Finally, it is

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Three Stories

Today, I am writing three short stories from book "Stories for parents, children and grandchildren" by Paulo Coelho. Each one brings forth one important message in life. Would be good if we can discuss it.

1. Importance of cat in meditation

A great Zen master, in charge of the monastery of Mayu Kagi, owned a cat, which was the real love of his life. During meditation classes, he always kept the cat by his side, in order to enjoy its company as much as possible.

One morning, the master, who was very old, was found dead, the oldest disciple took his place. In homage to the memory of former teacher, the new master decided to allow the cat to continue attending the classes on Zen Buddhism.

Some disciples from neighborhood monasteries, who traveled widely in the region, discovered that, in one of the temples, a cat took part in the meditations. The story began to spread. Many years passed. The cat died, but the students at the monastery were so used to its presence that they acquired another cat. Meanwhile, the other temples began introducing cats into their meditation classes. They believed that the cat was the one actually responsible for Mayu Kagi’s fame and for the quality of his teaching, forgetting what an excellent teacher the former master had been.

A generation passed, and technical treatises on the importance of cat in meditation began to be published. A university professor developed a thesis, accepted by the academic community, that the cat had the ability to increase human concentration and to eliminate negative energy. And thus, for a century, the cat was considered to be an essential part of the study of Zen meditation in the region.

Then a master arrived who was allergic to cat hair, and he decided to remove the cat from his daily practices with the students. Everyone protested, but the master insisted. Since he was a gifted teacher, the students continued to make progress, despite the cat’s absence.

Gradually, monasteries, always in search of new ideas and weary of having to feed so many cats – began to remove cats from the classroom. Over the next twenty years, revolutionary new theses were written, bearing titles like “the importance of meditation without a cat” or “balancing mediation by power of one’s mind alone and without the aid of animals.”

Another century passed, and the cat vanished completely from meditation ritual in that region. But it took two hundred years for everything to return to normal, and all because, during that time, no one thought to ask why the cat was there.

“How many of us, in our own lives, ever dare to ask: why do I behave in such and such a way? In what we do, how far are we too using futile cats that we do not have the courage to get rid of because we were told that the cats were important in keeping everything running smoothly?”

~ ~ ~

2. How the path was made

One day, a calf needed to cross an area of forest in order to return to its field. Being an irrational animal, it forged a tortuous, curving path, going up hill and down dale.

The following day, a dog passed that way and used the same path to cross the forest. Then it was the turn of a sheep, the leader of a flock, who , seeing the path already opened, led his companions along it.

Later men began to use the path too, they came and went , turning to right and left, having to crouch down and to avoid obstacles, all the while complaining and cursing and quite rightly too. But they did nothing about creating an alternative.

After all this intensive use, the path became a small road along which labored poor, heavily laden animals, obliged to spend three hours which, had they not followed the path forged by the calf, could easily have been covered in thirty minutes.

Many years passed, and the little road became the main street of a town and later the principal avenue of a city. Everyone complained about the traffic, because the road followed the worst possible route.

Throughout all this, the wise old forest laughed to see how blindly men follow the path already made, never asking them if that is indeed the best choice.

~ ~ ~

3. the law and the fruit

Fruit was very scarce in the desert. God summoned one of his prophets and said:
”Each person should be allowed to eat only one piece of fruit a day.”

The custom was obeyed for generations, and the ecology of the area was preserved. Since the uneaten fruit bore seeds, other trees grew up. Soon that whole region became very fertile the envy of the cities.

However, faithful to the order an ancient prophet had passed on to their ancestors, the people continued to eat only one piece of fruit a day. Moreover, they would not allow the inhabitants of other towns to enjoy each year’s abundant crop of fruit. The result: the fruit rotted on the ground.

God summoned a new prophet and said: let them eat as much fruit as they like, and ask them to share out the surplus with their neighbors.

The prophet arrived in the city with this new message, but so deeply rooted was the custom in their hearts and minds that the city’s inhibits stoned him.

As time passed, the young people began t o question this barbarous custom, but since the tradition of the elders were untouchable, they decided instead to abandon their religion. That way they could eat as much fruit as they liked and give the rest to those who needed it.

The only people who still believe in old custom believed themselves to be most holy. In fact they were merely incapable of seeing that the world changes and that we must change with it.

~ ~ ~

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sharing our part

I got many good comments on my post on charity. Here is the one from Puneet.

You wrote: “Why do we happily give away all for one’s sake? The only answer is Love.” Sadly today it is usually not "LOVE" but prospects of future returns (widespread popularity, favors from other person etc...) that catalyze a person in "daan" of any kind. I guess the number of people who do "gupt daan" isn’t appreciable. So in other words, the basic nature you talk about is perishing faster than you know.

Everyone is driven by one’s nature. We all have basically three vrittis ( Satva, Rajas, Tamas) with varying degree. Depending on the principle vritti, our execution and expression of Karma happens. There are some slokas about charity in bhagvad Gita. Let us ponder on them.

Thus charity should be given to a person who is engaged in God consciousness. (10.5)

According to Vedic literature, it is said that charity should be given to the brahmanas and, the sannyasi - who renounces life. As they are always engaged in higher spiritual service, they have no time to earn their livelihood. The sannyasis beg from door to door, not for money but for missionary purposes. The system is that they go from door to door to awaken the householders from the slumber of ignorance. Because the householders are engaged in family affairs and might forger their actual purpose in life-- awakening their God consciousness--it is the work of the sannyasis to go to the householders and encourage them to be God conscious.

A highly thoughtful system!

The Bhagavan said, "According to the modes of nature acquired by the embodied soul, one's faith can be of three kinds - goodness, passion or ignorance. Now hear about these. (17.2)

According to one's existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired. (17.3)

Even food of which all partake is of three kinds, according to the three modes of material nature. The same is true of sacrifices, austerities and charity. Listen and I will tell you of the distinctions of these. (17.7)

That gift, which is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return, is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness. (17.20)

In the Vedic literature, charity , given to a person engaged in spiritual activities is recommended. Spiritual perfection of self is always a consideration. Such charities should be given without any longing of return. Charity to the poor should be given out of compassion.

Charity is for the purification of the heart. If charity is given with proper Bhaav, as described, it leads one to advanced spiritual life.

Charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for results, or in a grudging mood, is said to be charity in the mode of passion. (17.21)

The persons who had Rajas as the principle mode does charity for popularity or some return. Here, the very idea of spiritual gaining by giving charity is lost. The person might gain some material things. It is all one’s choice due to one’s innate tendency and sanskara.

Charity performed at an improper place and time and given to unworthy persons without respect and with contempt is charity in the mode of ignorance. (17.22)

If a person gives charity to a suitable person without respect and without attention, that sort of charity is also said to be in the mode of darkness. Here, you may lighten someone’s (taker’s) life but you may still not gain anything worth.

Though it is always recommended to be in the mode of goodness, people will be in all three modes. And it is still good on the part that needy is getting help. The only person who is not gaining is donor itself. So, something is still better than nothing and even if our initial mode lies in passion or ignorance, we are ultimately purified once the time comes.

Sharing deep insights is relatively easy because when you get deep insights, you also get wisdom to share it. Wealth sharing is expected in physical domain where people might not have such insights.

Sharing is an expression of the oneness of existence. All we can do is to allow it to shine through all the works we do… after all, we do everything to be purified…

Everything in life is a matter of sharing our souls...