Shantanand Saraswati is the elder Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, in Northern India. One of the ways in which His Holiness has taught the ancient tradition of knowledge and meditation is through stories, myths, and incidents from his own experience in contemporary life. The following selections are from a new publication that presents some of the best of these stories, The Man Who Wanted to Meet God.
The Indian and the African Money lender
An Indian went to Africa. When his money ran out, he went to a moneylender to ask for a loan. Just then, there was a death in an Indian family living in that neighborhood and the members of the family were weeping. The moneylender asked the Indian why his countrymen were weeping. The Indian replied that it was a custom in his country to weep when there was a death in the family.
The moneylender asked again, “And what do you do when there is a birth in the family?”
The Indian said, “Then we rejoice.”
The moneylender said, “Then, if you are the sort of person who rejoices when receiving a thing but weeps when you have to return it, I certainly won’t lend you any money!”
The Businessmen and the bar of gold
Once four businessmen set out on a trip carrying firearms for protection. They met a ma-
hatma (holy man) on the way, who warned them not to go that way as it was dangerous. They did not listen to him and said that they were well-equipped to face any danger. As they went farther, they found a bar of gold lying on the ground. Rejoicing at their find, they wrapped it up in a piece of cloth with the idea of dividing it among themselves.
As night fell, two of them went to a neighboring village to buy some food, while two stayed behind. When they had gone, those who stayed behind felt tempted to keep the bar for themselves and conspired to shoot the other two when they returned with the food.
The two who had gone to the village had a hearty meal in a cafe; while returning with the food for the other two; they also succumbed to the temptation of keeping the bar for themselves and plotted to do away with their friends. Therefore they mixed poison with the food they were taking back to them.
When they returned with the food, the other two shot them dead. They were hungry, so they at once devoured the food brought for them. They fell asleep, never to wake again!
Next morning the same mahatma passed by on his way to the river for his daily bath. He found the four lying dead, and the bar of gold wrapped in a cloth. He threw the gold into the river so that it might not do further mischief.
The Death of Bala in the Ramayana
There is an example from the Ramayana. At one stage a man called Bala was killed and his
wife Tara felt very sad. Rama, who was responsible for the death of this man, was present. He did not want to kill the man and cause the woman grief, so he wanted to console her. He asked what it was that gave her so much sorrow, whom did she really love, who was the real man she wanted union with? Was it the physical man she loved, the subtle man, or the true Self himself? So Tara had to think. Rama said that if she loved the physical man, he was still right in front of her, and she could still love him, but if she loved the true Self of this man, then as it was quite certain that the Self lived all the time everywhere, could she not see that his Self was within her Self. Was there no unity? Had she forgotten him? Tara understood the question and the situation. She said that she certainly loved the Self, not the body, and with this came the understanding that she had not lost her husband, only the living body which anyway had to go one day.
The Dhobi Man and the Donkey
There was a dhobi (washerman), who used many donkeys to carry his load. One day he fell
ill and asked his son to load the donkeys and take them with the wash. The boy loaded them and tried to move them towards the river but the donkeys would not budge an inch. Seeing they weren’t tied up at all, he was surprised at what happened and went to ask his father who said, “Oh, I should have told you, in the evening I touch their feet as if I am trying to bind them with a rope, and in the morning touch them again as if I have undone them.” The boy also did this, and then each donkey started to move. The fact is that the donkeys all thought they were not free and therefore they could not walk. This is the condition of all human beings. The ignorance is illusory and to remove this one must undergo another illusion in order to realize one’s real state; this is essential and we cannot evade it.
The Man and His Parrot
There was a man who was interested in listening to a saintly teacher, but never bothered to practice his instructions. His talking parrot once asked him where he went each day. He replied that he liked to know about God and liberation etc., so he went to hear a saintly man. The parrot requested him to ask the saint on his behalf, “How can I be liberated?” The man put the question to the saint and the saint immediately fell down as if suddenly unconscious. People were very angry with the man for having put such an awkward question and asked him to leave at once. When the man came home he told the whole story to the parrot. The next morning the parrot was found lying motionless in his cage. His master took him to be dead and opened the cage to remove him. The parrot immediately flew up to a branch of a tree and said, “I got the saint’s message and now I am free. It would be good for you if you had acted on the instructions given.”
Copyright ©1987, 1992, 1996 by the Society for the Study of Normal Psychology. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Bell Tower, a division of Crown Publishers, Inc.