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Archive for March, 2013

Rise Higher

(Photo Credit http://jasonslavin.com)

A Sufi mystic lived in a wild and dangerous dark forest in a very small hut along with his wife. It was a very thick forest with spooky noises.

One day there was torrential rain throughout the day, which continued in the night also. In the middle of the night somebody knocked at the door.

The wife was sleeping near the door. There was not much space inside, just enough for two persons to sleep.

The husband said, “The night is dark, the forest has many wild animals. Somebody might have lost his way. Open the door. He certainly needs refuge.”

“But there is no space inside our hut, only for two of us to sleep.” Retorted his wife.

Laughing over it, the mystic said, “It is not a palace of a king, however big the palace may be, it is always smaller than a poor mystic’s hut. If two can sleep, three can sit perfectly well. We will sit, talk and tell stories, and sing songs. It is a beautiful night. Even the rain is creating certain music. Open the door !”

When the wife opened the door, there entered a visitor drenched with water and said, “I am sorry to disturb you. I got lost, and there is no light except in this hut. I know it is small, but there was no other way. Outside life is full of danger as the wild animals are roaming everywhere.”

The mystic heartily said, “No problem, two can sleep, three can sit. You are welcome. We will know many things from you about the world; and we will offer you our songs, and the night will pass this way. Please close the doors and be at ease. You have graced us; you have given us a chance to welcome a guest; you have made us richer.”

All of them sat together, while the mystic sang a melodious song. Just then there was again a knock at the door.

The mystic said, “You are close to the door, please open it. Somebody needs refuge.”

But the man who was asking for refuge just a few minutes before, became angry. He said, “What do you mean ? There is no space.”

The mystic replied, “It is not a palace of a king, which is always short of space. It is a small hut of a mystic. We three can sit comfortably, but four will have to sit a little tight, more close to each other. And it is really a joy to feel each other’s warmth and love, and anyhow the cold night is almost half way through. So you open the doors ! And remember, a few minutes before you were in the same position.”

Now as there was no alternative left, the man opened the door. Another man who had lost his way in the forest said, “Excuse me, I am absolutely helpless; otherwise I would not have given you trouble. I can see that such a small space is already overcrowded.”

The mystic said, “No problem. We will sit a little close to each other. The gaps between the three can be adjusted to accommodate the four. You are welcome. Sit down and close the door.”

Now the hut was completely packed. The mystic started singing another song, while there was another knock on the door, this time it was a different one.

Everyone was shocked. They now knew very well that whoever was outside the hut would be accommodated by the mystic. “Open the door,” said the mystic, “he is one of my friends, a wild donkey.”

All the guests and the wife were irritated as they said, “This is beyond tolerance. Do you want to bring in a donkey in this place where there is no space left even for sitting comfortably?”

The mystic said, “How many times do I have to remind you that this is a poor mystic’s hut. There is always space. One has just to find it. Now we are sitting; it’s just a matter of time that the last quarter of this night will also pass. Soon there will be sunrise, open the door !”

The last man who came in was nearest to the door, reluctantly opened it, and a donkey drenched with water entered.

The mystic said, “Remember perfectly well – you were in the same state just a few minutes before.

”Selfishness blinds you of other’s needs!

Happy Easter Folks!

 

 

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About Holi Festival

Holi-1

holi-3

Holi is a festival celebrated in north India. It marks the coming of Spring, usually in March.

Celebrations

Some families hold religious ceremonies, but for many Holi is more a time for fun than religious observance.

Holi is a colorful festival, with dancing, singing, and throwing of powder paint and colored water.

Bonfires are lit and roasting grains, pop corn, coconut and chick peas are thrown on.

The next day, people of all ages go into the streets for fun and paint-throwing. Everyone gets involved – with no distinctions between caste, class, age or gender.

People have fun by smearing each other with dry colors called Gulal and throwing colored water at each other, all done in a spirit of celebration.

Religious story

Holi also celebrates Krishna, and the legend of Holika and Prahlad.

Some believe the origin of the festival lies with Krishna who was very mischievous as a young boy and threw colored water over the gopis (milkmaids) This developed into the practical jokes and games of Holi.

The story of Prahlad is seen to symbolize good overcoming evil and is why traditionally bonfires are lit at Holi.

Prahlad was a prince. His father, the king wanted everyone in his kingdom to worship him. But Prahlad refused. The king’s sister Holika, who was supposed to be immune to fire due to a boon, tricked her nephew Prahlad into sitting on her lap in a bonfire in order to destroy him. But because she was using her powers for evil, the plan failed and Prahlad emerged from the fire unharmed, while Holika was devoured by the flames.

In some parts of India effigies of Holika are burnt on the fire. Ashes from Holi bonfires are thought to bring good luck. holi-5

(Since I have many “friends” across the world who may be curious to know what Holi is, I decided to put this post.)

(As explained on http://www.bbc.co.uk)

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Disciplehood

(Photo Credit : ghostsofdc.org)

When the great Sufi mystic, Hasan, was dying, somebody asked “Hasan, who was your master?”

He said, “I had thousands of masters. If I just relate their names it will take months, years and it is too late. But three masters I will certainly tell you about.

One was a thief. Once I got lost in the desert, and when I reached a village it was very late, everything was closed. But at last I found one man who was trying to make a hole in t he wall of a house. I asked him where I could stay and he said ‘At this time of night it will be difficult, but you can say with me – if you can stay with a thief’

And the man was so beautiful. I stayed for one month! And each night he would say to me, ‘Now I am going to my work. You rest, you pray.’ When he came back I would ask ‘Could you get anything?’ He would say, ‘Not tonight. But tomorrow I will try again, God willing.’ He was never in a state of hopelessness, he was always happy.

When I was meditating and meditating for years on end and nothing was happening, many times the moment came when I was so desperate, so hopeless, that I thought to stop all this nonsense. And suddenly I would remember the thief who would say every night, ‘God willing, tomorrow it is going to happen.’

And my second master was a dog. I was going to the river, thirsty and a dog came. He was also thirsty. He looked into the river, he saw another dog there — his own image — and became afraid. He would bard and run away, but his thirst was so much that he would come back. Finally, despite his fear, he just jumped into the water, and the image disappeared. And I knew that a message had come to me from God: one has to jump in spite of all fears.

And the third master was a small child. I entered a town and a child was carrying a lit candle. He was going to the mosque to put the candle there.

‘Just joking,’ I asked the boy, ‘Have you lit the candle yourself?’ He said, ‘Yes sir.’ And I asked, ‘There was a moment when the candle was unlit, then there was a moment when the candle was lit. Can you show me the source from which the light came?’

And the boy laughed, blew out the candle, and said, ‘Now you have seen the light going. Where has it gone? You will tell me!’

My ego was shattered, my whole knowledge was shattered. And that moment I felt my own stupidity. Since then I dropped all my knowledgeability.

It is true that I had no master. That does not mean that I was not a disciple — I accepted the whole existence as my master. My Disciplehood was a greater involvement than yours is. I trusted the clouds, the trees. I trusted existence as such. I had no master because I had millions of masters I learned from every possible source. To be a disciple is a must on the path. What does it mean to be a disciple? It means to be able to learn. To be available to learn to be vulnerable to existence. With a master you start learning to learn.

The master is a swimming pool where you can learn how to swim. Once you have learned, all the oceans are yours.”

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Mother & God

mother and child

 

By the time the Lord made mothers, He was into the sixth day working overtime.  An Angel  appeared and said “Why are you spending so much  time on this one?”

And the Lord answered and  said, “Have you read the spec sheet on her? She has to be completely washable, but not elastic; have 200 movable parts, all replaceable; run on black coffee and leftovers; have a lap that can hold three children at one time and that disappears when she stands up; have a kiss that can cure anything from a scraped knee to a broken heart; and have six pairs of hands.”

The Angel was astounded at the requirements for this one. “Six pairs of hands! No way!”  said the Angel.

The Lord replied, “Oh, it’s not the hands that are the problem.  It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers must have!”

“And that’s on the standard model?” the Angel asked.

The Lord nodded in agreement, “Yep, one pair of eyes are to see through the closed door as she asks her children what they are doing even though she already knows. Another pair in the back of her head are to see what she needs to know even though no one thinks she can. And the third pair are here in the front of her head.  They are for looking at an errant child and saying that she understands and loves him or her without even saying a single word.”

The Angel tried to stop the Lord  “This is too much work for one day. Wait until tomorrow to finish.”

“But I can’t!” The Lord protested, “I am so close to finishing this creation that is so close to my own heart. She already heals herself  when she is sick AND can feed a family of six on a pound of hamburger and can get a nine year old to stand in the shower.”

The Angel moved closer and touched the woman, “But you have made her so soft, Lord.”

“She is soft,” the Lord agreed, “but I have also made her tough. You have no idea what she can endure or accomplish.”

“Will she be able to think?” asked the Angel.

The Lord replied, “Not only will she be able to think, she will be able to reason, and negotiate.”

The Angel then noticed something and reached out and touched the woman’s cheek. “Oops, it looks like You have a leak with this model. I told You that You were trying to put too much into  this one.”

“That’s not a leak.” the Lord objected.  “That’s a tear!”

“What’s the tear for?” the Angel asked.

The Lord said, “The tear is her way of expressing her joy, her sorrow, her disappointment, her pain, her loneliness, her grief, and her pride.”

The Angel was impressed.  “You are a genius, Lord.  You thought of everything for this one.  You even created the tear!”

The Lord looked at the Angel and smiled and said, “I’m afraid you are wrong again.  I created the woman, but she created the tear!”

 

 

Mothers Day

(Story Credit : My dear wife Siham)

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car

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and drove the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car, shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?  That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?”

The young boy was apologetic. “Please mister … please, I’m sorry… I didn’t know what else to do,” he pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop…”

The Brick
With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother,” he said.  “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.”

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.” Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out his fancy handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay.

 

“Thank you and may God bless you,” the grateful child told the stranger.
Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the little boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention! 

 

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(Photo Credit Kiritz.jp)

(Photo Credit Kiritz.jp)

A group of fifteen soldiers led by their Major were on their way to the post in snow-clad mountains, where they would be deployed for next three months. Another batch, which will be relieved, would be waiting anxiously for their arrival so that they could fall back to safer confines of their parent unit. Some would proceed on leave and meet their families. They were happy that they were to relieve a set of comrades who had done their job.

It was a treacherous climb and the journey was to last till the next evening. Cold winter with intermittent snowfall added to the torture. If only someone could offer a cup of tea, the Major thought, knowing completely well that it was a futile wish.
They continued for another hour before they came across a dilapidated structure which looked like a small shop. It was locked.

It was 2 o’clock in the night and there was no house close to the shop where the owner could be located. In any case it was not advisable to knock any doors in the night for security reasons.  It was a stalemate. “No tea boys, bad luck” said the Major. The Major told the men to take some rest since they had been walking for more than three hours now. “Sir, this is a tea shop indeed and we can make tea. We will have to break the lock though.”

The officer was in doubt about the proposed action but a steaming cup of tea was not a bad idea. He thought for a while and permitted for the lock to be broken. The lock was broken. They were in luck. The place was a shop indeed and had everything required to preparing tea, and also a few packets of biscuits.

The tea was prepared and it brought great relief to all in the cold night. They were now ready for the long and treacherous walk ahead of them and started to get ready to move. The officer was in thought. They had broken open the lock and prepared tea and consumed biscuits without the permission of the owner. The payment was due but there was no one in sight. But they are not a band of thieves. They are disciplined soldiers. The Major didn’t move out without doing what needed to be done. He took out a 100 dollar bill from his wallet and kept it on the counter, pressed under the sugar container, so that the owner sees it first thing when he arrives in the morning. He was now relieved of the guilt and ordered the move.

Days, weeks and months passed. They continued to do gallantly what they were required to do and were lucky not to lose any one from the group.

And then one day, it was time to be replaced by another brave lot. Soon they were on their way back and stopped at the same shop, which was today open with the owner in place. He was an old man with very meager resources and was happy to see fifteen of them with the prospect of selling at least fifteen cups of tea that day.

All of them had their tea and spoke to the old man about his life and experiences in general, selling tea at such remote a location. The poor, old man had many stories to tell all of them, replete with his faith in God.

“If God existed, an old, God-fearing and kind person as you seem to be, would not be in such bad condition” said one of them; moved by his poverty and faith in God.

Man praying

“Don’t say that, son. God actually exists. I got the proof a few months ago! I was going through very tough times because my only son had been severely beaten by the drug dealers who wanted some information from him which he did not have. I had closed the shop early that day and had taken my son to the hospital. There were medicines to be purchased and I had no money. No one would give me a loan from fear of the mafia. There was no hope, my son. And that day, I had prayed to God for help. And he sent someone to my shop that day. When I returned to my shop that day and saw the lock broken, I thought someone had broken in and had taken away whatever little I had. But then I saw that ‘He’ had left 100 dollars under the sugar pot. My son, I can’t tell you what that money was worth that day. God exists my son, He does!”

“I know people are dying every day here but all of you will soon meet your near and dear ones, your children, and you must thank God, he is watching all of us. He does exist. He walked in to my shop that day and broke open the lock to give me the money I desperately needed. I know He did it.”

The faith in his eyes was unflinching. It was unnerving. Fifteen sets of eyes looked at their officer and read the order in his eyes clear and unambiguous, ‘Keep quiet.’ The officer got up and paid the bill and hugged the old man.

“Yes, I know, God does exist – and yes the tea was wonderful.” Fifteen pairs of eyes did not miss the moisture building in the eyes of the Major, a rare sight.

Are we looking for God / universal energy to be only in a specific form, place or time? Does He have to appear in special & dramatic manner with bells and whistles for mankind to accept His existence?  The concepts that we have forged about God, will they allow us to feel his touch in our day-to-day life?

Just imagine, we are people stuck with our feet due to gravity on the globe, in the middle of nowhere….. 

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(Photo credit wonderingfair)

(Photo credit wonderingfair)

In a hermitage deep in the forest lived the learned sage, Uddalaka Aruni with his son Shvetketu. When Shvetketu came of age, his father sent him to an Ashram for his education as was customary in those days. When Shvetketu returned home after twelve years of education, Uddalaka asked him, “What did you learn while in the Ashram, my son?”

“I learned everything that can be known, father,” Shvetketu answered.

When he heard this, Uddalaka became silent and thought, “What pride! Such conceit is born only out of ignorance. My son has not yet grasped the essence of the supreme knowledge of Brahman which brings humility.”

Shvetketu observed the change that came over his father and inquired, “Why did you become so quiet, father?”

“Dear son,” replied Uddalaka, “You say that you know everything that can be known. Then you must know that knowledge or wisdom by which what is unknown becomes known and what is unseen becomes seen?”

“No, I don’t,” replied Shvetketu. “But please, father, tell me about it.”

Uddalaka lovingly said, “Well son, look at those pots and toys. They are made of clay. The potter takes a lump of clay and makes all kinds of different shapes out of it. So by knowing one lump of clay, one can know everything that is made of clay!”

“This is true for everything, son,” continued Uddalaka, “If you know the fundamental structure of gold, you will also know all the ornaments made out of it. If you know a piece of iron, you know all the utensils made of iron.”

To make things clearer for his son, Uddalaka headed towards the river while continuing his conversation, “Therefore, my child, you must get to know the essence of all things, the One that exists in everything in this Universe, the great power of Brahman.”

“It is that same power which guides the river from the hills to flow into the ocean. That power then causes the water in the ocean to evaporate and form clouds which will produce rain to replenish the river, thus completing the cycle.”

Pointing towards a tree which was chopped down by a woodcutter, Uddalaka said, “Take for example that tree over there. The sap, which is it’s life and enabled it to draw sustenance from the earth, is leaking out of it.”

“Can you tell that one of the branches of the tree is dead?” questioned Uddalaka. “Each branch of that tree if deprived of the sap, which is it’s life, will dry up. And when the entire tree is drained of the sap, the whole tree will die.”

While Uddalaka and Shvetketu were talking, they saw a dead body carried by a group of people for cremation. Uddalaka pointed towards the dead body and spoke to his son, “Similarly, my son, when life forsakes the body, the body dies, but the life itself does not die.”

The son looked puzzled when Uddalaka explained, “My son, that which does not die is called the Atman and you are that Atman. The Atman is all pervasive and is present in everything that you see, living or nonliving.”

“Why can’t I see this Atman which is all pervasive and in everything?” Asked Shvetketu.

baniyan fruit

To explain this, Uddalaka asked his son to bring a fruit which was hanging from a Banyan tree (a tree common in India which gives plenty of shade and bears small fruits).

Shvetketu picked a fruit from the tree and brought it to his father.

“Break it, son, and look inside,” suggested Uddalaka.

“What do you see?” Uddalaka questioned.

“Tiny seeds, father,” replied Shvetketu.

“Do you see anything inside?” asked Uddalaka.

“No! There is nothing there” responded Shvetketu.

“If there is nothing inside,” said Uddalaka, “Then how can that tiny seed gives rise to this huge Banyan tree? That, Shvetketu, is the Atman, the essence of all things. The Atman pervades the universe, and, my son, you are a part of that universe.”

“Well father, if we cannot see the essence, how do we know that it exists?” said Shvetketu with a puzzled mind.

“I shall explain that to you, my son” affirmed Uddalaka. “First put some water in that pitcher.”

“Now bring some salt and put the salt in the water,” instructed the father. Shvetketu did as his father asked.

“Keep the pitcher aside for now,” said Uddalaka, “And bring it to me tomorrow morning.”

Early the next morning, Shvetketu went to his father with the pitcher of water.

“Can you see the salt?” asked Uddalaka.

Shvetketu searched, and of course, the salt was no longer visible.

Shvetketu said, “No, father, it must be dissolved in the water.”

“Now taste it from the top,” instructed Uddalaka.

Shvetketu dipped his finger into the water and tasted the water from the top.

“It is salty,” Shvetketu said.

“Now taste the water from the bottom,” said Uddalaka.

“It’s salty there too, father” answered Shvetketu.

“Similarly, Shvetketu, as you cannot see the salt, you cannot see the essence. But it is always present everywhere.”

Finally Uddalaka concluded, “My son, this omnipresent essence is called the Atman, which pervades everything. You too are that, Oh Shvetketu.”

“I am grateful father,” said Shvetketu and touched his father’s feet. “You have helped me gain the knowledge with which the unknown becomes known, the unseen becomes seen.”

The father then blessed his son.

 

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