Yogi Stories 3
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AN OLD KING that lived under the Jotunheimen mountains in Hardanger, used to have the latter half of Snorre's Heimskringla read in front of him every day instead of having a daily shave. The jolly servant who read it for him, used to round off each session by asking, "King, have you understood this text as I do?"
And each day the king talked back, "One had better understand using the sword and fist first."
The servant would then go to his private quarters and say to himself, "Why does the king talk to me that way? Doesn't he understand a word I say? I read and try to explain so plainly, and all he says is, 'One had better understand using the sword and fist first.'"
To ponder and puzzle greatly in this way became the fixed mental discipline of the servant as years went by. Then one morning he noticed that everything outside wasn't there, not even fame and the ordinary world, so he tried to stop living in the ordinary world. He left home and dropped an unreal note to the king, "Now I see clearly!"
But the king muttered, "If he continues to believe and behave like that, he will have to scratch for his daily bread like a fool."
❖ Outside is the ordinary world, no matter how unreal it is called by some.
There was a man by name Thorarin Nefiulfson. He was a remarkably ugly man with great ugly hands, and his feet were still uglier. Thorarin was in Tunsberg when he was known to King Olaf. The king had Thorarin with him as a guest for some days, and Thorarin even slept in the king's lodgings.
One morning early the king awoke while the others were still sleeping. The sun had newly risen in the sky, and there was much light within. The king saw that Thorarin had stretched out one of his feet from under the bed-clothes, and he looked at the foot a while. In the meantime the others in the lodging awoke; and the king said to Thorarin, "I have been awake for a while, and have seen a sight which was worth seeing; and that is a man's foot so ugly that I do not think an uglier can be found in this merchant town." Thereupon he told the others to look at it, and see if it was not so; and all agreed with the king.
When Thorarin observed what they were talking about, he said, "There are few things for which you cannot find a match, and that may be the case here."
The king said, "I would rather say that such another ugly foot cannot be found in the town, and I would lay any wager on it."
Then said Thorarin, "I am willing to bet that I shall find an uglier foot still in the town."
The king: "Then he who wins shall have the right to get any demand from the other he chooses to make."
"Be it so," said Thorarin. Thereupon he stretched out his other foot from under the bed-clothes, and it was in no way handsomer than the other, and moreover, wanted the little toe. "There," said Thorarin, "see now, king, my other foot, which is so much uglier; and, besides, has no little toe. Now I have won."
The king replied, "That other foot was so much uglier than this one by having five ugly toes on it, and this has only four; and now I have won the choice of asking something from you."
"The sovereign's decision must be right," said Thorarin. [From Saga of Olav Haraldson (St. Olaf), Heimskringla, ch. 86.]
❖ Great confidence does not always depend on how we look like.
TWENTY monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master. Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter where he insisted on meeting her privately.
Eshun did not reply. Next day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said:
"If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now." [From 101 Zen Stories. [www.101zenstories.com/] [Cf. Zf 20-21]
❖ A particular privilege may bode inconvenience, after all.
A RICH nobleman once opened the theatres without charge to the people, and gave a public notice that he would handsomely reward any person who invented a new amusement for the occasion. Various public performers contended for the prize. Among them came a clown well known for his jokes, and said that he had a kind of entertainment which had never been brought out on any stage before.
This report being spread about made a great stir, and the theatre was crowded in every part. The clown appeared alone upon the platform, without any apparatus or confederates. The very sense of expectation caused an intense silence. He suddenly bent his head towards his bosom and imitated the squeaking of a little pig so admirably with his voice that the audience declared he had a porker under his cloak, and demanded that it should be shaken out.
That was done and nothing was found. Then they cheered the actor, and loaded him with the loudest applause.
A countryman in the crowd, observing all that has passed, said,
"So help me, he shan't beat me at that trick!".
All of a sudden he proclaimed that he would do the same thing next day, but in a far more natural way. That day a still larger crowd assembled in the theatre, but now favourite partiality had set in. Yes, the audience even began to ridicule the countryman before he had shoed what he was good for. And at last both of the performers appeared on the stage.
The clown grunted and squeaked away first, and was heartily applauded and cheered by the spectators. Next the countryman set about. He purported that he concealed a little pig beneath his clothes. He also contrived to take hold of and pull the pig's ear so that the pig squeaked. But the crowd cried out with one consent that the clown had given a far more exact imitation.
"Let the countryman be kicked out of the theatre," they demanded.
Here the rustic took out a little pig from his cloak and showed by how terribly mistaken they had been.
"Look here," he said, "this shows what sort of judges you are." [From Aesop: "The buffoon and the countryman"]
❖ To do seemingly "lesser things" for recognition helps public recognition too.
In an Indian village a boy was born. His parents named him Marul Neekkiyar. He had a sister called Tilakavati. When Tilakavati was twelve, the parents decided to give her in marriage to a commander in the king's army. Just then there was a war. Her fiancé went away saying he would marry her when he returned.
In the meantime, the parents of Marul and Tilakavati passed away, and the children were left alone. After some time they heard that the commander had died in the war. Afterwards Tilakavati did not want to live any more, but her brother turned her from killing herself by threatening to commit suicide if she did. She wanted her brother to live and prosper, so she gave up the idea of being burned alive.
Marul came to see that material wealth was transitory. The money, gold and other valuables he had, he gave away, became a wanderer, left home and on his wanderings once came to Cuddalore. There he joined a cult and became the head of their monastery and a famous poet too.
Tilakavathi, who was staying at her native place, heard this news and felt sad. She went to their family deity to save her brother from following the ways of the heretics. One day God appeared to her in a dream and said, "Tapaswini, don't be glum. In his last birth, your brother wandered about but did not meditate full well. There was such a flaw in his practice. As a result of that, he has now joined that cult. I shall save him by making him suffer from a stomach ache."
At the same moment Marul Dharmasena got a violent stomach ache. Several people tried to cure him, but in vain. Marul could not bear the agony any longer. He then remembered his sister and sent a man for her, hoping she could cure him. Bu she refused to go to the headquarters of a cult. On hearing that, Dharmasena left that place with two servants one night and headed for his native place.
When he tapped at the door and called his sister, she recognised his voice and opened the door. He fell at her feet and asked her to forgive him for being so cultish. Overjoyed, she received him with open arms andtook him to the local temple. There Marul began composing praises in Tamil, and his stomach ache ceased at once.
Soon after he resumed wandering and singing his own songs again. In due course he reached Sirkali, as he had heard that a Sambandar at the place had become a saint by drinking milk when he was a little child. Sambandar with his followers went out to meet him when he was coming. As soon as they met, Marul and Sambandar started wandering from temple to temple together while singing Marul praises of the Lord.
[Ramana Maharsi. Spiritual Stories, p. 97-9, retold]
Fa: Fadiman, Clifton, ed. The Faber Book of Anecdotes. London: Faber and Faber, 1985.
Zf: Reps, Paul. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, updated 1997.
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