Illumination-experiences on Indian soil, part 1

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Babar's heart of forgiveness

The Mogul Emperor Babar was very kind, very generous and very powerful. Once while Babar was away from his kingdom, his step-grandmother instigated one of his cousins to stand against him. This particular cousin made friends with the chief of the army and a few important figures in the capital. When Babar tried to return to his kingdom, his whole army fought against him. They wouldn’t allow Babar to come back. But Babar had quite a few followers outside his kingdom, and they helped him to fight against his own people. Babar was so great and powerful that eventually he won the battle.

After he had won, Babar went and knelt down before his step-grandmother. He said to her with folded hands, “I don’t hold anything against you. If a mother likes one son more than another son, what can the less favoured son do? He should not feel miserable. The mother should love all her children equally, but if she does not, the ones that are not in favour must not feel sorry. They should still have the same love for their mother as the ones who stand high in her favour. So I don’t hold anything against you. You have done the right thing, according to your light. Now let me have peace of mind.” Then he placed his head on her lap and fell asleep.

A few hours later Babar woke up, only to see the main culprit, his cousin, standing in front of him. He had been arrested and brought to Babar by the Emperor’s loyal followers. Babar stood up and embraced his cousin. Then he said, “You are at perfect liberty either to stay with me the rest of your life or to leave my kingdom. If you leave my kingdom and want to live elsewhere, I will meet with your expenses. If you want to continue staying here, you are free to do so. I feel no ill will towards you at all.”

His cousin said to him, “Babar, I want to stay with you. If I leave you, people will try to kill me. Not your favourites, but those who helped me fight against you will try to kill me in order to make you feel that they have become very devoted to you. So I want to stay with you. I know that you will never kill me. Not only that, I know that your forgiveness and compassion will be my eternal friends, and that you will eventually give me a high post.”

Babar gave him a broad smile of forgiveness and assurance.

Babar takes a life

There was nothing that the great Emperor Babar would hesitate to do for his subjects. He used to regard his subjects as his own children. From time to time Babar used to go out of the palace grounds and walk along the streets to mix with his subjects and see the conditions in which they were living. Often if he saw someone who was poverty-stricken, he would help him out. People did not recognise him because he dressed very simply at those times. Also, he wore a kind of turban over his crown, so it was impossible for people to know what it was by seeing only the outside of it.

Now it happened that there was a young man who cherished tremendous jealousy towards Babar because everybody appreciated, admired and adored him. Everybody always extolled Babar to the skies for his bravery, kindness, nobility and other divine qualities. For this reason the young man had long been harbouring a desire to kill Babar. He had heard that from time to time the Emperor walked in the city all alone. So he always carried a sword, hoping that someday he would meet the Emperor when he was by himself and have the opportunity to kill him.

Usually when Babar went out, his guards would secretly follow him to protect him. Although Babar didn’t want anyone to go with him, his guards were afraid for his safety. Babar was the ruler of the whole kingdom, but in this respect his own bodyguards wouldn’t listen to him.

On one particular afternoon, the Emperor managed to go out alone, without his guards. As Babar was walking along incognito, he saw a mad elephant coming down the street. People were shouting and running away from the elephant, and everybody was panicking. But there was one little, helpless child who could not run fast enough to get out of the way. Everybody was frightened to death, but nobody dared to try to save the child. Just as the elephant was about to trample the little child, the Emperor ran over at top speed and snatched the child out of the way. Babar saved the child, but as he was running away with him, his turban fell to the ground.

When the mad elephant had passed by, some men ran to pick up the turban of the brave hero. When they saw the inside, they realised that it was actually the crown of their Emperor. The young man who wanted to kill Babar was one of those who had seen the Emperor save the life of the child. Although he himself had known that the child’s life was in danger, he had not been brave enough to try to save him, and he had run away, just like everybody else. When he realised what had happened, he fell at Babar’s feet and said, “Forgive me.”

Babar said, “What have you done?”

The man said, “I have been cherishing the desire to kill you for many years, because I was terribly jealous of the admiration you receive. Now I see that you truly deserve it. As Emperor, you are more precious to the kingdom than any of us, but you were ready to give up your own life to save an ordinary human being. What I have learned from you is that it is infinitely better to give life than to take life. This is what you have taught me. Now, instead of taking your life, I am giving you mine. Please take my life.” Then he offered Babar the sword with which he had planned to kill him.

Babar took the sword and said, “I taught you how to give life. Now I am going to take your life. Come with me. From now on you will be one of my bodyguards. I can see that your sincerity is truly remarkable, and I am sure you will be a faithful guard.”

So Babar took the man’s life, only to make it into a useful and fruitful one. Instead of killing him, instead of punishing him, Babar made the man one of his personal bodyguards.

Babar honours Ibrahim Lodi

The great Mogul Emperor Babar was once fighting a very bloody battle known as the First Battle of Panipat. Babar’s enemy was King Ibrahim Lodi. The armies fought for quite a few days, and finally Babar’s army began to overpower the other one.

One of the commanders of Ibrahim Lodi’s army said to him, “O King, you stay at the rear of the army. Don’t stay in the thick of the battle. As a matter of fact, let us keep fighting to the bitter end while you go and escape. We want you to be safe.”

The king said, “How can I do that? If my army, my friends and my relatives are ready to give their lives for me, will I run away in order to save my own life? If they are willing to give their lives, can I not also be willing to give my life?”

The king fought very bravely but finally he was killed. The commander who killed him was full of happiness that the enemy king was dead, and he hurried to tell Babar the news. Babar immediately asked the commander to take him to the dead body.

When he got there, he raised Ibrahim Lodi’s head from the ground and said, “I admire you. You fought very, very bravely. Now I will take full responsibility to see that you are honoured as a king should be when he dies. I will give you the grand reception worthy of a king, and I will have a king’s tomb erected. I will do everything for you. You are a real hero!”

Babar's concern for the merchant

Once a merchant was passing through the mountains with his caravan to bring goods to another town. On the way, there was a terrible storm and lightning struck the caravan. The merchant and many other people were killed, and there was nobody to take responsibility for the goods being carried in the caravan.

When Babar heard of the tragedy, he asked his soldiers to collect all the goods and keep them in a safe place. Then he sent for the merchant’s relatives to come to him immediately, and he gave everything to them. The members of the merchant’s family were overwhelmed by Babar’s concern and kindness. They wanted to give the Emperor an expensive present, but he would not accept it. They begged him at least to take some reimbursement for his trouble, but again Babar refused.

He said, “No, I can’t do that. You have lost your dearest one. Now I can’t take advantage of his death. It is your wealth and property; it is you who deserve it.”

So Babar gave everything to the merchant’s relatives without accepting any reward for his kindness and concern. The merchant’s family was deeply moved.

Babar sacrifices his life

Once the Emperor Babar’s son Humayun had a very high fever. It continued for a few days and the most eminent doctors were called in, but no one was able to cure him. Some people in the palace were saying that perhaps God would be pleased if they sacrificed expensive animals in order to save the Emperor’s son. Others said, “No, the sacrifice has to be more precious than animals. The best thing is to sell the Kohinoor diamond to some very rich people and then use the money for religious purposes. The money should be given to the poor.”

Finally Babar said, “I can sell the most precious diamond to save my son’s life, but I have no idea if it will really save him. Everybody is suggesting that I sacrifice the most precious thing on earth in order to cure my son. I feel that there is nothing dearer to me than my own life. Humayun is my eldest and dearest son. I should sacrifice my life for my son.”

After saying this, the Emperor folded his hands and circled his son’s bed three times, praying to Allah to take his life and save his son. He said, “Allah, everybody is telling me to offer the most precious thing to You so that You will kindly save my son’s life. I feel that my life is the most precious thing that I have to offer. Please take it.”

Then Babar cried out, “Allah has granted my prayer! Allah has listened to my prayer!”

From the moment he said that, Humayun started to get better. In a short time the Emperor Babar died.

Humayun forgives his prime minister

One day the Emperor Humayun was addressing his court. His prime minister was sitting right in front of him, but he was not paying any attention to the Emperor’s talk. He was totally exhausted, and he was sleeping soundly.

Finally Humayun became disappointed and disgusted. He said to the prime minister, “What are you doing? You are sleeping right in front of me! What bad manners you have!”

The prime minister said, “Your Majesty, I was not sleeping.”

Humayun said, “Then what were you doing?”

The prime minister said, “Your Majesty, wise people say that when an Emperor speaks, you have to listen with folded hands. When a great orator speaks, you have to look at his eyes. And when your loving, compassionate friend speaks, you have to feel his heart. While I was sitting in front of you, I was seeing you as all three persons: an Emperor, a great orator and a compassionate friend. So I was closing my eyes and wondering what I should do — listen to you as the Emperor, as a great orator or as my most compassionate friend.”

Humayun said to him, “You are such a clever fellow, such a wonderful rogue, and such a perfect flatterer! All right, you have won the case. Not only do I forgive you, but I will give you a nice reward for your extraordinary ability to save yourself.”

The Emperor punishes his son

There was once a Muslim emperor whose son was undivine to the extreme. One day a very shocking report came to the emperor. A man came to the palace and said that his wife had become unfaithful to him because of the emperor’s son. The man’s story was proven to be true, and the emperor was disheartened and disgusted.

The man said, “I am embarrassed to have to tell you this shocking news. Now, please do something.”

The emperor said, “Yes, I will definitely take some action, without fail. If somebody else had done this kind of thing, what kind of punishment would I have given him? I would have ordered that person to be hanged. But that punishment is only a matter of a few seconds. For the emperor’s son, there should be some punishment that is more painful and that continues for a longer time. Then everybody will be able to see it and learn from it. The just punishment is for him to be stoned to death in public. My soldiers will continue throwing stones at him until he finally dies.”

The emperor buried his head in his hands. “How can I have a son like this?” he cried. “My subjects are all my children. If my only son behaves like this, if he has become so bad, then how can I expect my other children to be good? He has brought disgrace to the royal family and to the whole kingdom. Justice demands that he be stoned to death!”

The fourth sound of the gong

There was once a Muslim emperor who was always willing to listen to complaints from his subjects. Sometimes they would file complaints through the proper channels, and then the emperor would do the needful. At other times the emperor had a special way of receiving complaints. Outside the main gate of the palace he kept a big gong. Anyone who had a complaint could come and sound the gong. If the person sounded it only once, that meant that he had lost a quarrel with someone, which he felt he should have won. If the gong sounded twice, it meant that somebody always worked very hard but felt he was not getting proper wages. If it sounded three times, it meant that somebody’s house had been robbed, and he was looking for the thief. If the gong sounded four times, it meant that somebody had murdered someone.

The emperor’s soldiers used to watch and see how many times the person lodging the complaint struck the gong. Then they would immediately bring the person to the emperor and tell him what the complaint was about. One day a man struck the gong four times, which meant that there had been a homicide.

The soldiers asked him, “Who has killed whom?”

The man said, “Somebody killed my father.”

The soldiers asked, “When was he killed?”

“Forty years ago,” the man answered.

The palace guards couldn’t believe their ears. “So only now you want punishment?” they asked.

“Yes,” said the man. “I just came to know that my father had been killed. My mother told me this morning.”

The guards asked, “Why did your mother not tell you before?”

The man answered, “Because if she had told me, then I would have killed one of the king’s ministers. This particular minister killed my father forty years ago, and he is still in office!”

“Are you saying that the minister should be executed?” they asked.

“Exactly,” the man said.

The palace guards brought the man before the emperor, and told the emperor the whole story. The emperor turned to his subject and said, “You have to know who asked the minister to kill your father. The minister was only carrying out my order. Are you saying that I should be punished as well?”

The man said, “I can’t go so far as to say that. But I have not seen my father for forty years. Indeed, that is a tragic loss. During these forty years the minister has gotten so much in salary. As compensation for my father’s death, may I receive only one month’s salary of the minister?”

The emperor said, “I am ready to give you the equivalent of forty years of the minister’s salary — whatever money he has earned from the day he killed your father. Go and find out the exact date of your father’s death from your mother, and then come back and tell me.”

The man’s mother had forgotten the day, the year — everything. But the minister had kept a record. It had only been thirty-five years. The emperor summoned the man back to the palace to give him the money, and told him, “Here in my hand is the minister’s salary, and here on the minister’s body is the minister’s head. Which do you want? I can give you either the minister’s head or the salary that he has received over the years.”

The man quickly said, “The minister’s salary, not his head!”

Nasir Uddin and the pandit

Once a King named Nasir Uddin became very, very pious. He refused to take money from his kingdom’s treasury for his own personal needs. To make extra money, he would make copies of the Koran in his own handwriting and then sell the books. He also made a few other things to sell, and in this way he would meet with his personal expenses.

One day a great pandit came to his palace to visit him. Nasir Uddin happened to be copying the Koran, and the pandit watched him for some time. At one point the King stopped writing and started talking to his guest. The pandit said to him, “Your Majesty, unfortunately you have made a mistake in a word you were copying.”

Nasir Uddin made a circle around the word that the pandit wanted to correct. Then he erased it and wrote in the word that the pandit told him. The pandit was very happy that the King had listened to him. After some time the pandit left the palace. As soon as he left, the King again erased the word and wrote in the word that he had written originally.

His guards asked him, “Why are you doing that? If it was the right word in the first place, why did you change it?”

The King answered, “Although I may be King, he is a pandit, and he knows much more than I do in this field. Unfortunately, he happened to make a mistake in this case. He was wrong and I was right. But if I had told him that he was wrong, his pride would have been deeply hurt. I know that he knows much more than I do about the scriptures. Therefore, I wrote down the incorrect word so that he would not be embarrassed. But now I don’t want to leave the wrong word here. Otherwise, whoever buys this book will have the wrong version.

“It is not good to hurt people even if you are correct. It is nothing for me to make myself humble, when it is a matter of knowledge. But if he had advised me about ruling my kingdom, do you think that I would have listened to him? Managing my kingdom is a different story. But it is always good to show respect to someone if he is very great in his own field.”

The son's forgiveness

A Muslim king once said to a group of his admirers, “I am not in the mood today to chat with you people. Instead I wish you to tell me some inspiring stories. Whoever can tell me the most inspiring and illumining story will be rewarded.”

There were two or three who volunteered to tell most inspiring stories. The last man to speak said, “O King, ten years ago I killed one of your very dear ministers.”

Everybody was very shocked, and the guards wanted to arrest the man. But the king said, “No, allow him to finish his story.”

The man continued, “You sent your soldiers to kill me. For many weeks and months they searched for me. Since they were making such a thorough search, I was afraid I would be caught. So I left your kingdom and went to a neighbouring kingdom. That king happened to be your friend, so there too people were searching for me to arrest me and bring me to you. I went from village to village hiding from the authorities.

“I was haunted by the thought that I would be arrested. One day I was running and running until I fell down and fainted. While I lay unconscious, I was found by a most kind-hearted middle-aged man who carried me to his home. When I recovered, the man asked me what had happened.

“I told him that I had killed a very important person and that I was afraid of being arrested. The man said, ‘Oh, I see, I see! You can rest assured that I will always help you. Already I have shown you hospitality, and now your sincerity has touched my sympathetic heart. But I have a secret mission, and I must leave early every morning and return only late in the evening. I will see that the members of my family give you food and meet with all your need’s.

“This arrangement went on for six months. One day my host came home very, very sad, depressed and exhausted. I said to him, ‘Today you are so sad. What is the matter? True, every day you seem somewhat sad, but today you are extremely depressed’.

“My host answered, ‘Some time ago someone killed my father. Now people are saying that he has run away and come to this vicinity. The king has offered to give ten thousand gold coins to anybody who can find him, and now many people are looking for him. That is why I am sad. I took a vow that I would personally kill that fellow. For years I have been looking for him. Every day I go out in search of him, but still I have not been able to find him. It will be a disgrace if someone else catches him and gets the reward. I don’t want the money, but I do want to fulfil my vow and kill this man.

“‘So you see, you have killed one individual, and somebody else has killed my father. People are looking for you, and I am looking for someone else. This world is like that — a battlefield. I will not tell anybody that you have killed someone. I will always protect you. But how I wish I could find the person who killed my father! I know that he is right in this vicinity’.

“I said to my host, ‘I am sure that you will find him someday. I will pray for you’.

“The following morning, when my host came to say hello to me, I said, ‘Please do not go out in search of the murderer. It is not necessary’.

“He said to me, ‘Without going out, how will I find him?’

“I paused and then I pointed to myself. ‘Here is the person whom you are looking for’, I said.

“The man couldn’t believe his ears. ‘You?’ he said.

“I said, ‘Yes! I am the person who killed your father. Since that time I have changed my appearance totally. That is why you don’t recognise me as the person you are looking for. I have lost weight, and I have grown a beard. For many years what agony I have gone through to escape punishment! But now let my suffering come to an end. Just kill me! If you want the reward money first, I will go to the king with you. The king will keep his promise and give you the money. Then you can keep your promise and kill me’.

“The man said, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that. I was generous to you and you were generous to me. Two generous people cannot suddenly be unkind to each other. But God knows if tomorrow I will be in the same frame of mind as I am in now. Please leave my house immediately. After a few months, if I gain back my anger, again I will go in search of you in order to kill you. In the meantime, if somebody else finds you and takes you to the king, I will not be responsible. I have no idea whether or not my anger will return and I will try to kill you. Now I find it in my heart to forgive you, so I am telling you to leave. But tomorrow I may not be able to forgive you. So go now!’

“So, O King, I left his house, and now, ten years after I killed your minister, I am finally telling you the story.”

The king was shedding tears. He said, “What am I going to do now? If the son of the man you killed had the heart to forgive you, how can I have the heart to kill you?”

The cow and the pig

There was once a man who was very, very rich and very, very miserly at the same time, so the villagers used to dislike him intensely. One day he said to them, “Either you are jealous of me or you don’t appreciate my lack of generosity — God alone knows. But you dislike me; that much I know. I tell you, when I die, I won’t take anything with me. I will leave it all for others. I will make a will, and I will give everything to charity. Then everybody will be happy.”

Even then people mocked and laughed at him. The rich man said to them, “What is the matter with you? Can’t you wait for a few years to see my money go to charity?”

Still the villagers didn’t believe him. He said, “You don’t believe me, but am I immortal? Of course I will die, and then my money will go to different charities.” The man could not understand why people were not appreciating him.

One day the rich man went out for a walk. All of a sudden it started raining heavily, so he took shelter under a tree. O God, under the same tree he saw a pig and a cow. The pig and the cow entered into conversation, and the man overheard what they were saying.

The pig said to the cow, “How is it that everybody appreciates you and nobody appreciates me? When I die, I provide people with bacon, ham and sausage. People can also use my bristles. I give three or four things, whereas you give only one thing: milk. Why do people appreciate you all the time and not me?”

The cow said to the pig, “Look, I give them milk when I am alive. They see that I am giving it and that I am very generous. But you don’t give them anything while you are alive. Only when you are killed do you give ham, bacon and so forth. People don’t believe in the future; they believe only in the present. If you give while you are alive, then only will people appreciate you. That is why I get appreciation.”

The rich man got the point. From then on, he started giving everything that he had to the poor. After that everybody adored him and worshipped him.

The two goddesses

There were two neighbouring families that were very, very friendly and very, very kind to each other. Both the husbands and wives were extremely close. Both families were very rich as well. How did they become rich? In one family the wife prayed to the goddess of wealth, “O goddess of wealth, come and make me rich; come and make my husband rich!” Finally the goddess appeared before her, and the lady begged her, “Always stay with me.” The goddess did what she asked, and that is how that particular couple became very, very rich.

The other wife prayed to the goddess of misery, “O goddess of misery, never come to me! I want to be always happy.” The goddess of misery appeared before her and said, “I am here to inform you that I will never again come to you.” So this couple also became rich, because the goddess of misery never came to them.

It happened that when a third couple moved to the same village, the wife saw that these two other couples were very, very happy. Secretly she asked each of the two wives how they had become so rich. When they told her, she decided also to start praying to both the goddess of wealth and the goddess of misery, hoping that at least one of the goddesses would do the needful. She prayed, “O goddess of wealth, please come to me! O goddess of misery, please never come to me!”

After the wife had been praying for a few days, all of a sudden both the goddesses appeared together. The lady was so happy and delighted. She said to them, “I am so grateful that both of you have come.” In her excitement the lady mistook the goddess of wealth for the goddess of misery and said to her, “Please never come here again. I don’t want you or need you.”

Then the lady said to the goddess of misery, thinking that she was the goddess of wealth, “Please stay here. I will be so grateful to you.”

The goddess of misery said, “You want me? Fine, I will stay with you.”

The goddess of wealth said, “You don’t want me? Then I will go away forever.”

So the lady was miserable for the rest of her life. The moral of the story is that you have to know what you are praying for when God finally comes and stands in front of you. Otherwise, if you are excited, you may ask for the wrong thing.

Again, truly advanced spiritual seekers will always ask God for the right things. Vivekananda was so poor that he could not make both ends meet. When he asked Ramakrishna for wealth, Ramakrishna said to him, “I can’t ask Mother Kali for wealth, but you go and ask her.”

As soon as Vivekananda entered into the temple to pray, he could not bring himself to ask Mother Kali for money. He prayed, “Give me aspiration. Give me the voice of conscience.”

When Vivekananda returned, Ramakrishna said, “What were you doing? Why did you not ask for material wealth?”

Vivekananda then went to the temple a second time, but again he could not pray for wealth. Finally he told Ramakrishna, “I can’t ask for these kinds of material things.” This is the difference between Vivekananda and the unfortunate lady.

Ramakrishna said, “I knew, I knew that you would never be able to ask Mother Kali for material wealth. But Mother Kali is so pleased with your aspiration that she will take care of your family from now on.”

After that, Vivekananda never suffered from financial difficulties. Previously he had suffered because his relatives all stood against him and would not help him. Then, because of Mother Kali, he was able to support his family. Vivekananda was a divine soul, so he asked for the right thing and he got the right thing: spiritual wealth. Mother Kali was so pleased that she fulfilled not only his spiritual needs, but also his family’s basic material needs.

The king forgives his enemy

Two kings fought a battle. The victor said to the vanquished, “Now that I have conquered you, I can do anything I want to with your life. Tell me what you would have done if you had conquered me.”

The other king said, “I would have killed you immediately.”

The first king said, “You would have killed me immediately? So now that I have conquered you, what do you expect from me?”

The other king said, “If you were a businessman, I would expect you to sell me to some rich man and get some money. If you were a butcher, I would expect you to kill me. But you are neither a businessman nor a butcher. I feel that you are a very kind-hearted man. If this is true, then naturally you will forgive me.”

The first king said, “Whether I am a kind-hearted man or not, at least for today I want to be kind-hearted. So I am forgiving you and giving you back your throne. Only remember that I am stronger than you. I am physically stronger than you, and my army is stronger than yours. So don’t disturb me anymore.”

Editor's preface to the first edition

The stories in this book, many based on historical incidents or traditional tales from India’s past, offer an illumining glimpse at some of the experiences that helped shape the consciousness of Mother India. The stories have been adapted and retold by a master storyteller whose spiritual insights will benefit Easterners and Westerners alike.

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