Banyan Tree - Banyan Tree - Nov 2006
by Life Positive
- Eknath Easwaran
Radiant is the World Soul
Radiant is the world soul,
Full of splendor and beauty,
Full of life,
Of souls hidden,
Of treasures of the holy spirit,
Of fountains of strength,
Of greatness and beauty.
Proudly I ascend
Towards the heights of the world soul
That gives life to the universe.
How majestic the vision,
Come, find peace,
Taste and see that God is good.
Why spend your substance on what does not nourish
And your labor on what cannot satisfy?
Listen to me, and you will enjoy what is good,
And find delight in what is truly precious.
Abraham Isaac Kook
Choosing Death Consciously
Santhara is a concept that is being much bandied about ever since 61-year-old Vimla Devi, a Jaipur-based cancer patient, courted death through this method. Santhara is an ancient Jain ritual of consciously choosing death practiced by this community for over 2,000 years.
On an average, about 240 Jains (both Shwetambar and Digambar sects) attain santhara every year, though most of it goes unnoticed and unrecorded.
There are strict conventions regulating the practice of santhara. One crucial one is that it cannot be undertaken without the permission of the guru.
One who has decided to attain santhara first prays, meditates and practices fasting every day. The person gradually give up solid food, confines oneself to a bed and finally relinquishes even liquid diets. Although it is open to both monks and laity, its stringent requirement of voluntarily abstaining from food requires tremendous inner restraint and determination. Unlike other forms of suicide, which are unconscious and reactive, santhara is considered to be a spiritual acceptance of death.
A Sunday school teacher asked her second graders if anyone knew another name for God, anticipating getting answers like 'Lord' or 'Almighty'.
After a long moment of silence a little boy raised his hand and said, "Howard."
"Howard?" replied the confused teacher.
"You know," he said, "Howard be thy name."
It's Done with Mirrors
A harlot once dreamed that a certain Brahmin visited her and made love to her. When she woke up, she called her servants, described the Brahmin to them and asked them to demand payment for her services. They seized the Brahmin as he was walking along the road, told him of the affair, and demanded payment. He was aghast. But the servants wouldn't let go of him. Someone told the king about the incident. He summoned both the harlot and the Brahmin to his court.
The harlot said, "My customers always pay me for my services. This man visited me in my dream last night and enjoyed himself… He must pay me for it."
The king said, "All right. But wait a little."
Then he ordered a pole to be planted in the street, hung a bag of silver from the pole, and arranged a mirror under it.
"Now," he said to the harlot, "You can put your hand into the mirror and take your money. It's all yours."
The woman was baffled and said, "How can I put my hand into the mirror and take my money? Give me the real money in that bag."
"No, no," said the king, "that money is not yours. The Brahmin visited you in your dream. The proper payment for it is the money you see in the mirror."
Adapted from Folktales from India
It's just a film, but Lage Raho Munnabhai's lighthearted evocation of Gandhian philosophy - Gandhigiri - has triggered off an avalanche of thought on Gandhism. By brilliantly using the tenets of the Mahatma's thoughts to solve everyday problems like getting one's provident fund from the sticky-fingered officials of the Provident Fund office, or confessing to your father that you have lost his money in the stock exchange, the film-makers have resurrected the Mahatma from the photo-frames and history books in which he was trapped. People, especially young ones, are recognizing that the Gandhian approach can resolve problems not in the usual manipulative sentimental way that Hindi films do, but through honesty and courage, self-restraint and respect for the opponent. No wonder it has touched a powerful chord. The human heart hungers for goodness and when it is proven that goodness pays, most of us yearn towards it.
There is simply no doubt at all that the Gandhian approach is the way forward, for the great visionary had seen through the hollow foundations upon which the present civilization is based and prescribed a new holistic society based on the larger good. However, to pave the way, we need to contemporarise his thoughts; like the Munnabhai film-makers have done, we need to show how Gandhism can be applied to every day lives. How do we use satyagraha to win our ordinary battles against tyrannical bosses or principals? How do we use his thoughts to resolve the long-standing feud with our neighbor? How do we use his concept of trusteeship to give money to the poor?
Let us currently forget about bringing satyagraha to the world stage to combat terrorism. Let us simply bring it down to the scale of our own lives. If enough people did that, we would soon have a society that would have found a solution to terrorism. As the great man himself was fond of saying, "One step enough for me." Pass me some Gandhigiri, please!
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