Yogi Stories 10
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"I once knew a woman who had a child that she was so very careful about - she made crosses over it and used castor and everything else she had heard of, for there was plenty of witchcraft thereabout. But one night as she lay in bed with the child by her side near the edge of the bed, her husband, who was lying near the wall, suddenly woke up and saw such as red glare all over the room, just like when one stirs the fire.
And sure enough, there was someone stirring the fire, for when he looked
toward the fireplace, he saw an old man sitting there raking the logs together. He was an
ugly brute - uglier than I can describe, and he had a long grey beard. When he had got the
fire to give a good light, he began stretching his arms out for the child, but he could not
move from the stool he sat on. His arms grew longer and longer, till they reached halfway
across the room, but he didn't stir from the fire and couldn't reach the child.
"I say, Peter, why don't you come?" asked a voice outside.
"Hold your tongue, woman!" said the old man who was sitting by the fire, "they have been crossing and fiddling over this youngster, so I can't get it."
"Well, you might as well give up, so we can be off," said the voice again. It was the old man's wife; she had been waiting outside to receive the youngster." [Eswm 246-47, edited]
The story is told by an expert story-teller, an old women who was out to impress gullible ones in Norway in the early part of the 1800s. Folklore is rich with stories of this sort [Link].
Inger Broberg shows that parts of Scandinavian folklore once was firmly believed in, like gospel, as part of the "alternative religion" that was around since the time of Vikings and their myths. [Daf]
To the degree grown-ups think tall tales are good for something, including family entertainment through exaggerations and surreal elements, it may be remembered and much humouring too, instead of giving rise to conflicts and religious wars.
Further, if "no one must be coerced into Heaven", what has happened? Baptism of children came about during the reign of Charlemagne around AD 800. "How the sapling bends, so grows the tree [Ap 523].
Who are grabbing innocent children who cannot defend themselves? Hardly the elves; we can be rather sure of that.
One day king Cloud Hue summoned his ministers of state and addressed them.
"Honourable gentlemen," he began, "we have an enemy - a person of determination, and he knows how to choose his time too. At nightfall he wreaks havoc in our ranks. Thus, which of these options should be make use of? Begin a retreat or make a stand, seek allience or sow discord in his ranks?"
The ministers answered, "Your Majesty has spoken wisely."
Cloud Hue then began consulting with each of his minsters in private. Their names were Live Again, Live Well, Live Along, Live On, and Live Long.
Live Long said, "I knows of no test that lays down you ought to fight a powerful foe. A rain cloud never moves ahead if contrary winds prevail."
Live Well said, "Since the enemy is cruel and unscrupulous, the prospect of peace with him should not be entertained. Therefore my counsel is to go to war with the enemy."
After listening to this view, the king turned to Live Along, who said, "Our only option is withdrawal. Moving out takes two forms; retreat, or flight, that's one. Marching forwards thirsting for victory, that's another. But all times are deemed favourable for a surprise attack on a foe dogged by disaster and vulnerable, th chinks in his armour clearly showing.
Our present plight calls for withdrawal, O king, and maybe reculer pour mieux sauter. A ram draws back to butt more fiercely also."
Having listened to these words of Minister Live Along, the king now turned to Live on, who said,
"By banding together the weak can be up to unassailable by a powerful foe. In union is strength. Trees densely packed in groves and firmly rooted, may stand tall. But a lone man, heroic in the extreme, is regarded easy prey by foes who soon hem him in."
Cloud Hue turned to Live Long, who said,
"Try to stay put right here and seeka powerful ally whose strength could offset the enemy's. You know the saying:
The wind is a friend to the forest fire.
However, allegiance with weak ones can also provide one security. As the saying goes:
As a slender, swaying bamboo
Who is not ennobled by the society of the eminent? A drop of water on a lotus-leaf takes on the lustre of a pearl. So let us go for an allience."
Cloud Hue now turned to the much elder councellor Live Firm who was farseeing, and who said,
"Whatever your ministers have proposed here, my son, they have done it in full conformity with the teaching of the text on policy. Each is appropriate for its own good time. But the present time seems to be a time to practice double-dealing as the proverb puts it:
Always harbour deept distrust toward a powerful and evil enemy. By offering a tempting bait and thereby instilling confidence in him while remaining cautious oneself, the enemy can be easily extirpated.
As we have heard: "Men skilled in diplomacy do encourage the enemy they wish to see destroyed, to grow and prosper a while." Therefore, my son, resort to double-dealing and remain secure where you are. And what's more, if the smallest chink in his armour appears, you will notice it and destroy him," concluded Live Firm. "And don't forget to launch spies against enemy dignitaries, let them keep a watchful eye on your behalf."
However, and this goes much deeper: "A priest who knows no ritual and a barber who hankers after wealth, are both to be avoided." Therefore, let us consider someone else to be the king.
Then they chose a night-owl, till someone asked,
"What good is this fellow? Even granting he has virtues, when you already have a king, why think of another if your king has good means of coping and may bring about the desired aims?
Further, and this is good to think of, "Rather revel in riches than utter a lie. If that is how you feel, you should return to Wealthyville."
Then they chose another. And they may go on like that till filled with the effects of perils and misfortunes. [Pan 267-82, extracts]
SPIRITUAL progress is possible without renouncing " woman and gold ", that is, desires and wealth. At times one enters different moods and volitions in the matter, though:
Once Ramakrishna went to the Registry office to register some land which was in the name of Raghuvir*. The officer asked him to sign his name; but he did not do it because he couldn't feel that it was "his" land. He was shown much respect and presented with mangoes at the place, but he couldn't carry them home, and said why:
"A renouncer cannot lay up things."
* The tutelary deity at the ancestral home of Ramakrishna. (Parts of this abbreviated text differs from that of Tas 116, but not his overall teachings]
For others, such as his follower Girish Ghosh, he ordained very different strategies. On the threshold of youth, the very bright Girish began to drift into drunkenness, debauchery, waywardness, and obstinacy, and did not find it necessary to hide his weaknesses. He later became known as the father of the Bengali theatre . . .
He wrote later how Sri Ramakrishna had transformed his bohemian nature - even after he had loaded Ramakrishna with insults, been drinking in his presence, and taking astounding liberties. Afterwards Girish was smitten with anguish and remorse, and some of Ramakrishna's devotees were red-hot angry with Ghosh.
Ramakrishna knew that at heart Girish was tender, faithful and sincere, and would not allow Girish to give up the theatre. And when a devotee asked him to tell Girish to give up drinking, the Master sternly replied: "That is none of your business. He who has taken charge of him will look after him . . . I tell you, drinking will not affect him."
Ramakrishna never asked Girish to give up alcohol - but to dedicate it to the divine - with the result that Girish in time broke the habit.
❖ Different strokes for different folks.
A MAN had two sons. The father sent them to a preceptor to learn the knowledge of Brahman (the Godhead). After a few years they returned from their preceptor's house and bowed low before their father. Wanting to measure the depth of their knowledge of Brahman, he first questioned the older of the two boys. "My child, "he said " you have studied all the scriptures. Now, tell me, what is the nature of Brahman?"
The boy began to explain Brahman by reciting various texts from the Vedas. The father did not say anything.
Then he asked the younger son the same question. But the boy remained silent and stood with eyes cast down. He said nothing.
The father was pleased and said to him: "My child, you have understood a little of Brahman. What It is cannot be expressed in words." [Tas 161, modified]
❖ This approach will probably not help you through your university exams. What we are confronted with, however, is a valid Zen issue as well, and it is reflected in very many koans (conundrums, Zen riddles). [Cf. Zazd; Zazi; Zasm; Zasp; Zasr (5 volumes of koans)]
- quite as told by Ramakrishna
A BRAHMIN (member of the fourth caste) was laying out a garden. He looked after it day and night. One day a cow strayed into the garden and browsed on a mango sapling that the brahmin used to take special care of. When he saw the cow destroying his favourite plant, the brahmin became wild with rage, and gave such a severe beating to the animal that it died of the injuries received. The news soon spread like wildfire that the brahmin had killed the sacred animal. But when anyone attributed the sin of that act to him, the brahmin, who professed himself to be a Vedantin, denied the charge, saying:
"No, I have not killed the cow; it is my hand that had done it; and as god Indra is the presiding deity of the hand, it is he who has incurred the sin of killing the cow, not I."
Indra, in his heaven, heard of this. He assumed the shape of an old brahmin, and coming to the owner of the garden, said, "Sir, whose garden is this?"
The brahmin: "Mine."
Indra: "It is a beautiful garden. You have got a skilful gardener; for see how neatly and artistically he has planted the trees."
Brahmin: "Well, sir, that is all my work. The trees were planted under my personal supervision and direction."
Indra: "Very nicely done, indeed! Who has laid out this path? It is very well-planned and neatly executed."
Brahmin: "All that has been done by me."
Then Indra said with folded hands, "When all these things are yours, and when you take credit for all the work done in this garden, it is not proper that poor Indra should be made responsible for killing the cow."
(Tas, no. 46, with a few minor changes)
ONCE a man told another, "When I went into the wood, I saw a green animal."
Another man contradicted him and insisted that it was yellow. Others arrived and contended that it was reddish, grey, violet, blue, and so on. At last they started quarrelling among themselves. To settle the dispute they all went to the tree. They saw a man sitting under it. On being asked, he replied:
"Yes, I live under this tree and I know the animal very well. Sometimes it looks red, sometimes yellow, and blue, violet, grey and so on. It is a chameleon."
Ramakrishna said "God reveals Himself to seekers in various forms and aspects. God has attributes; then again none. It's easy to fall under the sway of futile argument." [Tas 169-70, abr.]
Many religious wars have had their beginnings in fairly different outlooks among founders and prominent ones, coupled by fanaticism. If the social climate is not tolerant or laissez-faire enough, conflicts may be formed and "frozen" into ostracism and enmities even for thousands of years. So do yourself a favour; ask for good proofs of things first, if possible.
Ap: Mieder, Wolfgang (main ed.), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback) New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Daf: Boberg, Inger M. Dansk folketradition i tro og digtning og deraf afhængig skik. (Danmarks Folkeminder 72). København: Munksgaard, 1962.
Eswm: Asbjørnsen, Peter. East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1995.
Pan: Rajan, Chandra, tr. Visnu Sarma: The Panchatantra. London: Penguin Classics, 1995.
Tas: Ramakrishna. Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.
Zazd: Blyth, Reginald Horace. Zen and Zen Classics, Vol 1. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1960.
Zazi: Blyth, Reginald Horace. Zen and Zen Classics, Vol 2. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964.
Zazm: Blyth, Reginald Horace. Zen and Zen Classics, Vol 3. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1970.
Zazp: Blyth, Reginald Horace. Zen and Zen Classics, Vol 4. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1966.
Zazr: Blyth, Reginald Horace. Zen and Zen Classics, Vol 5. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1966.
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