A donkey was tied to a tree. A demon came and untied it. The donkey ran into the fields and began destroying the crop. When the farmer’s wife spotted this, she shot and killed the donkey. The donkey’s owner was so upset that he shot the farmer’s wife.
When the farmer returned to see his wife dead, he stormed off and shot the donkey’s owner. The wife of the owner of the donkey asked her sons to avenge the death of their father, and go and burn down the house of the farmer.
The boys went late evening and gleefully carried out their mother’s orders, assuming that the farmer too would have been burnt alive, along with the house. Sadly for them, that wasn’t the case. When the farmer came back to see the charred remains of his house, he promptly went and shot the wife and the two sons of the donkey’s owner.
Suddenly struck by remorse, the farmer asked the demon why all those terrible things had to happen. The demon replied, “Why, I did nothing at all! Oh, except release the donkey. It was all of you who reacted, overacted and released the inner devil.”
Did you get it?
The devil doesn’t do anything but wake you up by triggering the ego in you that turns into evil intent and goes about harming others. The next time before replying, responding, reporting, rebuking or avenging a revenge – pause and think.
Be careful. Many a time, the only thing the devil needs to do is simply release the donkey wthin us.
Ravana’s problem, his evil nature, was only due to one thing – ego and pride. He wanted to be the best in the world. He wanted the best things for himself. That was the reason why he did all that he did.
During his time, there lived a monkey king called Vali. Vali was very powerful – even more powerful than Ravana. When Ravana heard that Vali was regarded to be more powerful than him, he set out to defeat Vali. Ravana found Vali by the river Ganges, deeply immersed in his daily worship and meditation and accosted him aggressively. Vali, being a monkey, had a tail. He put it to good use by tying Ravana with it, and continued on with his worship. After finishing his worship, he proceeded to various places with Ravana still tied to his tail. When he could bear it no more, Ravana cried out, “Please forgive me. I did not know your strength.” Thus, he was set free.
Rama and Ravana
There is another interesting story. Rama was going to Sri Lanka to claim his wife. He wanted to perform a fire ceremony to ensure his victory. It was a special ritual that only an accomplished priest could do. People asked Rama, “Who is the right priest to do this fire ceremony?” He replied that his enemy Ravana would actually be the perfect priest. Rama said, “Can you go and request Ravana to do this ceremony? That will ensure my victory.” Thus, they went to Ravana and requested him to perform the fire ceremony for Rama’s victory in the war! Ravana replied, “Yes, I will come!”
Ravana came and conducted the fire ceremony, and blessed Rama to be victorious against himself. Rama then said, “I want to give you dakshina. (a voluntary honorarium given to the priest for conducting the ritual)” Ravana replied, “When I am dying, I want you to be near me. I know you are an avatar, you are God. If you will be beside me at the time of my death, I will attain liberation.” Rama replied, “It shall be so.” And it happened in exactly that way.
If you look at this whole story of Ramayana, you will see the deeper dharma (righteousness) at work. You can see how Rama envisaged the kingdom. He named it Rama Rajya, a kingdom where only righteousness prevailed. In today’s world, one only sees adharma. There is no righteousness – people are cheating, stealing, killing, competing and so on. Rama and these stories are examples that are good for all of us to remember.
There is a well-known fable about a guy who gifted a lamb to a friend. He handed him the lamb with much kindness and love, saying, “This will be useful to you.” Feeling happy, the man set out for his home, carrying the lamb. Along the way, four thieves spotted him and there came a desire in their minds to possess the animal. They talked among themselves and decided, “We will get this lamb.”
One of the four asked, “How do we get hold of it? Should we rob him?”
“No, he himself will leave the lamb. We will make him drop the lamb and go. Then all we’ll need to do is to pick it up.”
Then they worked out a plan. The four of them were to position themselves on different spots along the way and await the man with the lamb.
As the man approached, the first thief asked, “Where are you taking this dog?”
The man said, “This is not a dog, this is a lamb. Can’t you see?”
The thief replied scratching his head, “Looks like a dog to me. Maybe it’s a bit like a lamb, but not quite. The more I look, the more it appears like a dog.”
And then things started happening in the man’s mind already. He walked further, wheare the second thief was waiting for him. He remarked, “Oh, nice dog! Where did you get this dog, where can I buy one like this?”
The man who was now irritated, said, “It’s not a dog. It’s a lamb! Can’t you see?”
The second thief replied, “I could have sworn it’s a dog.”
After he passed the second guy, the man’s mind was already starting to work wonders!
As the man continued on with the lamb, the third thief sitting by the wayside said the same thing, “Amazing dog, would you consider selling it?”
Now the man was all agitated. He was thinking, “What’s wrong with all these people!? Either I am blind or everybody is blind!”
However, by then his mind was already saying that this friend of his had cheated him by telling him it was a lamb. He thought, “I don’t know how I got fooled. Maybe at that time I wasn’t paying close attention.”
Then as he walked along, he met up with the fourth thief who exclaimed, “Oh, amazing dog!”
Hearing this he just dropped the lamb. He had no use for a dog. Cursing, he walked away, telling himself that he would have nothing more to do with that so-called friend, who he thought had conned him.
And this sort of thing happens in our spiritual pursuit as well. We might probably have a lamb in our hand but when the fourth person tells us: “That’s not the right practice, that’s not the right Guru. He is a very bad Guru or it’s a very bad practice, a very bad tradition”, we will change our mind. This is one of the most detrimental things on the spiritual path.
We go after popular masters, popular time-tested things, but we forget one thing: by birth, each one of us is unique, each one is authentic, each one original. So how can you have a general medicine?
Something which suits you is what you should follow.
Once upon a time, Gautama Buddha visited a town. The entire town gathered, waiting to listen to him, but he would not start the discourse. He kept glancing backwards at the road, expecting a little 13-year old girl to come. He had happened to meet her on the road and she had told him, “Wait for me. I am going to give this food to my father at the farm, but I will be back in time. Don’t forget, wait for me!”
Finally, the elders of the town said to Gautam Buddha ,“For whom are you waiting? Everybody important is present, you can start your discourse.” The Buddha replied, “But the person for whom I have come so far is not present yet and I have to wait.”
Finally the girl arrived and exclaimed, “I am a little late, but you kept your promise! I knew you would keep your promise because I have been waiting for you since my first memory as a child, when I first became aware… I think I was four years old when I first heard your name. Your name was enough to ring a bell in my heart. And since then for ten long years…I have been waiting!!!”
The Buddha responded,“You have not been waiting in vain. You are the very person who has attracted me to this village.”
At the end of his discourse, that little girl was the only one who went up to him to say, “Initiate me. I have waited enough, and now I want to be with you.” The Buddha replied, “You will have to travel with me because your town is so remote! I cannot keep coming here again and again. The road is long, and I am getting old!”
In that entire town, not a single person had come up to him to be initiated into meditation, except for that little girl.
At night, as they were getting ready to sleep, the Buddha’s chief disciple Ananda asked him, “Master, before you go to sleep, I want to ask you one question. Do you feel a certain pull towards a certain space… just like a magnetic pull?”
The Buddha replied, “You are right, Ananda. That is how I decide my journeys. When I feel someone is thirsty…so thirsty that without me, there is no other way for them… I have to move in that direction.”
The master moves towards the disciple and the disciple also moves towards the master. Sooner or later they are bound to meet. The meeting is not of the body, the meeting is not of the mind. The meeting is of the very soul!
It is like when you bring two lamps close to each other, the lamps remain separate but their flames become one.
Alexander the Great was getting ready to ‘conquer the world’. Before he set out on his journey, he went to seek the blessings of his teacher Aristotle. He asked Aristotle: “When I come back, what would you like me to bring for you?” Aristotle said: “If you can get me a truly enlightened saint from India, I will be truly happy.” He replied: “No problem, if they are available there, I will get you many.”
He went around, conquered many a land, many a kingdom and then reached India. He conquered whatever was ahead of him, defeated kings and established his empire and called himself Alexander the Great. He decided to return back and remembered the promise to his teacher. He asked his chief of army to fetch him a ‘good quality saint’. The army chief enquired of all the wise men and all said that there was indeed one such saint inside the forest – a true saint, an enlightened Master. Alexander sent his army to fetch this man. They found him sleeping completely naked on a rock out under the sun. Both the sun and the rock were burning hot. They were confused. How could this naked and obviously mad man be a great saint? Anyway, they caught him and brought him to the city. They covered him with some clothes and presented him to Alexander.
Alexander was not at all impressed by his appearance—shabby, long matted hair, unbathed, unclean and unshaven. He discreetly made sure that his soldiers had not made a mistake. Everyone confirmed that this one was of good quality. Alexander tried to impress this saint by telling him about the riches of his land. He tried to engage him in conversation.
The saint kept saying, “Take me back to my rock.” Finally, Alexander was fed up. He asked, “What do you want from me?” The saint asked: “What do you have?”
Alexander replied, “All the land from here till eternity belongs to me. I am conqueror of the world.” The saint laughed aloud to Alexander’s greatest annoyance. He asked,“Show me what you have conquered.” Alexander said,“It’s spread out and I cannot show it just like that.” The saint asked for a wooden ruler and a wooden plank. Someone brought both. He placed the wooden ruler under the wooden plank, like a seesaw. He asked Alexander to stay balanced on top of it. Alexander could not.
The saint said, “All that you ‘seem’ to have conquered has already returned back to normal life. You cannot conquer any people, any places, anything. If you felt you conquered anything or achieved anything, it is only a burden of your own ego. There is only one conquest which is worthwhile – that is your own mind. You are far from conquering that. All other conquests could stay with you only till your grave, at the most. So do not be so proud of yourself.”
Alexander was furious. He commanded the saint to be ‘thrown back into the forest’. He went back without any saint from India because he did not want to carry this unwelcome annoyance and botheration back to his country of birth.
When he reached his teacher’s house it was early morning and Aristotle was meditating inside his room with the doors open, facing the early morning sun. When Alexander came to the door, he was blocking the sun and so Aristotle opened his eyes.
Alexander said, “I have come back victorious but I could not fulfil your wish of bringing a saint from India. They are all so ugly and rude, they are not worthy as a presentation to a noble soul like you. Please tell me Master, what else can I give you?” Aristotle simply said: “Move away, let the sunshine fall on me.”
Alexander walked away in utter dismay. He could not understand why his teacher was not impressed at all. He said, “All these saints are alike. They always manage to annoy me.”
I do not know whether this story is true or not. Just do not worry too much about the names of the characters and their historical importance. Just look at the context and understand the message.
There were two saints sitting under a tree. Sage Narada, the Guru of the devatas (demigods) approached them.
One of the saints asked Sage Narada, “Guru, you know everything. You know the past, present and future. How many lifetimes will I take to be liberated?”
Narada replied, “Look up. Do you see the number of leaves on this tree? That many lifetimes.”
The saint said, “Thank you. At least now I know that I have a boundary. After these many lifetimes, I will be liberated.”
Then, the other saint asked Sage Narmada the same question, “When will I be liberated?” Sage Narada replied, “Oh, you will be liberated in this lifetime.” The saint immediately said, “Oh my God, I have a lot of things to do.” and he ran away.
Now Sage Narada had twisted the answers – he had said exactly the opposite. The saint who was satisfied with the finite number of lifetimes was to be liberated in the same life. The one who asked the question and ran away had many more lifetimes left before he could be liberated.
The more questions one has, the lesser chance for them to be liberated. The more doubts one has, the more detached they are from reality and truth.
Here is one of two stories of how Dattatreya was born.
Great masters never leave. Two such great masters were a couple named Atri and Anasuya. Atri was the husband, the one who meditated and Anasuya, his wife, served him. And in the Indian tradition, there were some very, very powerful spiritual women who had attained those powers by just serving their husbands. Anasuya was one of them, Savitri was another.
The story goes that the gods grew jealous of Anasuya and wanted to test her spiritual power. So they approached the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and asked them to come to Earth to test this lady’s power.
They appeared as three wandering monks. In the Hindu tradition, if guests visits one’s home, they must be offered food – it is not considered right to serve them nothing. Anasuya was at home alone, since Atri had gone down to the river to bathe. Now they had arrived as wandering monks asking for food when the husband was not present and his wife was alone. They said to her, “We are hungry, can you serve us some food?’’ She did not have any food ready in the house at that time. She said, ”Please wait, let me prepare something and serve it to you.” They said, ”We will wait. But we have one condition. You should serve us food completely naked, without any clothes.”
As per tradition, if a saint asks for something, it is not a good idea to deny it. It is inauspicious to say ‘no’. So she was in a dilemma: how would she accommodate this unusual request? First she had to give them food, and second she had to obey their condition, which was to serve it naked, and this second one was unacceptable to her. So she said, ”Please wait.”
She went inside, took some water in her hand, and came out and sprinkled it on them. The next moment, the monks turned into three small babies. She produced some breast milk and fed them. As all the conditions were fulfilled, they were very happy. Since they were satisfied, they said, ”We would like to bless you. Ask for a boon, we will grant it to you.” She replied, ”I would like you to come as my son.” They then blessed her and entered her womb together as one entity.
When Atri came back from the river, he immediately understood all that had happened in his absence and was much pleased. Today, that son is who we call as Dattatreya. Atri declared that this son would lead the world one day. Each yuga or era has an avatar, for example Shri Krishna in Dvapara Yuga. It is well-known that in the current era or Kali Yuga, Adi Shankaracharya is Acharya or key master. Likewise, Dattatreya used to be the master of the era in which Shri Krishna lived, 5000 years ago.
When Dattatreya was born, he had three heads, of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. His mother thought that in this way it would be difficult for the child to survive in society. People would recognise him at sight. So they condensed themselves into one head.