Transfiguration and other stories

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Part I — Stories translated from Bengali

TRN 1-2. The first two stories in this volume were initially printed, along with other stories, in a pamphlet entitled Silence Liberates published circa 1971.

Transfiguration1

A beggar man and a beggar woman. The woman was ugliness incarnate; the man stoneblind from his very birth. One day they chanced to meet on the outskirts of the town.

"Oh," she cried, "you are a blind beggar, and I have no one to call my own. I shall clasp your hand and lead you from door to door. And thus both of us shall be benefitted." She could not express her actual feeling.

"I shall derive much benefit from your kindness, no doubt," said the beggar man, "but what about your good self? I shall be nothing but a burden to you."

"A human being cannot live without having such a burden," she replied.

So from that day on, they went out begging together. She held him by the hand and led him from door to door as he asked for alms. The blind man felt indebted to her and prayed to God to shower blessings on her.

One day they went out far beyond the town and returned home very late. The sun had been unbearably hot and their feet were scorched. As they made their way home, the blind beggar said to his comrade, "Am I not a trouble to you?"

"My life became unbearable," she said, "simply because I had no such trouble."

The blind beggar could only remain silent.

One day it began to rain heavily while they were on their way to beg. The violent downpour was accompanied by tremendous thunderbolts. The two beggars ran and took shelter under a huge banyan tree nearby. Even there, the relentless shower made its way through the space between the leaves, soaking them to the skin. The fury of the wind and the lashing rain set them shivering in their scanty rags. Suddenly, in a voice choked with emotion, the blind beggar said, "Ah! What suffering you are put to! But for me, you could have been free!"

"Suffering? No doubt it is suffering. But suffering of this kind alone has made my life worth living."

Silence reigned upon the lips of the blind beggar.

In this wise, days ran into weeks and weeks into months.

The intimacy of the blind man and the ugly woman grew deeper through touch than through words. She held him by the hand and led him from village to village. Her touch was to him no less than a garland of fragrant flowers laid upon him. That touch, day by day, penetrated his nerves and blood and assuaged a deep-rooted pang of his heart. An utmost, inseparable intimacy grew between them.

One day the blind man burst out, "I am consumed with the desire to see you. How I wish to be blessed with sight even for a day!" At this the woman was simply stunned. For she was convinced that she had got him precisely because he had no sight.

Presently the beggar asked her, "What has come over you? What makes you so upset?"

The beggar woman caught hold of his hand and gave it a gentle shake. "Who? Why? Nothing is the matter." But the eyes of the beggar woman were now brimming with tears.

The beggar man himself became deeply moved. He asked her why she had begun to weep.

"Are you a magician? You have no sight. How do you know that my eyes are swimming in tears?"

After some moments of silence, he answered,

"Well, I myself do not know how I have known it."

Silence fell upon the two souls.

One day the woman confided, "You know, I shall lose you the moment your eyes start functioning."

"Why? How do you mean?" he demanded.

"Well, you know, I… I… I am the most uglylooking woman upon the earth."

A subtle smile played upon his lips. "You are ugly? Do not lie to me. To your eyes you are ugly because you have not been able to see your true self. But my blind eyes have seen it. You are the embodiment of beauty. Full of compassion are your eyes. A divine affection courses across your lips. A full-bloomed lotus is in your hand. The blush of a red lotus shines upon your cheeks."

At this, a silent smile hung upon her quivering mouth. That smile was, as it were, laden with the sorrow of the whole world.

"Yet, I pine to see you with my eyes open," said the blind beggar man.

For two days a storm had been raging in all its fury within the heart of the beggar woman. She had a dream that the beggar would gain the power of sight. If this did happen, what then? The Goddess of Beauty had been hostile to her all along. There was no shadow of a doubt in her heart that the beggar would desert her as soon as he saw her. Again she would have to go her way. And who, but the blind beggar, could have fallen deeply in love with her, ugliness itself?

After a long battle, the selflessness of the woman came successfully to the fore and she decided to tell him of her dream.

"Do you know something?" she said.

"What is it?"

"Soon your eyes will obey your command. You will be able to see at your will."

An overwhelming delight stilled the power of his speech.

"You will be blessed with the power of sight," she continued, "when you stand chestdeep in Devi Lake and when the blessing-flower of the Mahalakshmi Temple is put to your eyes at the very moment of sunrise."

"Is it so?" His heart gave a jump and a thump in ecstasy.

"Mahalakshmi herself has promised me so in my dream."

Light, hope and delight shone on the beggar's face.

There was a minute's silence. A few drops of tears stole into her eyes.

Impatience tortured him. "But when, my dear, when?"

"In two days, the day of the sun's entrance into Capricorn."

On the appointed day, both beggar man and beggar woman stood chest-deep in Devi Lake. A fragrant blessing-flower from the Mahalakshmi Temple was in the hand of the beggar man. The beggar woman was trembling with expectation to see the sunrise.

The golden disk was now appearing on the horizon. The beggar woman touched the blind eyes of her beloved with the flower. Lo, the miracle!

The man was blind no more. His bright eyes were now flooded with sight and delight. They reflected the devotion welling up from the depths of his heart. He seized her by the hand and looked eagerly into her face. With a voice full of gratitude, he cried out, "Oh! You… you… you beautiful beggar woman!"

She blushed and her heart gave a throb of ecstasy. She cast a glance at her own reflection in the water. There, in the silvery freshness of the dawn, mirrored in the calm lake, her face, transfigured into the Goddess of Beauty, incarnate.


  1. TRN 1. This story was written by Suresh Chandra Chakravarty. It was translated by Sri Chinmoy from the original Bengali.

Union (A Fable)1

An incalculable number of years ago there was a time when man was extremely addlebrained. He treated his consort, the most intimate companion upon earth, as a bond-woman. She was kept, as it were, in iron fetters. She was granted the freedom of moving about inside the house performing all household duties. But she was denied the right of going out of doors.

She accepted her lot without a murmur. No, none was there to read her mind. She would take every care of his room as of the whole household. She would tidy up all her husband's things and keep them trim and safe for his use, and even the floor she would scrub with her own hands. When the day was done and the Sun dozed into a sweet sleep on the Western brim of the world, she would light a lamp fed with clarified butter and, placing it under the tulsi plant in the courtyard, offer prayers to ward off all unforeseen evils. She would arrange flowers for his daily worship and timely serve food and drink to all concerned. The man was certain that she did all these simply because she had no existence without him.

God could not help smiling at the secret thoughts of the man. He wanted to play a trick on the man. However, God's fun-making was of the merry type. One day He removed the man's better half from his house. On entering his house, the man found no food to eat, no water to drink, no flowers to offer to God.

In no time, he flew into a rage. He shouted himself hoarse. He was, as it were, preparing himself to wage a war against somebody. Suddenly God donned the earthly cloak and came into his presence. With utmost innocence, He said to the man: "What has come over you? What is all this commotion?"

"How do you mean?" He was more than angry. "Where is she gone, the one who has been marked for me? Now there is none to serve me with food and drink. Who will collect flowers for me for my daily worship? She used to do all these."

"So it was only to have all these that you needed her?"

"Then for what else?"

"Can I seize upon your word?"

"I give you my word of honour. There, there alone, her importance ends."

"I promise, every day you will get food, drink and flowers, all on time."

By the Omnipotence of God, all the necessities of the man were supplied to him. No, there was not even the slightest flaw in God's management. The man was timely supplied with everything as before. But only his consort's presence was denied to him.

All went well — timely food for the appeasement of his hunger, water for the quenching of his thirst, flowers for his daily worship — all were there. But there was something lacking in his life. The tune that would fill the gap between his food and drink and bring in a wave of satisfaction between his drink and worship was sadly missing. Now his food was simply food, his water was mere water, his flowers were mere flowers. Life appeared to him as cruelty personified. Everything went on mechanically, like the hands of a clock.

One day the man returned home dead tired. He found everything in perfect order — his food, his drink, his flowers, in a word, whatever he actually might have wanted. Yet his anger knew no bounds. He cried out, "Who wants all these? Who can put up with Your cruel mockery? Who can abide by Your mechanical dealings?" Then, with a tremendous kick, he sent all the utensils and the flowers flying pell-mell.

God appeared. "What is wrong with you again?"

In lieu of a meet reply, the man blurted out: "You are clever enough to guess the reason. How long will You keep up this farce? Who wants all these services from You? Take them all back. Who wants Your insipid gifts? Give her back who was absolutely my own. My heart is in hot haste to see her. I have had no heart for anything else. I cannot lure my heart away from her."

A subtle smile played upon the eyes of God. He made the man feel for himself that his wild anger was the malady of his own heart. So now God returned his wife.

The sight of her sent the man mad with joy. He was overwhelmed with a tremendous emotion. In the twinkling of an eye, he released her from her fetters. He decked her wrists with two gold bracelets and placed round her neck a pendant of snow-white pearls. His heart was ravished with love. He hugged her impetuously. "It does not behoove me to treat you as a bondwoman anymore. You are my peer in every respect. You are perfection's model. You are the Purna [the deity of Fulfilment]. By your magic touch, the empty hearts become filled with the richness of delight. You eclipse Lakshmi's matchless pride of beauty. It is you who complete the incomplete."

That was the day when the gods were awakened by the redolent smell of the flowers offered by man.


  1. TRN 2. This story was written by Suresh Chandra Chakravarty. It was translated by Sri Chinmoy from the original Bengali.

Part II — Stories

TRN 3-5. Sri Chinmoy recounted these three stories at his home in New York on 8 March 2004.

God is your only own

One day, while a spiritual Master was meditating, one of his female disciples came up to him and said, "Master, Master, please do me a favour."

He asked, "What kind of favour?"

She explained, "My husband is unmanageable. I want him to be under my control. I am infinitely wiser than he is, so I want him to listen to me."

The Master said, "I cannot make him do that. It is an impossible task."

The woman became annoyed with the Master. She said to him, "Master, why do you say that you can bring God to us? If you cannot do something as simple as make my husband listen to me, then how can you bring God to us? That is infinitely more difficult! If you cannot do even this small favour for me, if you cannot help me in this small way, then how will you ever be able to show us God? I want my husband to be under my full control. You cannot do that, yet you say you can bring God down to us from Heaven. How can this be? I am sure that if you can bring God down from Heaven, then easily you can make my husband come under my control."

Finally, the woman's tirade came to an end. In a calm and quiet voice, the spiritual Master replied, "I can bring God to you because God is your own, whereas your husband is not your own."

Now the woman became really upset. "What do you mean?" she cried. "We are married legally. And we have been together for so many years! Now you are saying that my husband is not my own. If my husband is not my own, then who else can be mine?"

The woman stood before the Master, moving her arms as she spoke. Her attitude was almost threatening. Nevertheless, the Master continued in the same patient and calm voice, "Look, you want to bring your husband under your control. Your husband also wants to do the same with you. He wants you to be under his control. What am I going to do? I am lost in between two bosses. Here is the proof that you and he are not one. You and he are not thinking the same. You want to be his boss; he wants to be your boss. Neither of you is coming forward to surrender to the other. You are not saying, 'All right, let me surrender to him. If he wants to be my boss, then let me surrender.' And he also is not agreeing to surrender to you. So already you two have differences of opinion. Your desire is to bring your husband under your control. You want to lord it over him. He wants to do the same with you. Your wish he is not fulfilling, and his wish you are not fulfilling. So how can you be one?"

The Master gestured for the woman to sit down. Then he went on, "On the other hand, if you pray to God, 'God, do give me Peace, Love and Bliss,' God immediately listens to your request. So is He not truly your own? As soon as you pray to God to give you inner wealth, God immediately listens. So God is absolutely your own."

The woman jumped up and said, "Master, you stay with your philosophy. Your philosophy is too complicated." Then she left the Master's house quite abruptly.

A few hours later, the husband came to the Master with the same request: he wanted his wife to listen to him. The Master told the husband the same thing that he had told the wife. He said, "God is the only one who is your own because only God listens to your prayers, whereas your wife does not listen to your prayers."

In a voice laden with despair, the husband said, "I have had enough of her. Since we got married, she has destroyed all my peace, all my joy."

"Then go forward on your own," advised the spiritual Master.

The husband cast aside all his complaints against his wife and started praying and meditating with the Master most soulfully. Several hours passed. Meanwhile, the wife did not know where her husband had gone. She arrived at the Master's house to inform him that her husband was missing. She came rushing into the room and said to the Master, "It is late into the night, but my husband has not come home."

All of a sudden she noticed that her husband was sitting on the ground in front of the Master. He was in deep meditation and she saw that her husband's face was full of light. His entire being shone with light.

An inner transformation was taking place inside the wife. She said to herself, "If he can be happy like this, then what is wrong with me? Let me also pray and meditate with the Master and not think about controlling my husband."

So each of them began to follow the spiritual life most sincerely and, in the course of time, each one stopped trying to control the other. They only prayed and prayed. Whenever they had to arrive at an important decision, the husband would say to the wife, "Your way is the only way," and the wife would say to the husband, "Your way is the only way."

This is how they became really happy, peaceful and blissful.

God the slave

One day God appeared before a certain seeker with folded hands and began bowing to the seeker again and again.

The seeker was simply shocked. He cried out, "God, what are You doing? What are You doing?"

God made no reply. He only bowed down and touched the feet of the seeker.

"God, You have gone crazy, crazy!" shouted the seeker in disbelief.

This time God spoke. He said, "No, I am not crazy."

"Then please explain Your behaviour to me, God," begged the seeker. "How can You touch my feet? How can You stand in front of me with folded hands? What does it mean?"

Finally, God answered him: "Every day you demand something from me. You tell me, 'God, give me this, give me that; give me this, give me that!' Your demands and commands have no beginning and no end. Every day you command Me to do so many things. Who can issue commands? Only he who is superior. One can only command someone who is subordinate, like a slave. So I have become your slave.

"Since you have made Me your slave, I have to stand in front of you with folded hands and touch your feet. At every moment you are commanding Me to give you this and give you that. Therefore, you must be superior to Me. That is why I have come with folded hands and why I am touching your feet again and again. It is you who have made Me your slave."

The oath of silence

There were three monks who were very close friends. One was a Russian, one was a German and one was an Italian. They all wanted to realise God, so they entered into an Himalayan cave and took an oath of silence. They decided to pray and meditate most intensely, and not to utter a single word until they had realised God.

For one year, everything went well. They remained silent and they enjoyed very deep meditations. Alas, the day came when the weather became unbearably cold. The three monks were shivering. Each one was finding it extremely difficult to meditate.

Finally, the Italian monk opened his eyes and said, "It is very cold here."

The German monk opened his eyes and said, "You are right, my friend."

Hearing their conversation, the Russian monk flew into a rage. "You two are so bad!" he thundered. "You cannot keep your promise. You have to discuss the weather! What is more, you have interrupted my meditation. I was drinking in peace and delight, but now it is all ruined. What happened to your sacred oath? It is simply worthless!"

Like this, he went on insulting the German monk and the Italian monk mercilessly.

Still his anger did not abate. At last, the Russian monk said, "You two are worse than useless! I am leaving you." Saying this, he left the cave.

The German monk and the Italian monk were so furious and upset at the behaviour of the Russian monk. "What right does he have to scold us?" they shouted. They became so disgusted that they, too, decided to leave the cave.

This is how the three monks ended their silence and abandoned the Himalayan cave. Needless to say, God-realisation was nowhere to be found!

Part III — Stories about Sarada Devi

TRN 6-10. On 19 November 1995, Sri Chinmoy recounted these five stories about Sarada Devi, the consort of Sri Ramakrishna. Sarada Devi was known as the Holy Mother to the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.

The Master's earthly and heavenly behaviour

One day, a new seeker lodged a serious complaint with Sarada Devi against a senior disciple. He said, "The senior disciple told me that one should not stay very close to one's Master for a long period of time. From the Master's earthly behaviour, the disciple may lose faith in the Master. Therefore, it is advisable for the disciple to leave after a short time if he wishes to maintain faith in the Master."

The Mother said, "Do not listen to him. If you take someone as your Master, you can never separate your Master's earthly behaviour from his Heavenly behaviour. Everything is always the same in his inner life and in his outer life."

Sarada Devi's dream

One day, towards the end of his earthly sojourn, Sri Ramakrishna asked Sarada Devi, "Do you have dreams?"

She replied, "Yes, I do. Just last night I had a dream. In the dream, I saw Mother Kali standing in front of me. She was keeping her neck bent to one side. I asked Mother Kali why she had her neck bent. She said, 'My son is suffering so much in his throat, so I am suffering the same way.' "

Sri Ramakrishna said to Sarada Devi, "It is absolutely true. Mother Kali and I are suffering together. But I tell you, since I am going through all this suffering which you were all supposed to suffer, you do not have to suffer. My Mother has sent me into the world to take upon myself the suffering of the world."

The sea of light

One day, in a particular disciple's house, Sarada Devi entered into trance. She remained in that state for several hours. Upon returning to her normal consciousness, she told the disciples around her that she had envisioned red and blue lights. She said that she had been swimming in a sea of light.

Furthermore, she said that if this experience had lasted for four or five days, her soul would not have remained on earth.

A vision in the Ganges

This experience occurred after Sri Ramakrishna had left his physical body. One night Sarada Devi was seated by the Ganges. The scene was flooded with moonlight. All of a sudden, she saw Sri Ramakrishna entering into the Ganges. His whole body melted into the water. Then Vivekananda appeared. He was chanting Jai Ramakrishna, jai Ramakrishna! [Victory to Ramakrishna, victory to Ramakrishna!]

Sarada Devi saw that with his two hands, Vivekananda was scattering the water of the Ganges on the heads of countless people and they were all being liberated. It was an unimaginable gathering.

Then Sarada Devi said to herself, "How can I enter into the water with my legs and feet now that it has become Thakur?" So for many days she did not enter into the Ganges.

"I am not dead!"

On the day of Sri Ramakrishna's passing, after Sri Ramakrishna had left his earthly body, all his disciples and dear ones were swimming in the sea of tears. Sarada Devi's grief knew no bounds. She became her heart's heart-rending cries.

In the evening, in accordance with the custom of Hindu widows in India, she was removing all the ornaments from her body one by one. She had discarded everything except one gold bracelet. As she was removing this last ornament, Sri Ramakrishna appeared in front of her and said, "What are you doing? I am not dead, I am immortal. I am now in my Heavenly body, my golden body. Therefore, I want you to keep wearing your gold bracelet."

Sarada Devi continued wearing that bracelet as long as she lived.

Part IV — Stories about Swami Vivekananda

TRN 11-25. Over the years, Sri Chinmoy told many stories about Swami Vivekananda with whom he has a very close inner connection. These are some of those stories.

Raising the fare for the passage

During his itinerant wanderings in the west and south of India, Swami Vivekananda had come to hear of the Parliament of Religions which was to be held in America in 1893. He expressed his wish to go and his devotees in Madras went forth to collect the necessary funds. They raised about three hundred rupees. Then, to their great surprise and shock, Vivekananda asked them to give the money to the poor and needy. He was convinced that if it was really the Will of the Supreme for him to go to the West, the money would come again.

A few months later, the devotees in Madras once more began collecting funds. Alasinga Perumal, Swami Vivekananda's foremost devotee in Madras, went from door to door begging people to help. Money also came from other quarters, including the Maharajas of several states. Finally, Swami Vivekananda was presented with a first class ticket on a steamer to Vancouver.

On 31 May 1893, the steamer bearing Swami Vivekananda set sail from Bombay.

Adopting the name 'Vivekananda'

My name, Chinmoy, was given to me by my brother Chitta when he applied for me to go to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Before that, I was known by my nickname, 'Madal'.

In Swami Vivekananda's case, his childhood name was Naren and his nickname was Bile. A few years after Sri Ramakrishna left the body, Naren became a wandering sannyasin. His wanderings took him across the length and breadth of India.

At that time, he used many different names. When he journeyed to Delhi in 1891, for example, he assumed the name of Swami Vividishananda. Before that, he had also travelled under the names Bishikeshananda and Sachchidananda. Then, on the eve of his departure for America, he took the name Vivekananda. This is how it happened.

Naren's dearest friend, admirer and devotee came from Kerala in South India. As I mentioned in the previous story, his name was Alasinga Perumal. He was extremely, extremely devoted to Naren. He was supposed to take care of Naren's passport. So he went to the passport office in Madras and wrote down the name that the Swami had been using: Bishikeshananda. It means, 'the dancing waves of the ocean'. The meaning is so significant, but the word itself is not at all sweet.

"What a horrible name!" exclaimed Alasinga Perumal. Then he consulted with the other devotees in Madras and they were all of the same opinion. A few days later, he brought the passport to Naren. When Naren looked at it, he said, "What is this? This is not my name!"

Then all the devotees replied, "Yes, this is your name. We did not like that old name you gave yourself. Vivekananda has to be your name. It is far, far better. It has much more meaning around it."

Naren could not argue with his disciples, so he took the name Vivekananda. It means, 'the most powerful delight of all-pervading conscience'. If you develop your conscience, you cannot tell lies or do anything wrong or undivine. Your conscience will all the time poke you. Some people say that this name means 'discrimination'. But the actual meaning is 'conscience'. Where does discrimination come from? From conscience. If you have conscience, then only can you discriminate. It is from the results of conscience that we get discrimination.

In most cases, disciples receive spiritual names from their Masters. But in Vivekananda's case, it was just the opposite. He received his name from the disciples, and he surrendered to them.

Permission to cross the seas

Just before he was due to leave for America, Vivekananda decided that he would cross the seas only after having some concrete indications from his Master, Sri Ramakrishna. It had been seven years since Sri Ramakrishna had left the body. Vivekananda waited and waited for a sign from his Master, but in vain. At last he argued that his spiritual Mother and the Master were one and the same and so he decided to seek Sarada Devi's permission to go abroad.

Accordingly, from Madras he wrote a letter to Sarada Devi. By the time he received a reply from her, he had had a most significant dream in which he saw Sri Ramakrishna proceed to the West over the waves and waters. In the dream, Sri Ramakrishna was beckoning Vivekananda to follow him. This Vivekananda took for approval of his plan.

Presently he received wholehearted permission and blessings from his spiritual Mother. Now all Vivekananda's doubts vanished. With redoubled faith, he was able to undertake his historic voyage.

Lacking an invitation

Other delegates to the Parliament of Religions in 1893 represented certain groups, but Swami Vivekananda came as an individual. He did not receive a formal invitation as such. He just came on his own. Then he was given a letter of introduction by Professor J.H. Wright, the Professor of Greek at Harvard University. Unfortunately, Swami Vivekananda lost the letter.

Vivekananda was very upset when he lost the letter, but the great Professor said to him, "To ask you, Swami, for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine." So this is the wonderful compliment that he gave Vivekananda.

"Sisters and brothers of America"

When Swami Vivekananda came to Chicago, his dynamic vital embraced the whole world. In his very first speech, he began, "Sisters and Brothers of America…" After those words, he was unable to continue for two full minutes because of the enthusiastic cheering and clapping of the audience. Immediately, Swami Vivekananda had spread the feeling that we are all sisters and brothers of the same family. He showed the seekers of the West that he came to embrace them, not to conquer them. And, as a result, he conquered their hearts because his words came from the very depths of his soul.

True, we use the terms 'sister' and 'brother' at every moment, but do we have the same depths of feeling as Vivekananda? In comparison to him, we are all frauds. We do not have the same genuine feeling as Vivekananda had when we use those terms. For us, it is like saying "Ladies and Gentlemen." It is simply a form of address. When Vivekananda said, "Sisters and Brothers of America," it was based on his dynamic all-embracing vital.

Swami Vivekananda's presence at the Parliament

Swami Vivekananda's soul-stirring addresses at the Parliament of Religions inspired the audience to have faith in all the religions of the world and to hug the best in each religion. There was a magic spell of throbbing delight woven around his very name at the Parliament. He was the figure that dominated the world's gaze there.

A report appeared in The Boston Evening Transcript of 30 September 1893 about the great triumph of this Indian spiritual giant:

"If he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded, and this marked approval of thousands he accepts in a childlike spirit of gratification, without a trace of conceit."

Thousand Island Park

An interesting event took place when Swami Vivekananda was staying in a cottage at Thousand Island Park. It was a dark and rainy night. Two ladies from Detroit had travelled hundreds of miles to find him there.

Having met him, one of them humbly spoke out, "We have come to you just as we would go to Jesus if he were still on earth and ask him to teach us."

Swami Vivekananda, deeply moved and overwhelmed with humility, replied, "If only I possessed the power of Christ to set you free now!"

Swami Vivekananda purifies himself

When Swami Vivekananda returned home from his trip abroad, he travelled by steamer from Naples to Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he was given an overwhelming reception. He then made his way to his native land and finally reached Madras. Everywhere he went, he was hailed by multitudes.

From Madras, Swami Vivekananda decided to travel by steamer to Calcutta, the city of his birth. As the steamer sailed up the river Hooghly, Swami Vivekananda repeatedly drank water from the river to purify himself after his long absence.

An emotional reunion

When Swami Vivekananda arrived in Calcutta after his triumph in America, there was a big meeting. In front of thousands of people, his brother disciple, Swami Brahmananda, touched his feet and garlanded him.

Vivekananda said to him, "What are you doing, what are you doing?" Brahmananda replied in Bengali, "You are my elder brother, so you are like my father. That is why I am bowing to you."

Then Vivekananda touched Brahmananda's feet and said, "The son of the Guru is like the Guru himself."

So both of them were bowing to each other in front of thousands of people.

Swami Vivekananda's destiny

When Sri Ramakrishna examined the young Naren's palm, he said, "O God, you are not going to live for a long time. You will not have a long life."

Then, when Swami Vivekananda reached the age of thirty-nine, he said, "I will not cross the barrier of forty. I do not want to live. My time has come."

He kept his promise. He passed away at the age of thirty-nine years and five months. He had worked extremely hard while he was on earth. He suffered a lot. So when his time came, he wanted to leave. His great destiny was to die before forty. Can you imagine? And we do not even start our life before forty!

Swami Brahmananda's grief

When Swami Vivekananda left the body, on 4 July 1902, nobody, nobody cried as bitterly as Swami Brahmananda. Brahmananda said, "Now I have lost everything. In you, I found my brother, father, everything. Now I have lost all. How could you go and leave me alone? Today you have made me helpless, helpless."

Then he literally jumped on Vivekananda's dead body, crying and crying like a little child.

A sign from her Master

Every morning, starting at five o'clock or so, Sister Nivedita used to only repeat Swami Vivekananda's name. When he died, she did not want to live. As they were cremating his body, she was about thirty metres away. She was not near the pyre at all. She was sitting on the ground, crying bitterly. Suddenly, a burning charcoal flew up and landed in her lap. How it came there, nobody knows, but it flew to her and fell on her lap.

Nivedita said, "He has come to console me."

Bhubaneshwari Devi's immortal utterance

On the day Swami Vivekananda passed away, everyone was swimming in the sea of tears. His physical mother, Bhubaneshwari Devi, cried a little. Then she said something truly immortal:
""I am ready to give birth again and again to a hero like my son. He came into the world to raise the consciousness of the world. He has died at such a tender age, but I do not mind because my son has played his role. I know that he was not for me alone. He was for the whole world. He has helped the world so much.""

Part V — Stories about Christian saints

TRN 24-33. These stories for children about the lives of some of the Christian saints were told by Sri Chinmoy in June 1981.

The Virgin Mary appears in a dream

There was once a little girl who came of a poor family. Her parents could not send her to school because they were so poor. As a result, this little girl could not read or write properly, but she had the earnest desire to learn how to read and write. Her parents were very spiritual and they taught her how to pray.

The little girl used to pray daily most soulfully and then she used to help her parents in their work. Late at night, when her parents were fast asleep, she used to get up secretly and try to teach herself to read and write. She wanted to read and write well so that she could be of real help to her family. She wanted to be able to work outside and bring money home to support her family.

One night, when the little girl was fast asleep, she had a dream. In the dream, the Virgin Mary came to her in a vivid form and said, "You do not have to learn how to read and write. You have to do only three things in your life in order to please God."

Already the young girl used to pray and meditate very soulfully every day. So the Virgin Mary told her, "The first thing is to keep your heart always pure. The second thing is not to criticise anybody, not to speak ill of anybody. The third thing is, when you think of your own troubles, think how much more Jesus suffered when he was on earth. His suffering will be much more than yours. So if you can do these three things, you will be very happy and God will be most pleased with you."

The girl obeyed the Virgin Mary. In the course of time, when she grew up, she joined a convent and became a nun. She did a splendid job, both for God and for humanity. Her name was Veronica. We call her Saint Veronica. She was born in a village near Milan, Italy.

Spiritual commentary:

Veronica always listened to her superiors. She was rightly convinced that to listen to one's superiors is to obey God. You, too, sweet children, should listen to your superiors, starting with your own parents. It is as good as obeying our Beloved Supreme.

The most important thing is the message that Veronica received from the Virgin Mary: you have to be pure of heart and not criticise others. When you think you have all kinds of troubles, remember what kind of suffering Jesus went through. And, when you listen to your parents, immediately think that you are listening to God. Immediately think that what they are saying is for your good and, if you can please them, then you are pleasing God.

My sweet, sweeter, sweetest children, I want you all to be like saints.

The Mother's chosen child

She was of poor parents and she was poor in health. Earthly poverty was her outer name. Heavenly prosperity was her inner name. One day her parents sent her and her younger sister together to collect firewood. She had an unexpected vision. A beautiful lady appeared before her. The lady was dressed in blue and white and she was holding a rosary in her right hand. She was full of compassion and love.

The lady blessingfully smiled at the older sister and made the sign of the cross. The girl at once fell on her knees, took out her own rosary and started praying. The beautiful lady told her that she had something special to do on earth, that she must pray every day devotedly for the sinners. Also the lady told her that she would suffer much on earth, but in Heaven she would rejoice.

When she grew up, the young girl became a nun. She was humility incarnate. Simplicity, sincerity and humility everybody appreciated in her.

The same lady, the Mother of Christ, appeared before her eighteen more times. One day her younger sister said to her, "Look, everybody appreciates and admires you because you are a chosen child of the Mother."

She replied, "How can I be proud? She has chosen me because I am the most ignorant of all."

One day the Mother appeared before her and said, "Dig in the mud." She did as she was asked and, lo and behold, water began to spring up. Over the years, many miracles have been performed when people use this holy water from Lourdes.

She is our Saint Bernadette.

The rock of the church

There was a fisherman who became a close disciple of the Christ. Before the Christ left for Heaven, he asked this disciple to be head of the church. The disciple preached the gospel and took special care of the Church.

At first he worked very hard in Jerusalem and other places. Then he became Bishop of Rome. At that time, Rome was a most undivine city. But the disciple's exemplary devotedness, along with the Lord's infinite Compassion, brought many lost souls to the Christ.

He was martyred for his faith. Since his departure from the earth-scene, there has always been a Bishop of Rome. This disciple is now known as the first Pope. The Pope is he who represents the Christ on earth. His successors are lovingly called the Holy Father by all.

He is our Saint Peter. It was Christ who gave him the name Peter, meaning 'rock'. The Christ told him, "It is upon this rock that I will build My Church."

The transformation of Saul

There was a very brilliant young man whose name was Saul. He was at home in the Hebrew religion. He hated the Christ and his followers. He did not believe in the divinity of Christ in the least. As a matter of fact, it was Saul who used to torture mercilessly the followers of Christ and it was also he who stoned to death the first martyr, St Stephen.

One day Saul was riding a horse in the city of Damascus. He saw a very bright light all around him. He fell down from his horse. Then he heard a voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you want to persecute Me? What have I done to you?"

Saul asked, "Who are you?"

The voice replied, "I am Jesus. Do you not realise that it will be hard for you to kick against the good?"

Saul was deeply moved and he began trembling. He begged the Christ, "Forgive me, Lord, forgive me. Forgive all my sins. You tell me what I should do."

The Lord said, "Accept Me, spread My Light all over."

"Lord, I promise You I shall do that," said Saul.

From that time onwards, Saul travelled all over the world spreading the message of Christ. Very hard he worked. Very much he suffered. But nothing could stop him from bringing souls to the Christ. He was always soulfully adamant in that. He was more than ready to suffer for the Christ and to bring lost souls to the Christ.

When Saul was very old, he was sentenced to prison. After many years in prison, he was beheaded.

During his life, Saul wrote fourteen most soulful, most powerful letters to the Christians. These letters now adorn the Holy Bible. They are called Epistles. They are read every morning at early mass.

This is the transformation of Saul into our Saint Paul.

Spiritual commentary:

The undivine not only surrenders ultimately to the Divine, but also listens to the Divine completely and unconditionally.

The slave turns over a new leaf

There was a slave who was in the habit of stealing. One day he stole something very valuable from his master, Philemon, and ran away to Rome. On the way, he felt miserable that he had stolen from his master, and so he went to see the great apostle St Paul, who was then in prison because of his faith.

St Paul had a big heart. He showed much affection and love to the slave. Since the slave had now repented of his misdeed, St Paul hoped that his master would forgive him. The master, who was a Christian, happened to be a friend of St Paul's. Therefore, he listened to the request of the saint.

When the slave returned to his master's house, the master saw that the slave had totally turned over a new leaf. Not only had he turned over a new leaf, but he was expressing deep interest in the spiritual life. So the master set him free and said, "You can spend your life for God."

The former slave was so happy and delighted. He went back to St Paul and became a very devoted server to him. He became an excellent God-seeker and man-server. St Paul made him a priest and later, even a bishop.

It seems that the power of ignorance is all-where. Although, in his case, the former slave had conquered ignorance, his enemies stoned him to death, for they could not tolerate his exemplary faith in Christ and his extraordinary service to the God-lovers.

He is our Saint Onesimus.

A Swedish saint

This story is about a little girl who was born in Sweden. Her parents were holy people. At the age of seven, the little girl was sent to a convent for education. When she was fourteen years old, her parents married her to a young nobleman.

She always spoke to her husband about her love of God and about how desperately she needed to lead a spiritual life. Her husband said, "Let us lead together a brotherly and sisterly life." So this young couple lived a pure and pious life. Together they used to pray to God and they used to serve the people in their town.

Many of the girl's relatives did not approve of her spiritual life. They mocked at her and insulted her, but she was not at all disturbed. She consecrated her life totally to God's Will.

One day, quite unexpectedly, her husband died. Since the girl was quite young and beautiful, many men requested to marry her. She flatly refused. She said, "My husband and I loved God together. Now he is with Him. I shall pray every day for hours to please my God."

When the girl's mother died, she entered into a convent. Her simplicity, sincerity and purity fulfilled her God in her completely. She is our Saint Catherine.

The shepherd boy

There was a poor shepherd boy who lived in England. He loved nothing but games and his friends loved him dearly for his childlike nature. But one day one of his friends told him, "I am not going to waste so much time with you in playing. It is a waste of time. We have to value time."

The poor shepherd was so grateful to his friend for his wise advice. When he was fifteen years old, the Lord granted him a powerful and vivid vision of the Lord Himself. The boy then gave up everything and wanted to become a saint. He entered a monastery. Later, he became a hermit on a small island off the coast.

In the course of time, he was made a bishop and he went from village to village cheerfully, devotedly and unconditionally to spread the message of the Saviour.

Although by nature this priest wanted to live a life of seclusion, for that is what he loved most, his love of God and his service to mankind came first and foremost. So he gladly fulfilled his divine duty.

His name was Saint Cuthbert.

The saint-king

There was once a very soulful God-lover and, at the same time, a very powerful man-ruler in Denmark. He ruled his kingdom powerfully in the sense that there could be no corruption in his kingdom and not that he wanted to show his supremacy over his subjects. His power-life and soulful heart he utilised in a divine way.

At the dawn of his reign, he had to fight against the barbarians. He defeated them easily and placed his victorious crown at the feet of Christ in a church. He gave the credit to Christ. He felt that it was the Christ-force acting in and through him that conquered the barbarian force. Therefore, he was extremely grateful to Christ and placed his victory's crown on the altar.

In this life, unfortunately, when we become great and good, we become a victim to others' jealousy, meanness and hatred. So it was that this King had many enemies. His enemies did not appreciate his good qualities and, above all, they did not appreciate his support for the Church.

The King wanted everyone to go to church regularly and support the church in every possible way. He wanted people to be spiritual and he wanted the church to be more disciplined and self-giving. His enemies could not tolerate this. They wanted to kill him.

One day the King was in the church praying. His enemies came to the church. The King knew his enemies intended to harm him and so, before any harm could fall on him, he prayed to the Christ to forgive them. Then he prostrated himself before the cross and awaited death. Lo and behold, his enemies threw a spear at him through a window and killed him.

A heart of compassion and a soul of forgiveness was he. He is our Saint Canute.

The Egyptian saint

In a small village in Egypt he was born. His parents were rich. When he was twenty years old, both his parents died and he became the owner of a large estate. He had a younger sister. Both brother and sister were kind to each other and fond of each other. Both of them decided to lead the spiritual life.

One day this young man heard something in the church that transformed his consciousness: "Give everything to the poor and follow me, if you want to have your treasure in Heaven." He thought that this message was meant directly for him. So he gave away everything. His sister was glad that he did so. She joined a convent to lead a spiritual life. She became a nun.

He went into the desert to remove himself from worldly distractions. There he received spiritual instruction from several hermits. In the course of time, many people began to flock to him for spiritual guidance. When he was over fifty, he built a monastery. By that time, he had many devoted disciples and admirers. They all needed his advice. They all admired his inner depth.

He told them that all problems can be solved only through prayers. There is and there can be no other way. He told them, "We are afraid of the devil. The devil is afraid of us. The devil is afraid of us when we pray, especially when we love Jesus with all our heart and soul."

He lived a very long life. He ended his earthly existence in a cave at the age of 105. His was a life not only of God-service to man but also man-illumination for God. Discouragement was a stranger to him. Continuous enthusiasm, continuous zeal, continuous self-giving his aspiration-heart and dedication-life became.

He is our St Anthony of the Desert.

The choice of the two brothers

There were two brothers who were born in Italy. They had tremendous love for their religion, Christianity, and both of them tirelessly performed countless services for the needy.

These two brothers happened to be extremely close to one another. The Bishop of their district made them priests and they began to preach devotedly and unreservedly to the poor and the rich alike.

Fear could not torment them, although their enemies tried to kill them. When the Emperor Hadrian came to hear about these two brothers, he put them into prison and asked his soldiers to torture them mercilessly.

Then the Emperor informed the brothers that either they would have to give up their Christian faith totally or they would have to suffer unspeakably until the end in the hands of the soldiers.

The brothers gladly chose torture and suffering and did not abandon Christianity. These two brothers were Saint Faustinus and Saint Jovita.

Part VI — Stories about artists

TRN 34-50. Sri Chinmoy related these stories about some of the world's immortal artists in February and March 1980.

Two surprises plus one astonishment

Leonardo da Vinci, when a young boy, drew a picture of a strikingly powerful monster, belching fire and poison, then proudly placed it on a window ledge to surprise his father. When his father came home and saw the picture, he had the shock of his life. The monster was so vivid, so real!

Very shortly after that, his father got the opportunity to spring a surprise on the little Leonardo by enrolling him in an art class.

The Mother Earth did not want to remain in pin-drop silence. She astonished both father and son by making the son the most astonishingly immortal artist-man on earth.

Leonardo da Vinci's vision

Leonardo da Vinci had tremendous fondness for flying. He was all affection for birds. He used to buy them in large numbers only to set them free and watch them fly. He was fascinated by their flight.

For a long time, he wanted to make an aeroplane. With greatest difficulty, he succeeded in making a model of a flying machine that would be propelled by the wind, and he made up his mind that on a certain day he would fly. Alas, one of his pupils, Zoroaste de Peretolo, was clever enough or foolish enough to steal the aeroplane and he himself tried to fly it. As ill luck would have it, he went up a little and then fell down and paid the price. He broke one of his legs.

So the poor artist was saved from his own creation. But who can deny da Vinci's vision? He could not transform it into reality, but later on, human beings did make aeroplanes and fly in them.

Today's vision is tomorrow's reality. Vision may take time before it manifests itself into reality. But vision is always appreciable and admirable.

The immortalising smile

Leonardo da Vinci is truly immortal. He achieved wonders in many walks of life. Not only in the world of art, but also in the worlds of literature, the sciences, architecture, engineering and many other fields he became a real immortal. His most important and significant artistic work, which fascinates the entire world, is the Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa was the wife of an elderly nobleman. Da Vinci took quite a few days to paint her portrait. She used to come and sit before him, but she would never smile and she was never in a mood to be entertained. Da Vinci tried in so many ways to make her smile. Finally, he resorted to music and he hired a band of musicians to entertain her. The musicians played for a few days, but there was still no response from Mona Lisa.

One day, just for a fleeting second, she gave a faint smile, and da Vinci was able to catch it. That smile has immortalised her, immortalised the artist and immortalised the art. Artist and art have been immortalised by just a faint smile, a smile that has an enigmatic touch. Even now a soul-touch is there, and that soul-touch has conquered the heart of the world. Because of that smile, the artist and the art at once have touched Immortality's Shore and become immortal.

Michelangelo's fight

Michelangelo had a temper of the quickest. He used to quarrel and fight in season and out of season. A young sculptor named Torrigiani was terribly jealous of Michelangelo's ability. On his part, there was jealousy and, on Michelangelo's part, there was anger. So jealousy and anger fought together.

In the fight, Torrigiani struck Michelangelo mercilessly and broke his nose. As a result, Torrigiani was compelled to flee the city. Michelangelo's nose remained disfigured for the rest of his life.

The overnight trickster

Michelangelo loved to glorify the human body in its pristine form — that means, as natural as possible. He was wont to create his figures as God made them, with the fewest of clothes. He was ruthlessly assailed by certain moralists for his Last Judgement. A Vatican official felt that this particular painting was another name for a shocking and unspeakable experience. In order to console the poor official, Michelangelo made a few changes. He added a donkey's ears and a snake's tail. The immortal artist proved to be an overnight trickster.

Michelangelo and the Pope

Michelangelo and Pope Julius II were always in the habit of quarrelling. The artist would frequently find it impossible to comply with the Pope's requests or commands. Once the Pope asked Michelangelo to add gold to some figures. Michelangelo responded, "It cannot be. Holy men cannot wear gold. They are poor."

The Pope argued, "Why not? They can!"

The artist would not listen, but on this occasion Pope Julius did not want to fight. He was sick of fighting with Michelangelo for he knew that the artist had a temper of the quickest, the worst possible temper. So he forgave Michelangelo's outbursts and rewarded him for his extraordinary capacities as an artist.

Here the Pope valued the art, ignoring the shortcomings of the artist.

An unusual justice-light

An art-lover named Agnolo Doni commissioned Michelangelo to do a special painting of the Holy Family for his bride-to-be. The payment was to be seventy ducats. When Michelangelo completed the painting, he felt that it was a tremendous success and he sent it to Agnolo's house by messenger. Agnolo saw the painting and was greatly delighted. But all of a sudden, an unthinkable deception captured his mind. He gave the messenger forty ducats, instead of seventy, to give to Michelangelo.

When the messenger returned and gave Michelangelo the forty ducats, the artist became furious. He gave the money back to the messenger to return to Agnolo with a note: "I cannot put up with a despicable liar like you. I am demanding more money than was in our agreement, since you have not kept your promise. Therefore, you must give me thirty extra ducats."

This time the messenger came back from Agnolo with seventy ducats, which was the sum they had first agreed to. Michelangelo's anger reached its zenith. He said, "Agnolo, since you are not a man of principle, I shall have to deal with you in an unthinkable way. You must send me one hundred and forty ducats, double the amount on which we first agreed. For the liar, there is only one kind of medicine: an unusual justice-light."

Because Agnolo's wedding day was fast approaching and he needed the painting for his bride-to-be, he was compelled to give Michelangelo the full amount.

Fondness and oneness go together

Michelangelo was usually averse to leaving his name on his sculpture. But in the case of his beloved Pieta, he compelled the artist in him to leave his signature on the work. This is how it happened.

Once, a large number of strangers from Lombardy came to see his Pieta. They were all appreciation. In fact, they were wonderstruck. One of them wanted to know who the sculptor was. The immediate answer came from another in the gathering, "Who else could achieve this kind of miracle, if not our Gabo of Milan?"

Fortunately or unfortunately, Michelangelo happened to be on the scene. A most powerful sadness tortured his being and he cursed the ignorant world. So one night, when no human being was visible around his beloved Pieta he cheerfully and proudly carved his name on the work. He felt that his fondness for his immortal sculpture and his immortal oneness with it must needs go together.

The ploughman versus the Christ

There were two great artists from Florence —- Donatello and Filippo Brunelleschi. Once, when Donatello was quite young, he made a crucifix of wood and thought he had achieved nothing short of perfect perfection. He invited his dear friend Brunelleschi to offer his wise comment. Needless to say, inwardly he was dying for the best possible appreciation, which he felt he so rightly deserved. Alas, his dream-world was shattered to pieces when Brunelleschi said to him, "I see a ploughman on the cross instead of the Saviour."

Donatello was utterly mortified by this unexpected criticism from the older artist. He said, "You are a great judge! But let me see you do it yourself. You say I made a ploughman instead of Jesus Christ. Let me see your masterpiece of the crucifixion."

That very day Brunelleschi began working on his crucifix. In due course, Brunelleschi completed his sculpture. One day, by chance, he met with his dear friend Donatello in a grocery. Brunelleschi said to his friend, "Tonight you will have supper with me. Please do me a favour. I have bought these items and I have still more items to buy. Will you be good enough to carry these items to my house? I shall be coming home shortly."

Donatello gladly complied with his friend's request, carrying a few eggs and some cheese in his apron. Upon entering Brunelleschi's studio, he got the shock of his life. Perfection incarnate was Brunelleschi's sculpture of the crucifixion. Utterly amazed, he lost his outer senses and dropped the apron containing the eggs and cheese. Everything was smashed and all was perfect chaos before the immortal sculpture.

On his return, when Brunelleschi saw the great calamity, he said to his friend, "What is the matter with you? What are we going to have now for dinner?"

Donatello said, "Sorry, I have already had my dinner. Your supremely great achievement has fed me to my heart's content. I feel sorry for you that you have nothing to eat. Now, listen to my sincere heart. The difference between you and me is this: you know how to make the Christ and I know how to make a ploughman."

Tintoretto's entry

Four Italian artists were invited to make a design for a large mural, and eventually a selection would be made. While the other artists were labouring at their designs, Tintoretto, in secret, measured the actual size of the space. Then, not only secretly but also rapidly, he painted a great canvas and placed it in the exact place for the public to appreciate.

The officials who had invited him to enter the competition did not appreciate the artist's dishonest manner. They were extremely angry with him. How could he do this without being formally commissioned?

Tintoretto said to these officials: "Dear friends, this is how the artist in me works. Now either you buy it as a piece of art or take it as a small gift."

Rembrandt's love for his monkey

The great artist Rembrandt was extremely attached to his possessions. One of his possessions was a pet monkey. He was extremely fond of this monkey and, alas, when it died, he felt extremely miserable, to say the least. A strong desire haunted him for some time. He wanted to keep some kind of remembrance of this monkey.

Once, a couple came to Rembrandt's studio for their portrait. The artist did a very good job. Then he begged them to allow him to paint from memory a picture of his pet monkey in the portrait. The couple said, "No, it cannot be done. We do not want your monkey to be in the picture with us."

Rembrandt insisted and insisted, but the couple did not listen to his request. Nevertheless, he drew the monkey's picture in the portrait. As soon as they saw what he had done, the couple became furious. They left the artist's studio without taking the picture.

So Rembrandt's love for his monkey far surpassed his love for name, fame and money-power. And he cherished that painting for the rest of his life.

Rembrandt's oath

Rembrandt had a special way of painting. At times he would take an oath that he would not allow anyone to watch him paint. He wanted to work all by himself, in pin-drop silence. If anybody came near him, he would become furious.

He said to his friends and colleagues, "You think it is just because you are my friends, colleagues and students that I am behaving this way. But I tell you, it is not true. I will not give an audience even to the first monarch of the world when I do not want to see anybody.

"Rest assured, this is not my whim. This is my oath! When I do not want to do something, I will not do it. When I want something to be done, I will get it done by any means. Here I am telling you, even the greatest monarch of the world will not be able to see me while I am painting if I do not want to see him. In what way am I indebted to anybody on earth? Since I am not indebted, I am under no obligation to see the greatest monarch of the world. When I want to be all by myself, I am at perfect liberty to keep myself free."

Painful is the story of fate

Rembrandt worked very hard. He blessed the world with hundreds of painting-boons, etching-boons and drawing-boons. His achievements are truly immortal.

His painting, Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer, was sold for more than two million dollars. Alas, what a shocking stroke of cruel fate: penniless he died. A close friend of his offered $85.20 to meet with the cost of the burial.

Bengal's immortal artist: Nandalal Bose

When the great Bengali artist Nandalal Bose was a little boy, one day he saw a man drawing something on a wall. When he came nearer and saw that it was a beautiful picture, he requested the artist to draw something for him.

The artist said, "I cannot do anything for free. You have to give me some money."

So the little boy gave the artist three paise, which is the equivalent of about one tenth of an American cent. The artist took the three paise and drew two or three lines. The little boy said, "You have not completed the picture."

The man responded, "You gave me three paise. What more can you expect for three paise? If you give me more, then only will I draw more."

So the little boy gave the artist three more paise. Then the artist drew a few more lines, but still the picture was not complete.

"It can never be complete," the man said, "unless you give me more money."

The little boy kept giving the artist three paise at a time, and each time the artist would add something more to the picture. Finally, to his wildest surprise, the boy saw that the artist was drawing his portrait. The boy was so moved and amazed to see his own face so beautifully drawn. The artist was drawing with charcoal and water. Instead of a brush, he used rags.

Eventually, this little boy, Nandalal Bose, became a great, immortal artist himself. He also used charcoal, water and rags for some of his most important works. These were done in Santiniketan, which is so well-respected by millions for its literary, cultural and artistic life.

Santiniketan was founded by Rabindranath Tagore. He made Nandalal Bose the first head of the art department and this art department subsequently became famous throughout India.

The Japanese ink

Rabindranath Tagore lavished boundless affection and love on Nandalal Bose, and he was also fond of the artist Mukul Dey. Mukul Dey was a great admirer and student of Nandalal Bose. Nandalal Bose and Mukul Dey went to many countries with Tagore, and Tagore liked them immensely.

Once, Nandalal Bose gave a bottle of ink to Mukul Dey and said, "This ink was made in Japan."

In those days in India, any article from a foreign country created such fascination and was deeply appreciated. Mukul Dey was so excited and delighted. He thought, "This is such a nice thing. I will not use it. I will give it to Gurudev [meaning Tagore]. He will be very happy to use this."

Any object that is nice, people always wish to give to their dear ones. Because Mukul Dey was so fond of Tagore, he presented the ink to him.

When Tagore heard that the ink came originally from Nandalal Bose, whom he loved so much, he used the ink to compose a poem on Nandalal Bose. Tagore wrote the whole poem, but nothing was visible on the paper. Tagore and Mukul Dey thought that it would become visible in a few hours. But, O God, hours passed by, and still nothing could be seen.

Tagore asked Mukul Dey, "What happened? Nothing is coming out. I thought that Nandalal Bose was giving us something extraordinary, an ink which becomes visible only after some time."

So Mukul Dey went to Nandalal Bose. When Bose heard that Tagore had used the ink, he was thunderstruck! He was so embarrassed! "What have I done? What have I done?" he said.

Nandalal had never expected that the ink would go to Tagore; otherwise, he would never have dared to do this kind of thing. He gave it to Mukul Dey to pull his leg, but Mukul Dey took the gift seriously and presented the ink to Tagore, of all people. But Tagore also enjoyed that joke. Afterwards, he wrote out the poem again using proper ink.

Nandalal Bose abandons his shoes

Nandalal Bose was good friends with the great Mahatma Gandhi, who was highly venerated all over India and throughout the world. Once Gandhi and Bose went out for a walk to the beach. The artist entered into the water, but Gandhi stayed on the beach to take care of Nandalal's shoes because there were many people around and Gandhi did not want the shoes to be stolen. Gandhi usually liked to stroll along the beach, walking to and fro, but instead he just stood in front of the shoes, watching over them.

When the artist came out of the water, he was deeply embarrassed that Gandhi, who was so great, had had to look after his shoes while he was enjoying a swim. So he decided to give up wearing shoes.

Two vision-eyes

Tagore and Gandhi were good friends. They loved each other deeply. They admired each other unreservedly. Once, however, they entered into a very unpleasant conversation, a terribly heated argument. Indeed, it was a shocking experience to their followers and admirers. Some took Tagore's side, while others took Gandhi's side.

A follower of Gandhi pleaded with the great artist Nandalal Bose to take one side. He immediately expressed his utter incapacity: "I am an artist. I like all the colours deeply and equally. To me, these two supremely great souls are like two Vision-Eyes. I cannot prefer one Eye to the other. I love them deeply and need them equally."

Part VII — Stories about Indian spiritual luminaries

TRN 51-53. These stories by Sri Chinmoy are about Indian spiritual luminaries.

Shankaracharya's pride is hurt

These two stories are about Shankaracharya, India's superlative philosopher and spiritual figure, who lived over one thousand years ago. In those days, Shankaracharya and others used to enjoy debating to prove who was the greatest, who had boundless knowledge.

Shankaracharya defeated all his opponents, but one gave him some trouble. The name of this opponent was Bandanashastri and his wife's name was Bharatishastri.

Shankaracharya and Bandanashastri needed a judge for their debate. Bharatishastri, like her husband, was conversant with Vedic literature. So Bandanashastri said, "She will be by far the best judge," and Shankaracharya fully agreed.

The debate commenced and it took Shankaracharya three days to defeat Bandanashastri. When Bandanashastri lost, his wife said to Shankaracharya, "Now you have to accept my challenge. I want to challenge you."

Then Shankaracharya said, "Oh, please give me six months' time." He took six months to prepare himself and then he said, "Now I am ready." The debate began and with greatest difficulty he defeated Bharatishastri.

Shankaracharya had a religious ashram and after this debate he named it after her. His pride was deeply hurt that it took him such a long time to defeat her.

Shankaracharya receives wisdom from a woman

In the beginning, Shankaracharya did not pay attention to women. He felt that women were not suited to spirituality. Then, when he was about to lose the debate to Bharatishastri, it dawned on him that Mother Kali was on Lord Shiva's chest.

There are two ways to interpret Mother Kali's pose. Some say that Shiva was giving her all energy, all power, and that is why she was able to kill all the enemies; another way is to say that Shiva was dead and Kali was standing on his chest to revive him. So you can choose whichever explanation you prefer.

Anyway, Shankaracharya's pride was smashed. Now it happened that one day he was going to his own temple. Right on the steps near the entrance to the temple there was the dead body of a man and beside it the man's widow was bitterly crying and screaming.

Shankaracharya said to the widow, "Give way to me. I want to enter into the temple."

The widow said, "I know who you are. You are Shankara. Your philosophy is: 'Brahman is all-pervading. Everything is pervaded by Brahman; everything is pure consciousness.' This is the philosophy you preach. But do you practise it? You tell the whole world that the world is an illusion and only Brahman is real because Brahman is all-pervading. If everything is Brahman, then am I not That? Am I not Brahman? And this dead body of my husband, is it not Brahman also?"

Shankaracharya was shocked to hear her words. He knelt down at her feet. His devotees were stunned. He said to them, "She gave me the wisdom. If I am preaching that Brahman is all-pervading, then Brahman is inside this dead body and it is equally inside this widow."

So this is how Shankaracharya received wisdom from a woman. Then he wrote many, many poems all dedicated to the female Goddesses. He felt that he could not look down upon women, for they represent the Divine Mother.

King Janaka's palace catches fire

Prince Siddhartha gave up his kingdom to become Lord Buddha. In Indian history only one person has ruled his kingdom and, at the same time, realised God. His name was King Janaka.

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "Do not think everybody can become Janaka. He is one in a million. Every rule admits of exception. Janaka is the proof. Tell me if there can be another Janaka who was in the world and who realised God at the same time. There is nobody else like King Janaka. He is the only one to realise God while he was King because he was able to renounce everything."

King Janaka had a spiritual Master and he used to go and see this Master, like an ordinary seeker. One day, while Janaka was visiting this Master, someone deliberately set fire to his palace. The fire was raging out of control. Others who were nearby were poorer than the poorest. They had only loin cloths and the simple necessities of life. But they all left the Master's presence and ran to save what little they possessed. Meanwhile, King Janaka stayed with his Master.

The Master asked, "Why are you not concerned about saving your palace and all your precious possessions?"

King Janaka replied, "I have come here to acquire God-realisation. Do I need those things?"

The other so-called seekers who had come to learn from the Master all went back to save their loin cloths, but Janaka, who stood to lose everything, was only praying to God and thinking of God. And in the course of time he did realise God.