, “save me, save me. Look at the audacity of Britrasur! He wants to take my wife away from me and make her his own wife’s slave.”
Brahma replied, “Indra, when you suffer from a disease, you need medicine to cure yourself. You have all enjoyed life in a way that was beyond all proportion. Now you have to pay the penalty.”
“That is true,” Indra admitted. “But Lord Brahma, how long can they torture us? And this kind of audacity — to take my wife, of all people! How can I tolerate it?”
Brahma said, “When you suffer, you come to realise others’ suffering. I am not saying that your wife should be taken away by Britrasur; far from it. But I am telling you, you must not enter and remain in the world of restless, base enjoyment. I tell you, Indra, you can get back Heaven only if a great sage offers you his boon.”
“Who will do this kind of thing?” Indra asked. “Is there anyone who can offer me such a boon?”
“Yes, yes, there is such a person,” said Brahma. “Dadichi, the son of Chyaban, can and will do it. This great son of Chyaban will offer you his boon. Your wife and your friends should go and take shelter at Dadichi’s and Chyaban’s house.”
So Indra immediately went with his wife and army to their house and related all that had passed to Dadichi. Dadichi assured him, “Do not worry, I shall do the needful.”
Upon hearing that Indra and his wife had taken shelter at Dadichi’s house, Britrasur sent his soldiers there to arrest Indra’s wife. If necessity demanded, they would arrest Indra too. But it was not so easy to arrest Indra’s wife. Since the task was proving so difficult, Britrasur himself, the leader and King of the asuras, decided to personally come to seize her. Dadichi was waiting for Britrasur when he came and said to him, “Let us see whether you can take Indra’s wife away from here. Let us see whether you can contend with my occult and spiritual power. Let us see who can destroy whom. I warn you, Britrasur, if you don’t give up this foul and base desire of yours, I shall destroy you and all your friends and soldiers with my third eye — completely and utterly.”
Britrasur remained silent but his wife said, “Oh no, I have come to take Sachi. She will massage my feet; she will become my slave, my perfect slave. What a perfect slave she will make!”
Calmly and quietly and with a broad smile, the sage Dadichi said to them, “All right, I am going to bathe in the lake and then I will return. But I tell you, before I come back if you take away Indra’s wife, then I shall destroy you all immediately. Yonder is the lake in which I shall bathe. When I return, I shall do the needful.”
So Dadichi went to the lake. An hour, two hours, a day, two days went by, and still Dadichi did not return from the lake. The days ran into weeks, with still no sign of him. Finally, Indra and his army went to the lake to see what was going on. When he did not find Dadichi, he jumped into the lake to see whether Dadichi had given up his life and was at the bottom. It was true. Dadichi had taken away his life-breath while in trance. Indra found the body of Dadichi and brought it to the surface. But although it was dead, it was full of power; it emanated power. On seeing the dead body, Britrasur took fright and ran away. Indra at first chased him. But then Brahma himself intervened and asked Indra to take a particular bone from Dadichi’s body and make a special mace, which was then known as Vajra. After the mace was completed, it flew up high into the air and from there it descended upon Britrasur’s head, destroying him at the spot where he was standing.
This is how the cosmic gods regained Heaven and were spared the loss of Indra’s wife, Sachi Devi. Indra and his soldiers and Sachi Devi all bowed down to Brahma, the Creator, with gratitude-hearts everlasting.
GIM 89. 23 January 1979↩
Arjuna inspires Ekalavya10The young Pandavas and the young Kauravas used to learn archery from Dronacharya. Dronacharya was the supreme archer and everybody admired him not only for his skill but also for his lofty spiritual height. He taught the young Pandavas and the young Kauravas with utmost concern and love and instilled into them character, strength and manly vigour.
There came a time when the young Pandavas and Kauravas had to sit for an examination. In actuality, it was more a display of prowess than an examination and everybody was given the opportunity to show his capacity.
The grand winner was the third Pandava, Arjuna. All the people who had come to watch the events appreciated and admired Arjuna’s matchless precision and expertise. Among the spectators were an old man and his son. The son was so deeply moved by Arjuna’s capacity that he said to his father, “Father, I want to become an archer like Arjuna. I admire him so much.”
His father answered, “Ekalavya, there is nothing wrong in that, my son. You practise hard and you will also be a fine archer.”
“But how can I practise archery? I have to learn it first,” reasoned the son.
“Agreed. You have to learn.”
“But who will be my teacher? I wish to have Dronacharya as my teacher!”
“No son,” the father said. “He will not become your teacher. We come of a low caste, so how will he become your teacher?”
But his son insisted, “What is low caste, what is high caste? I see he is a very kindhearted man.”
The father said, “Yes, he is kind-hearted, but when it is a matter of teaching low caste people, he won’t do it. He will only teach the Brahmins and Kshatriyas. I tell you, we are Sudras, so he cannot teach you.”
The young man was very sad that he would not get Dronacharya as his teacher. On the way back home, he suddenly said to his father, “No, I am going to ask Dronacharya all the same. Who knows, perhaps he will teach me. So Father, you go home. I will come back alone.”
His father said, “All right, you go if you must, but let me wait for you here. You go and see.”
After his son had left, the father said, “How inspired my dear Ekalavya has been by the matchless Arjuna! I can clearly see that because of his aspiration and determination, my son is destined to become a great archer, whether Dronacharya agrees to teach him or not. It is only a matter of time.”
GIM 90. 23 January 1979↩
God will teach you11Inspired by Arjuna’s peerless archery skill at a royal competition, Ekalavya approached Arjuna’s archery teacher, Dronacharya. “Sir, sir, venerable sir, will you please teach me archery? I want to become just like Arjuna. I have such tremendous admiration for Arjuna. Will you teach me archery?”
Dronacharya replied, “Yes, I will teach you. But please tell me who you are.”
The young man said, “My name is Ekalavya and my father is the chief caretaker.”
Dronacharya looked disturbed. “Oh, you come of a very low family. I am sorry, but you have to forgive me, I cannot teach you.”
The young man protested, “High caste, low caste! You are such a learned man, such a man of wisdom, and yet you are saying things like this. I was born in a low family, but if I do good things — great and mighty things — will it not compensate my birth?”
“You are speaking like a true philosopher, and let me say that I admire your philosophy. It is not your fault that you came into a low caste family. And if you have aspiration and determination, then naturally you are bound to succeed.”
The young man said, “That is what I am saying. It was my fate. What can I do if I was destined to take birth in a low caste family? But if, with my aspiration and determination, I do something great and good, will it not please the world? Will it not please God?”
“Yes, certainly it will. I appreciate your philosophy. I see eye to eye with you. But I cannot fulfil your desire. I cannot teach you. You try! With your heart’s aspiration and your unfaltering determination, you try. You will succeed one day, my boy. Of that, I assure you. If I do it, the Brahmins and my friends will all hate me. They will throw me out of society. I am an old man. At this age I don’t want to be thrown out of society. So, make no mistake, I fully agree with your philosophy, but I am telling you that I am unable to fulfil your desire. You can call it my weakness or anything you want, but society is made like that. It has its own way of thinking. I do not want to be the one to justify it. I don’t want to go into the reasons why the Kshatriyas and the Brahmins should not and must not mix with lower caste people. That will be a very long story, and it will be a painful one for you. So I don’t want to tell it. You please go, and with your own aspiration and determination you will succeed.”
Sorrowfully, the young man turned towards home. When he came upon his father, who had been waiting for him, he said, “Father, you were right. This old man will not teach me. Caste, caste, caste! Father, why were you born in a low caste?”
“What could I do,” his father said. “My parents brought me into the world as I brought you into the world. Did I know I was going to take birth in a low caste family? Son, if we love God, then God will always please us and fulfil us. So if you want to learn the skills of archery, pray to God. God Himself will teach you.”
“Yes, Father,” Ekalavya said, “You are right. I have faith that because of my devotion to Dronacharya, God will definitely teach me.”
GIM 91. 23 January 1979↩
Ekalavya worships Drona12The young Ekalavya was determined to become a great archer. Although the master-archer Dronacharya could not teach him because he was of a low caste, the young man was adamant.
“I will pray to God,” he said to his father. “Day and night I will pray. Drona’s heart is good, but his mind was not good when I approached him. His heart sympathised with me, but his mind was afraid of what society would say if he taught a Sudra. But I want to have him as my teacher.
“So I have resolved to make a statue of Drona out of mud and clay, and I shall worship that statue as my teacher, my only teacher. From this statue I will get inspiration and be able to learn.”
His father said, “That is a wonderful idea. If you retain that kind of faith in your teacher, my son, I am sure you will succeed.”
So the young man made a statue that looked exactly like Drona. Constantly he used to pray to Drona and receive inspiration from him through the statue. In this way the young man was able not only to acquire the skills of archery, but to so master them that he became absolutely unique. He even learned how to stop the barking of dogs in such a way that his arrow pierced the dog’s mouth and stuck there. He had that kind of capacity. He was an unparalleled archer and the feat that he could perform with dogs not even Arjuna himself could dream of doing.
One day Ekalavya was meditating in the forest. A dog started barking and it was disturbing his meditation. So he picked up his bow and shot some arrows into the dog’s mouth. The dog, silenced, but not bleeding, ran away.
It so happened that Arjuna and the Pandava brothers were also in the forest, amusing themselves. When they saw the dog passing by, no one paid any attention to it. But Arjuna noticed to his astonishment that the dog had arrows inside its mouth but was not bleeding. He said, “Who can be such a great archer?” Overcome by curiosity, he followed the dog, which took him directly to Ekalavya, who was in a meditative consciousness.
Arjuna approached Ekalavya and, pointing at the dog, inquired, “Who has done this?”
“I have done it,” Ekalavya said.
“You! You have such capacity? Who taught you?”
“Who is your Guru?”
“My Guru is Drona,” said Ekalavya.
“Drona is your Guru in archery!” Arjuna exclaimed. “He is my Guru!”
“Yes, Drona is also my Guru.”
“When did he teach you, then? He is always with us in the kingdom.”
“Oh no,” said Ekalavya. “Here he is. Look, I have made a statue of him and I worship him in this statue. It was he who gave me the inspiration and the capacity to do this.” Arjuna said quickly, “Thank you. I am very happy, very happy. I am very proud of you.”
Although Arjuna felt sad that Ekalavya had far surpassed him in skill, he was very moved by the devotion and faith that the young man had for Dronacharya.
GIM 92. 23 January 1979↩
For his dearest disciple the Master will do everything13When Prince Arjuna discovered that the untouchable, Ekalavya, who lived in the forest, was more skilled in archery than he was, he was very disturbed. He left the forest and ran home, furious. He went straight to Dronacharya and said to him, “You have deceived me.”
“Remain calm and quiet, my son,” said Dronacharya. “Why are you shouting and screaming?”
“You have deceived me! I have just seen someone who knows archery far better than I do. You told me that I was the best archer and now, look, you have deceived me, you have fooled me!”
Dronacharya affirmed, “No, I can never deceive you; I can never fool you.”
“But you have done it,” declared Arjuna. “In the forest there is a young man by the name of Ekalavya. He has made a statue of you which he worships. From the statue he has derived such a unique capacity. With his arrows he can stop the barking of a dog, which I can’t do. And then, something else! He is able to shoot arrows through the mouth of a dog without making the dog bleed. Look at his capacity! I don’t have that capacity. You told me I was the best! Now what can I do? I feel miserable, miserable.”
Then Drona said, “Come with me, my son.” And he took Arjuna into the forest to where Ekalavya lived. Drona went up to Ekalavya and said, “You have such capacity in archery. Who taught you? I have heard from Arjuna that you have stopped the barking of a dog.”
“Yes,” replied Ekalavya. “I was meditating most soulfully on you and the dog was bothering me. Therefore, I got annoyed with the dog and punished it so that it could not bark. But, in all sincerity, I did not know that the dog would not bleed. I was also surprised when I saw that there was no blood. So, this is all your grace, Dronacharya. I give all credit to you.”
Drona said, “I am so proud of you, my boy. Now tell me, if it is true that I have done everything for you, then will you not give me a sacerdotal fee? You know that when you learn from a teacher, the teacher gives everything to the student. So it is customary for the student to give the teacher a reward.”
“Yes, yes, I will give, I will give,” Ekalavya replied earnestly. “Anything you want you may have. I am so grateful to you, so grateful to you.”
“Are you sure that you will give me anything I want?”
“Yes, without any difficulty whatsoever. Unreservedly and unconditionally I shall give.”
“Then give me, my son, your right thumb,” said Dronacharya.
“My right thumb!” cried Ekalavya. “If I give you my right thumb, then what am I going to do? Will I remain an archer anymore? No, I must keep my promise. You take my right thumb. You be happy. I am so grateful to you. You gave me the capacity to become an excellent archer and I will be so proud that I am able to fulfil your desire. So please, please, take my right thumb. I am giving you my right thumb.”
With these words he cut off his right thumb and gave it to Dronacharya. Then he said, “As an archer I could have been known the world over. Everybody would have come to know of me. But now I will be known as a devotee of yours. I am sure that to be a devotee is infinitely more meaningful and fruitful in my life than to be an archer.”
Arjuna felt miserable that this took place because of him. He said to Ekalavya, “Please forgive me, I am the culprit, I am the culprit.”
But Drona interrupted him, “No, you are not the culprit. I want to tell you one thing, I want to tell both of you. Arjuna, my son, today I wanted to show you that you have always been my dearest disciple — dearer to me than my own soul. In order to prove to the world that I can do everything to please my dearest disciple, I transformed you into an archer without equal in this land. But here also I wish to say that, in the inner worlds, Ekalavya will forever remain immortal because of his supreme sacrifice. No other human being could have made this kind of sacrifice.”
GIM 93. 23 January 1979↩
Patience illumines14There were two sisters, Kadru and Binate, who were both married to the sage Kashyapa. The sisters were extremely fond of each other. Kashyapa used to spend most of his time in meditation while his wives did the housework. Everything they sacrificed gladly, and Kashyapa was very pleased to have them as his wives.
Once, Kashyapa left for a few days of serious meditation. While he was away, the two sisters were talking, when unfortunately they entered into a serious dispute over the colour of Indra’s elephant, Oirabat. Binate said it was white while Kadru said it was black. Each was so certain of being right that both agreed that whoever was wrong would become the slave of the other. This was the agreement they came to.
Kadru, who had three sons, asked them about that particular elephant. “You have seen Indra’s Oirabat so many times. Can you tell me the colour of that elephant?”
The sons said, “Yes, Mother, it is white, pure white, like the moon.”
Kadru cried out, “O God, what have I done? Now I have to become the slave of my sister. Save me, save me!”
“How can we save you?” they asked. “Why did you make that kind of promise? We are extremely sorry, and we will feel very miserable when you become Mother Binate’s maid, but we are helpless.”
“You are not helpless,” Kadru said. “Do me a favour. Tomorrow morning Indra’s elephant will come to the lake. You and a few friends must wear black garments and carry black pieces of cloth with you. Then, when the elephant starts approaching, cover it with the black. When Binate and I come to see it, I will say, ‘Look, it is definitely black.’ We will hear the sound of the elephant, but from a distance it will look black.”
Early in the morning while it was still somewhat dark, the elephant came to the lake. Binate saw the pieces of cloth in front of the elephant. “Yes, it is black,” she cried out. “I have lost!”
Kadru said, “Now you have to be my slave, my maidservant, for life.”
When Kashyapa returned from his few days of meditation, he saw that Binate had become Kadru’s slave and was sad and miserable. Kashyapa himself felt so sad. “How can this kind of thing happen?” he asked.
When Kashyapa heard all about it, he said to Binate, “Kadru’s sons have deceived you. Actually, the elephant is white.”
Binate could not believe her ears. “I am so sad to hear that my dear sister Kadru and her sons have deceived me. But now it is too late. I have committed myself to being her slave. A promise is a promise.”
Kashyapa said, “Binate, you should have had more patience and waited for the elephant to come nearer. Then you would have discovered their trick and not committed yourself to be her slave forever.”
Binate cried, “What shall I do now?”
“Wait for the hour,” Kashyapa consoled her. “Although it is unfair, be patient. One day you will also have one or two sons. Your children will either take revenge or do something to illumine Kadru and her sons and make the family happy again.”
In three or four years Binate was blessed with a child, but the birth was premature. Binate became very upset: “This is the result of my patience?” she cried. “How can I have a premature child? This child is supposed to save me. It is impossible.” In her anger she kicked the child and the child became deformed.
“What have I done? What have I done?” she screamed.
Again Kashyapa consoled her. “You should have had more faith in my prophecy. Still my prophecy will one day prove true. Have patience: wait and see. Your sons will save you.”
“I don’t need any more children,” she said. “I am ready to remain all the time a slave to my sister.”
When her son was still very young, he said to Binate, “Mother, I fully understand that the reason you kicked me was because you were mad with grief. Torture yourself no longer about what you have done, and do not feel sad that you have become your own sister’s slave. First Kadru and you were sisters, then you were married to the same sage. You were very happy, and now your life is all suffering and misery. But a time will come when you will be free from this bondage.”
Two years later, Binate was blessed with another son, Arun, who was extremely bright spiritually. Binate was very happy to have this son.
Kashyapa said, “This son will really help you.”
Indeed, the brightness of the child frightened and tortured Kadru and her children and they were terribly jealous of him. As Arun grew older, his illumination compelled the stepbrothers to surrender, and they began leading a divine life.
One day Binate said to her son, “Arun, I know you have the power to compel my sister to free me from my promise. But please, let your older brother be cured by you instead. I am ready to remain a slave forever.”
But his older brother said to Arun, “No, I am ready to remain deformed. Let my mother be freed. You must not save me; save my mother.”
Arun replied, “There is no reason why you, Mother, have to remain a slave. My stepbrothers have become divine. Kadru, too, is ready to receive illumination.”
Very soon, Kadru freed Binate from her old promise, and again the two sisters became very close. The stepbrothers and brothers also became very fond of each other, and in a short time the oldest son of Binate was cured.
Kashyapa said, “Because of your patience, Binate, one of your sons has freed you, as I predicted. He has transformed and illumined Kadru and her sons. You lost the feeling of oneness over an elephant. But the past is dust. Now let us again enjoy the happiness of a oneness-family.”
Immediately Indra’s elephant Oirabat appeared outside Kashyapa’s home, and his two wives bowed down at the sage’s feet: “O Kashyapa, O great sage, we clearly see now that in spite of our ignorance you have illumined us. You have shown us that patience illumines and oneness ever lives in the heart of God’s creation.”
GIM 94. 23 January 1979↩
The Goddess Ganga descends to earth15The greatest of all sacrificial rites is Ashwamedha, the horse sacrifice. In performing Ashwamedha, the owner of a horse will meditate most soulfully and offer some mantras to the horse. Then he will allow the horse to leave his home and roam all over the countryside. The owner has to fight with whoever captures the horse and bring him back. Then only the sacrifice can take place.
Once a great king named Sagar wanted to perform this rite. Already King Sagar had performed Ashwamedha ninety-nine times and this was to be his hundredth time. Indra, the King of the Gods, had only been able to perform this particular sacrifice one hundred times, and he became terribly jealous of the King.
Since Indra wanted to ruin the King’s sacrifice, he stole the horse. Sagar sent his son, with a large army, to find the culprit and Indra was afraid he would be caught. So he entered into the nether world, first tying up the horse near a great sage who was meditating. After some time, Sagar’s soldiers saw the animal near the sage, and they thought it was the sage who had stolen the horse.
The soldiers said, “This sage is so unwise to keep the horse tied so close to him. He should have at least let the horse go away. Now it is obvious who the thief is.” So they started beating the sage most mercilessly. Suddenly the sage opened up his third eye and in a fleeting minute he killed Sagar’s son and the entire army of six thousand soldiers.
When his son and the army did not return, King Sagar sent his grandson to find out where they were. The grandson looked for the horse and finally found the animal near the sage. The sage told him what had happened.
“Please, you have to return the horse,” the boy said.
“No,” said the sage. “Tell your grandfather, the King, that I won’t tolerate this kind of thing. His soldiers struck me mercilessly, thinking I was the thief.”
The boy asked, “O sage, what is to be done now? So many good men have died.”
The sage replied, “Only if the river Ganga comes down from Heaven and touches these dead bodies with its water will they be revived. But for that you will have to pray and meditate for years.”
The grandson returned to the King with the sad news. King Sagar immediately agreed to pray and meditate to please the Goddess Ganga. He began praying and meditating intensely, but in a few years’ time he died.
Then the grandson, Angshuman, began meditating, but in a few years he also died. His son, Dilip, prayed and meditated for a few years and also died. Then his son, Bhagirath, also began praying and meditating most earnestly, and finally his prayer was heard by the Goddess Ganga.
Ganga appeared before him and said, “Before you, your father’s father and also his grandfather all prayed to me. Their accumulated prayer and your prayer have touched the very depth of my heart; therefore, I am going to come down. But if I descend to earth with my tremendous speed, I will destroy the world. There has to be someone who is spiritually very great to hold back my speed and power, and that can only be Shiva.”
Bhagirath then went and prayed to Shiva: “When Ganga descends most powerfully to rescue my family’s army, please restrain the flow of her waters. Only you are powerful enough to perform this feat.”
Shiva was very pleased with Bhagirath’s prayer and he agreed. “I will hold her back with my matted hair.”
When the Goddess Ganga began descending most powerfully, Shiva held her back with his matted hair. But his hair was so thick that Ganga’s waters could not flow down to earth at all, and the dead bodies were not being revived.
So Shiva took out one of the hairs from his head so that the water could flow through. The flow was not as powerful as it would have been if Shiva had not interfered, but it was still very powerful. It descended and passed near a cottage of a sage named Jahnu, and began washing away his cottage.
The sage got mad and started drinking the water, until he had drunk the entire amount that had descended. So all the water entered into Jahnu and none of it touched the soldiers. Bhagirath begged Jahnu to release the water. So Jahnu emptied the water through his mouth and the river continued flowing. Finally it touched the spot where the dead bodies were.
As soon as the water touched them, all the soldiers revived. They were exactly the same age as when they had died.
Because of this story, other names of the Ganga are Jahnabi and Bhagirathi.
GIM 95. 23 January 1979↩
The future grows in the present16There was a very rich man who had a slave. One day the slave saved the rich man’s only son from drowning. His master was extremely pleased with him and set him free. Not only that, but he also gave him lots of gifts and money plus a large sailing boat.
Now that the ex-slave had money, he hired some people to work his boat and set out on a voyage across the ocean.
Alas, one day there was a terrible cyclone. The boat sank and everybody drowned, except this former slave. He began swimming towards a nearby island. When he reached it, he saw that many people were waiting for him, crying with delight, “The King has come! The King has come!”
The man said, “Why are you calling me King? I have lost everything except this loin cloth that I am wearing.”
Everyone said, “This year you will be King. Every year we have a new king. You are King for this year.”
“But I don’t understand,” said the man.
“We appoint a new king every year and now it is your turn,” they said.
“Why are you so kind to me?” he asked. Then he said to himself, “Perhaps God, out of His infinite Bounty, is doing this since I have lost my boat.”
So he turned to the crowd and asked, “Tell me only one thing. Is it only for a year?”
“Yes,” came the reply.
“Then what will happen?” he asked.
They said, “Well, we shall throw you off of the island.”
He asked, “Then where shall I go?”
They answered, “We only know that the King rules for one year. Then he must leave the kingdom.”
The ex-slave asked, “Please, send me the wisest man in the kingdom.” When the man came, the new King asked, “Is it true that each king rules only for a year and then must leave the island? Then God alone knows what happens to him. Is there any advice you can give me so that at the end of a year I don’t become a beggar again?”
“Yes,” said the wise man. “Now that you are King, try to make yourself another kingdom on a nearby island. Transform another island into a kingdom by sending your people to make roads, gardens, houses and so forth. Do everything in this one year. When you have established another kingdom, why do you have to worry? At the end of the year you can go there.”
“How is it that my predecessors did not do this?” the man asked.
The wise man explained, “I told them, but they did not listen to me. They kept saying, ‘In a few weeks we shall do it.’ Then, two months before their reign was up, I used to tell them again, but they didn’t think of their future.”
The King said, “I will definitely listen to you. People will go find a new place where they will build another kingdom like this.” The wise man said, “Will you do it, or will you have the same fate as your predecessors?”
“No,” said the King, “I won’t allow myself to have the same fate. I will start from today to send people to do the needful.
“Always we have to think of the future. Always we have to remember that the future grows in the present. If there is a gap between the present and the future, if we do not think of the future, then some calamity will always take place.”
So the King sent out his subjects to build a new kingdom, and at the end of a year, the King went there and started ruling it.
GIM 96. 24 January 1979↩
The poet and the King17There was once a King who used to appreciate poets and learned men in his kingdom. He would always shower gifts upon them and hold various contests in which he would give them awards.
There happened to be a poor poet who was poor not only in his outer life but also in his poetry. Everybody used to go to the palace and recite poems they had written about the King, and appreciate and flatter the King. But this particular poet would not or could not go.
His wife was very upset over this, and she kept telling him, “One day you have to go. How long can we remain poor? We have children, and we cannot meet with our expenses. You must go!”
The poet did not want to anger his wife because she had a bad temper and he was afraid she might do something drastic. So he went to the King and said, “I have written an excellent poem on you.”
The King said, “All right, leave it here and come back tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” the poet asked. “You won’t read it today?”
“No, tomorrow,” the King said.
The following day, when the poet returned to the palace, the King was giving away alms to the poor. Many people were standing in line, and each one came up and received something from the King. Then the King started calling the poets to come to him. But the King did not call out the name of this particular poet. The poet was puzzled and surprised, but he did not know what to do.
At long last the King turned to this particular poet and said, “I have given my alms for today. It is all over. We have had a wonderful meeting and everything is all over. You go home and take a shower and have something to eat.”
The poet said, “When shall I come again?”
The King said, “Why will you have to come again? Don’t you have a copy of the poem which you have left me? When I have time, I just read the poems. I have already read your poem. It is not necessary for you to come back.”
The poet said, “Lord, Lord, I am very poor.”
The King said, “I know you are very poor. You told me some sweet words in your poem, and I am also telling you some sweet words: please go home, take a shower and eat.”
The poet said, “I have come here not to have appreciation for my poems, O great and rich man. I have come for something else.”
“O poet,” the King said, “your poem was beautiful, the metre was perfect, everything that a good poem needs your poem had in every way. Your poem about me was perfect. You have tremendous capacity, but you should not waste your capacity in writing such beautiful poems about a human being. You must write about God. He is the Creator, the Almighty. You have got divine capacity so you have to utilise it only for God. This kind of flattery I don’t deserve. If it is sincere then I don’t deserve it. If it is flattery, I don’t need it. Only God deserves this kind of praise, and infinitely more. Since you have the capacity, you write about God; write about the Supreme Poet Himself. By writing about Him, you will get more capacity and you will write infinitely better poems.” The King then threw away the poem which the poet had written about him.
The poor poet said to himself, “Alas, alas what am I going to tell my wife? To please her I came. To make her rich, I came. Now I have not got a rupee from the King. O God, bad luck is everywhere. He who is cursed with bad luck will have the same fate everywhere, for bad luck knows how to dog a human’s fate.”
GIM 97. 24 January 1979↩
The golden swan18The Buddha told this story as something that took place in one of his previous incarnations. At that time, he was a simple man with a wife and three daughters. He was always kind to people and was dearly loved by his family. Unfortunately, he died before he could marry his daughters so he felt very sad. When he entered into the soul’s world, he observed what was happening on earth, and saw that his family was almost poverty-stricken.
So he returned to his family as a beautiful golden swan and said to his wife, “I have come to you in this form. Once a month I shall come and leave one of my gold feathers for you to sell. In this way you will easily be able to meet with all your expenses.”
So every month he used to come and leave a golden feather.
The wife was very happy, and the daughters also were so delighted when they saw their father. The swan used to stay for a few minutes and then leave.
One day an idea entered into the wife’s mind: “My husband may not come regularly, or he may change his mind and stop coming, or he may grow old and die. The best thing is for me to catch him and strangle him the next time he comes, so that I can take away all his feathers.”
The daughters were simply shocked: “How can you do this kind of thing, Mother?”
The wife said, “All right, I won’t strangle him. But I will take away all his feathers. If he cannot fly anymore, no harm. You will take care of your father.”
The daughters pleaded with their mother, “Please, we love our father so deeply. He is so kind to us. He could have stayed in the soul’s world, but he comes in the form of a swan to help. Look at his love for us.”
But the mother would not listen. The next time the bird came, she caught hold of him by the neck and took away all his feathers, one by one.
It was most painful to the swan and he cried and screamed most pitifully: “What are you doing? I have been so kind to you.”
When she was finished, the bird was suffering like anything and it could not fly anymore. Then all of a sudden all the golden feathers turned into ordinary white feathers: they no longer were made of gold.
The greedy wife felt miserable and the daughters were smitten with grief. But what could the daughters do? Their mother was so cruel. Then the mother went inside her room and opened a box where she had been keeping the gold feathers that she had accumulated but had not yet sold. She knew that she still had many gold feathers, enough to meet her family’s expenses for at least six months. But as soon as she opened the box, she found that these feathers, too, had turned into ordinary white feathers; they were no longer gold.
The three daughters, with great love and affection, each day fed the poor swan and showed him tremendous concern. The mother was now helpless; she hated her fate. “This is what happened because of my greed,” she said to herself.
The daughters said to her, “This is what you have done! Even if our father had not come for six months or one year, we could have lived comfortably on the golden feathers that you had saved in your box. Now father does not have golden feathers anymore.”
The father said, “This is your fate, my fate.”
Slowly and steadily the feathers of the swan grew back again, but this time they were pure white, so the wife did not bother to take them from the bird. Finally the bird was able to fly away. The children were very happy that the bird was released. Now their father would be happy. They said, “He will be able to do everything in his own way.”
The mother felt miserable, not because the bird had gone away, but because of her stupidity. She was not going to get any more golden feathers and once again she was poor.
GIM 98. 24 January 1979↩
King Amar and God's inscrutable ways19There was once a king named Amar. One day he said to his commander, “Take ten thousand soldiers and go attack King Jaghen. Seize him and bring him to me.”
The commander said, “Would you allow me to ask you one question?”
The King said, “No, I have no time. Go immediately! Everybody appreciates him and admires him. His very name torments me. I won’t kill him, but I will keep him in prison for life. Life-imprisonment he will get in my palace.”
The commander was sad to hear the King’s request, but he had to follow his orders. He took ten thousand soldiers and went to the other king’s kingdom. For seven days he fought with the soldiers of King Jaghen and finally he defeated them. As the commander was about to bring the captured King back to King Amar, all of a sudden the Queen approached him. She placed her right hand on the commander’s shoulder and said, “My son.” She said it with such affection that the commander’s heart melted.
“What would you like?” the commander asked.
The Queen replied, “My son, please do me a favour. Just release your father. Take him to the King, but not in chains. You are such a brave hero. You have defeated us and now we are at your mercy. But please treat us well. Take us to your palace, and we shall definitely abide by your King’s will since we have surrendered to him. My son, I do not want your father to go to King Amar in chains.”
The words, “My son,” conquered the commander’s heart. “You have called me your son. How can a son do this kind of thing? You are my mother. I am leaving your husband, my father, here. Whatever happens to me, my fate I will gladly accept.”
So he came back to the King alone, without King Jaghen. King Amar got furious: “Where is he? Where is King Jaghen? How did you come back without him? I was told that you had won the battle.”
The commander replied, “Yes, I have won, but I could not bring the King because the Queen called me her son. There was such sincere affection and love in her voice. I didn’t have the heart to bring her husband, who is now my father.”
King Amar mocked at the commander, “Oh, I see. You have a new father, a new mother. All right, let your parents take care of you. You shall be imprisoned for seven days, and on the eighth day I shall kill you. Let me see how your mother, who has conquered your heart, can save you now.”
The commander said, “If my mother cannot save me, no harm. She has such affection for me and I have such affection for her.”
One of the soldiers, who was extremely fond of the commander, became sad and mad. He was sad because his chief was going to be killed and mad because that old lady, the Queen had come with such affection that the commander did not arrest King Jaghen. So the soldier went to King Jaghen’s palace and said to the Queen, “Look what you have done. The commander will be hanged on the eighth day because he could not take your husband.”
The Queen said, “I wanted him to take my husband, but not in chains. I said we would gladly abide by his King’s decision. But he did not take us. We shall eternally remain grateful to him and we shall pray to God for his safety.”
The soldier said, “Yes, yes, you will pray.”
“Yes, we shall pray,” the Queen assured him. “Believe me.”
The soldier said, “All right, then, I will believe you,” and he returned to his kingdom without saying anything to the commander.
The Queen of Jaghen was extremely sad. “Because of me, this commander is going to die. Love is so good; again, love can create such problems. Because of his love for me, the commander did not arrest my husband. I have to do something.”
The Queen went to the palace of another King who happened to be their friend. This King was infinitely more powerful than King Amar, and his Queen was her good friend. The Queen of Jaghen said to her friend, the other Queen, “Sister, save me, save me! Save my life!”
The Queen said, “I shall do anything you want me to.”
The Queen of Jaghen said, “I want you to save my son.”
“Your son? asked her friend. “What has happened to him?”
“I have adopted a son,” the Queen of Jaghen explained. “He was so kind to me. He came and attacked our Kingdom and arrested my husband and was going to take him to King Amar. I asked the commander to remove the chains and I told him that we would abide by King Amar’s wishes. But because I called him ‘son’ with such affection, he not only listened to me, but he would not take my husband back to Amar. Now King Amar is angry and wants to kill him. He will be hanged in a few days’ time. Please help me. I really want to save him.”
“Don’t worry,” her friend said. “I will be able to help you. Your commander-son will be saved. King Amar is deeply in love with my daughter, but my husband and I do not like him at all. Therefore, we have not given permission to our daughter to marry him. My daughter loves him also, but she does not want to displease us for we are so fond of her. But now we will give our daughter permission to marry him on condition that he set the commander free.”
“We are not afraid of him at all because we are much more powerful than he is; that’s why he did not dare attack us when we refused to give him our daughter. Now we will tell him we will give him our daughter provided he release his commander. If the commander wants to continue to serve him, that is up to the commander; but King Amar must set him free.”
At the Queen’s request, the King sent a messenger to King Amar saying, “We are prepared to give our daughter to you, but on one condition: you have to set your commander free.”
As soon as King Amar read the letter, he was so delighted and excited that he ran into the room where the commander was and personally released him. “Now my desire is finally going to be fulfilled. In comparison to what I am getting, setting you free is nothing. Now you go your own way. If you want to go to the other Queen who called you her son, you can go and be her commander. Or if you want to stay here, you are totally free to do so. For me to get this princess as my wife is to get everything. She is so beautiful, inwardly and outwardly. I didn’t dare to fight her father knowing I was no match for him in courage, valour, strength and power. But now, on his own, he is giving me his daughter, and I am so grateful to him. I am also so grateful to you. It is because of God’s inscrutable ways that I am getting my heart’s desire fulfilled.”
GIM 99. 24 January 1979↩
King Fatul20There was a pious king named Fatul, who ruled his kingdom with utmost concern and compassion. His very name was a source of inspiration to his subjects. He had almost no enemies; everybody was his friend.
But alas, there was one individual who was dead against him, and that was his own younger brother, Kabu. Kabu was terribly jealous of his elder brother, because he had the throne. “Everybody admires him and nobody cares for me,” Kabu said. “If I could become King, I would rule the kingdom more wisely, more affectionately and more divinely than my brother. If only I could be given a chance!”
King Fatul’s subjects, however, felt that Kabu was useless. They said to him, “Your brother keeps you in the palace; that is more than enough for you. We will never accept you as our king. There is no comparison between you two.”
At this Kabu was very sad and mad, but what could he do? He was helpless. He could never become King, even by dethroning his brother, for the subjects would not tolerate it. The best thing, he thought, would be for him to kill his brother.
King Fatul came to hear about his brother’s feelings. He felt sorry for Kabu and one day said to him, “Kabu, don’t kill me. It will be a disgrace to the royal family. My brother, I have tried my best to be of service to my subjects. But now I have had enough of name and fame. Since you have the desire to rule the kingdom, rule it. My only request is that you rule it wisely. I am giving up the throne and going into the forest to pray and meditate the rest of my life. The rest of my life I will give all to God.”
The younger brother was so moved and he touched his brother’s feet. “I will do my best. I really wanted to become King, and I shall not exploit my subjects. They are most precious to me. I am so grateful to you for your tremendous sacrifice.”
When the older brother left the palace, all the people mourned and cried. They suffered beyond any human imagination. Thousands of his subjects followed him to the edge of the forest and then they returned with heavy hearts.
Once Kabu started ruling the kingdom, he began to fear what might happen when Fatul’s son, Gokul, became mature. Kabu said, “Now he is a little boy, but in a few years’ time, when he grows up, he may decide to fight for the throne, and everybody may take his side.” Therefore, Kabu ordered Gokul and Gokul’s mother into exile.
No matter how hard Kabu tried to be a good King, nobody appreciated him. Whenever he did something good, people felt it was all deception and ascribed some motive to it. They felt that he was not doing it sincerely, or that there was something behind it. Nobody listened to him and everybody hated him. This made Kabu very sad and angry.
King Kabu tried for a few years more, but still he failed to please his subjects. Finally he said, “I have had enough. If people don’t like me, why do I have to rule the kingdom? I don’t need these subjects. I can live all by myself and be happy.”
He thought of his brother and said, “My brother was happy when he was the King, but now he has become infinitely happier. He prays and meditates in the forest and lives on fruits and nuts. He is so happy in the forest. I wanted happiness; that was my only desire. I thought that by becoming King I would become happy, but now I see I will never be happy as King.”
So Kabu went to the forest and begged his brother to come back and rule the kingdom. But Fatul refused. “No, the joy that I am getting is real joy. Previously the joy was not complete. I was all the time afraid that another King would come and attack my kingdom, or that a minister of mine would create problems for me, or that my subjects wouldn’t listen to me. All kinds of fears, worries and anxieties used to torment me, and my happiness was negligible. But now I have found peace and joy, and this joy nobody can steal. So I am not going back to the kingdom.”
Kabu pleaded and pleaded with Fatul, “Please, I have tried in every possible way to be a good King, but my subjects don’t believe that I am sincere.”
Fatul said, “That is because your journey’s start was not divine. Everybody loved me and adored me. You were the only one who was jealous of me. God brought me into the world a few years before you. That is why I became King. Our father was always most kind and affectionate to both of us. Do you not think that he felt sad in the other world that you were so jealous of me that I had to give you the throne?”
Some of the ministers who had come with King Kabu said, “King Kabu, let us go back to the palace. Somebody must be King.”
The younger brother said, “I am not going back to the palace. I will also pray and meditate.”
There was a chorus of laughter from the ministers, and Kabu got mad: “You are my subjects and still you mock at me? Do you think that I don’t have the capacity to pray and meditate like my brother?”
They said, “Certainly you have, but this capacity is not yet manifested. In a few incarnations you will start to pray and meditate.”
Kabu was very disturbed: “I am not going to leave this forest. Here I will pray and meditate with my brother.”
Fatul said, “I have no objection, but you need more purity.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kabu.
Fatul explained, “Purity means the sincere and soulful expansion of the heart. If your heart does not expand, you will not be able to enjoy the joy I am having. My heart expanded; I became one with all my subjects. Again my heart expanded and I gave you the kingdom. Therefore I was happy, I am happy and I shall always remain happy. It is because of my purity-heart that I am all the time getting joy.”
Kabu said, “I don’t know anything about purity and I don’t want to know. But I know that if you remain my guide, my pole star, I will be happy. If you are my pilot, I am destined to be happy and peace will definitely follow me. Therefore, I am staying here; and I am not going back to the kingdom. It was your kingdom and I am giving it back to you.”
But Fatul refused, “I won’t take it.”
Kabu insisted, “I shall soulfully remain with you.”
At this point one of the ministers said, “If both brothers stay here, who will rule the kingdom? You two are not doing justice to your kingdom. One of you must come back; it is your duty. If Fatul does not want to return because he has already become a sannyasi, then Kabu should return. It is too soon for him to give up name and fame, since he so desired them.”
Kabu said, “Anything that I find to be good, I always do immediately. So I will stay with my brother and, in serving him, I shall get the greatest joy.”
Another minister who was very old said, “You will be happy, your older brother will be happy and my mind will be happy if we do one thing. You have a daughter and your brother has a son. Look at your meanness! When you became King, you put your older brother’s son and wife in exile, even though your brother relinquished his throne for you. You should have kept his son and wife in your palace and given them your due affection and love. Where is your sense of duty?”
Kabu said, “Please, please, do not bring the past to the fore. I am miserable for all my misdeeds. Only tell me what you want me to do. I will do everything to please my nephew — I am setting him free immediately. O forgive me, I have done everything wrong and undivine because of fear. I thought that when he became mature everybody would take his side and dethrone me. That’s why I put him into exile. Now I myself do not want the kingdom. I want a higher Kingdom, a divinely pure Kingdom, a divinely illumining Kingdom.”
The older minister said, “Then your daughter and your brother’s son should get married and rule as King and Queen. Both of them are extremely good in every way. If they become King and Queen, then your kingdom will once more shine bright, brighter, brightest. Your brother is happy because he has become a sannyasi and renounced the world. He is getting God as his only friend. You will be happy from now on, for you are getting your brother as your pole star to guide you. You will be happy because you are entering into the spiritual life which is the real life. So naturally you will get real happiness from it.
“And we will be happy only when we have a good King and Queen. Your daughter and your brother’s son will be a good match, and we shall devotedly listen to them. We shall be happy, extremely happy, when they rule us and guide us.”
Kabu said, “Definitely we shall do that. But you go and arrange it, O Minister. I won’t go back. I will remain here for the rest of my life together with my brother. You can release my nephew and tell him that I implore his forgiveness. Also tell my sister-in-law that I implore her forgiveness ten times. Now let my daughter and nephew get married and let them peacefully rule the kingdom. Let everyone enjoy peace in his own way, for peace is satisfaction and satisfaction is all.”
GIM 100. 24 January 1979↩
Editor's preface to the first editionMost of the stories in this and other books in this series are Sri Chinmoy’s retelling of traditional Indian tales. On rare occasions the Master has modified a story to make it more acceptable to the Western palate. And a few of the stories are Sri Chinmoy’s own.
These tales are not only delicious and nourishing, but also encouraging and illumining. Some are quite entertaining. Others are surcharged with morality-flames and spirituality-fire, which easily enlighten the Western mind, strengthen the vital and quicken the journey of the body-consciousness. Together they represent two trees standing side by side: entertainment-tree and enlightenment-tree. Both trees are at your disposal. Appreciate their flowers and fruits to your heart’s content.