Banyan Tree - Banyan Tree - Feb 2006
by Life Positive
I am a pipe the wind blows through,
Be still, it is the wind that sings.
The course of my life and the things I do
And the seeming false and the seeming true
Are the tune of the wind that neither knows
Good and ill, nor joys and woes.
But the ultimate awe is deeper yet
Than song or pipe or storm;
For pipe and tune are the formless wind
That seemed for a while to take form.
And words are good to escape from words
And strife to escape from strife,
But silence drinks in all the waves
Of song and death and life.
- Arthur Osborne
Smriti and Shruti
Shruti and Smriti stand for absolute and relative values respectively. Contained in the Vedas, they enable us to apply a discriminating eye on all received wisdom, and evaluate for ourselves, what needs to be changed and updated and what can be accepted as it is. Shrutis are eternal truths and have their roots in the nature of the universe, the nature of man, and the spiritual laws that govern our functioning. Pertaining to the highest spiritual truths, shrutis are relevant for all times and all circumstances. The concepts of divine unity, of interconnection being the nature of the universe, of sat-chit-ananda being our true nature, the eternal relevance of truth, are some of the shrutis that we can unquestioningly accept, for they are never likely to change. However, the values that govern our functioning in human society and that form the basis of our relationships, rituals, traditions and customs are smritis and must therefore always be subject to evaluation to ensure that they fit the present circumstances. Animal sacrifice was at one point considered to be a fitting form of homage to the Almighty, but as society evolved, many communities intuited that they were only a symbol of the real sacrifice, which is that of the ego, and dropped the practice.
Man-woman relationships too must constantly be evaluated to suit present circumstances. Restricting a woman to the home and hearth made practical sense at a time when outdoor travel was physically risky. Today that argument no longer holds true and those who attempt to enforce this practice by using tradition must know that unthinking obedience to smritis is not enforceable.
A society that actively discriminates between shrutis and smritis and does not allow the latter to deadlock it, will remain alive and relevant to the times. Perhaps it is this concept that has been most responsible for the fact that the Indian civilization is one of the oldest living traditions in the world, while scores of others shone briefly and disappeared.
In Search of Perfection
There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was disposed to strive after perfection. One day it came into his mind to make a staff. Having considered that, in an imperfect work, time is an ingredient, but into a perfect work, time does not enter, he said to himself, 'It shall be perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in my life.'
He proceeded instantly to the forest for wood, being resolved that it should not be made of unsuitable material; and as he searched for and rejected stick after stick, his friends gradually deserted him, for they grew old in their works and died, but he grew not older by a moment.
His singleness of purpose and resolution, and his elevated piety, endowed him, without his knowledge, with perennial youth. As he made no compromise with Time, Time kept out of his way, and only sighed at a distance because he could not overcome him.
Before he had found a stick in all respects suitable, the city of Kouroo was a hoary ruin, and he sat on one of its mounds to peel the stick. Before he had given it the proper shape, the dynasty of the Candahars was at an end, and with the point of the stick he wrote the name of the last of that race in the sand, and then resumed his work.
By the time he had smoothed and polished the staff, Kalpa was no longer the pole-star; and ere he had put on the ferule and the head adorned with precious stones, Brahma had awoke and slumbered many times. But why do I stay to mention these things? When the finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyes of the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma.
He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And now he saw by the heap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, the former lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time had elapsed than is required for a single scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was pure; how could the result be other than wonderful?
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Little Drops of Water...
While many urbanites think nothing of dropping thousands of rupees for one night of entertainment, on the other end of the spectrum a heroic drive by 1, 20,000 women in rural Andhra Pradesh, to contribute 50 paisa each, garnered a collection of Rs 61,100 and saved a woman's life.
B. Hemavati is the wife of a fisherman and a mother of two. She will undergo a life-saving operation at the Tirupati-based Sri Venkateshwara Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS), with this money. She was diagnosed with a heart ailment and the doctors said that it would cost her up to Rs 90,000. Her family, which can hardly make ends meet, was distraught, until a local missionary offered Rs 25,000. Andhra's famed Self Help Group movement then stepped in and launched an intense three-week campaign to raise the money. Twelve thousand SHGs or a total of 1,20,000 women, mostly farm laborers, contributed the sum despite the fact that all or most were mired in a desperate poverty that made it difficult for them to eat two meals a day. None approached declined, and a few even contributed Re 1. Says C. Ranga Rao, additional project director of the District Rural Development Agency, which inspired the initiative, "Fifty paise cannot buy a cup of tea. But it is remarkable that 50 paise given by each woman has helped to save the life of a young mother. The women are proud of what they have done and so are we."
Unity and individual effort can resolve towering difficulties. All we need is will.
To a disciple who depended overmuch on books, the Master said:
"A man came to the market with a shopping list and lost it. When to his great joy he found it again, he read it eagerly, held on to it till he had done his shopping - then threw it way as a useless scrap of paper."
Anthony de Mello
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