Thursday, July 29, 2010

a little story... a massive realisation

I heard this story several years ago. I think I realised some of it's true import only this morning!

Sage Narada was afflicted by an inflated ego one day. He started to think that he was perhaps the greatest devotee of Lord Narayana and that no one in the three worlds came close, for he always had the Lord’s name at the tip of his tongue and he started nor finished anything without taking the Lord’s name.

In order to hear this from the Lord himself, the Sage approached the Lord and asked, “Narayana! Oh Lord! Who in the three world’s is your greatest devotee?”.

Realising that Naradha’s ego was getting the better of him, the Lord said, “I would like you to spend a day with the man who is my greatest devotee.”

The Sage was taken slightly aback and said, “Where is this man?”

The Lord then pointed to a farmer on earth and said, “He is my greatest devotee”.

Narada was extremely curious to know what it was that this farmer was doing that had given him the title of “greatest devotee” - a title which he felt should really have belonged to him.

Duly, Sage Naradha descended from the heaven and decided to watch what it was that this farmer was doing that set him apart.

The Farmer woke before dawn, he then said, “Om Namo Narayana” three times then continued with his daily tasks. He went out to the fields, worked tirelessly. He ate, he spent the day doing all his duties and after a very busy day (during which he did not even mention the Lord’s name once!) he came back home. Before retiring to sleep, once again, he recited the Lord’s name three times and fell asleep.

Seeing this, the sage felt that the Lord was indeed joking. He was rather flustered, for the Sage always had the Lord’s name at the tip of his tongue while the farmer only thought of the Lord twice in an entire day! He approached the Lord Narayana who looked at him and smiled. Knowing what was going through the sage’s head, the Lord said, “Did you see my greatest devotee? Do you not agree that he is my greatest devotee?”

The sage was quite annoyed now and said, “I do not understand how someone who only takes your name twice a day can be your greatest devotee! I am forever reciting your name and am forever thinking of you!”

Lord Narayana then said, “I see your point. However, let me ask you to do a small task for me.” Saying this, the Lord gave the sage a small cup filled to the brim with oil. The Lord then said, “Take this cup around the three worlds, but you must ensure that not a drop of oil spills.”

Seeing this as an opportunity to redeem his title, the sage took the cup and slowly walked around the three worlds.

After travelling around the three worlds, the sage returned. He had not spilt a single drop of oil. The cup was as full as it had been when the Lord had given it to him.

The sage looked at the Lord and said, “I have done as you asked! Surely I am your greatest devotee?”

To this, the Lord said, “So, during your trip around the three worlds how many times did you utter my name?”

The sage hung his head in shame, for he had been concentrating on not spilling the oil and as a result he had forgotten about the Lord.

The Lord then said, “You are a sage – you have nothing to tie you to any of the worlds. You are bound to no one. That farmer is a part of the world. He has many duties which he must do each day – much like carrying a cup of oil around without spilling a single drop. Despite that, he thinks of me before he starts his duties for the day and thanks me at the end of the day. That is why he is my greatest devotee.”

I was thinking of that story today. The smallest of gestures - done in sincerety beat the greatest of feats done purely to impress!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Search for Contentment

“"... all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hitler-'n'-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people."

— Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat, Pray, Love”

People often do things more for others than themselves. When you constantly live to please others, at one point you start to lose yourself. You become defined by your actions towards others rather than your own regard for yourself. For example, you become the person who “can’t refuse”, rather than the person, who “won’t refuse”.

The more worrying thing about the above is that at a certain stage “self-sacrifice” starts appealing to you. With time, you start associating your unhappiness with the happiness of others.

When written in plain view as done above, it makes me see just how wrong, stupid and utterly disrespectful (to the "others") it is to think that. I have fallen into the above trap many times and have surely seen some of the people that I love most also trip.

I am reminded yet again that you need to love yourself before you can love the world.