Banyan Tree - Banyan Tree - May 2006
by Life Positive
One ship drives east and another drives west
With the self-same winds that blow
'Tis the set of the sails and not the gales
That tells us the way to go
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life,
'Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal
And not the calm, or the strife.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
"The trouble with the world," said the Master with a sigh, "is that human beings refuse to grow up."
"When can a person grow up?" asked a disciple.
"On the day he does not need to be lied to about anything."
Four Stages of Life
The varnashramas, prescribed by the Vedas, denote the various stages in a man's life lived in accordance to the dharma, as he fulfills various duties in each.
The first stage, Brahmacharya, marked the student years of one's life, spent in a gurukul. Along with academic teaching and martial training, the guru laid stress on development of character. Acquisition of knowledge, observance of duty and shouldering of responsibility were the important aspects in this stage.
Next came Grhastha, or the stage of the householder. In this phase of life, an individual married, raised children and practiced a livelihood to provide for himself and his family. However, while enjoying the bounties offered by life, the individual also focussed on the worship of God and service to sages and ancestors.
When a person's children reached adulthood, it was now time for him to enter the Vanaprastha or ascetic stage. Voluntarily withdrawing from active life, he now devoted increasing time and energy to contemplation, meditation and scriptural study, as he prepared for the final stage.
Sanyas, the final stage of life, denoted complete renunciation of the world. By now, totally unfettered by bonds of society or family, the individual immersed himself in contemplation of the meaning of life, and gained liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
By stipulating duties to be performed in each stage, varnashrama ensured the fulfillment of the four essentials: dharma or religion, artha or worldly gain, kama or sensual pleasures, and moksha or liberation. Seen in a larger sense, these stages could reflect the journey of the soul towards liberation, where each step in the ladder has to be climbed before moving to the next.
The Tiger Within
A pregnant tigress once jumped into the midst of a flock of sheep and just as she did so, she went into labor. Giving birth to a single tiger cub, the tigress then died on the spot.
The kindhearted sheep then took it upon themselves to care for the cub. Nursing and suckling him, they brought him up to be one of them, so that he thought himself to be a sheep just like them. When they grazed on grass, the orphaned cub did the same. He learnt to bleat like the rest of the sheep, joining in with them, even if he sounded strangely different. And as time went by, he grew up into a fine young tiger, albeit with the character of a sheep.
One day a magnificent full-grown tiger chanced upon the flock and watched the grass-eating tiger with amazement. As he approached the sheep, the flock scattered and the cub was left behind, bleating in terror. Impressing upon him that he meant no harm, the big tiger than dragged the younger one to a lake. Asking him to look at his reflection in the water, he roared, "Look at yourself. You are exactly like me. You are not a sheep at all, but a tiger just as I am!"
At first the tiger sheep couldn't believe it. But gradually, with help from the big tiger, he started to awaken to his true reality. Weaning him away from his diet of grass, the big tiger then patiently coaxed him to try eating flesh. The grass-eating tiger now began to relish the taste of warm blood. He gave up eating grass or trying to bleat and now started to hunt for his own food. Finally, he had realised who he really was.
Adapted from Folktales from India by A. K. Ramanujan
Vilas Tapekar and Hemlata Borecha are both happy to have cleared their tenth standard examinations. And like good students everywhere, both are unanimous in their praise of Pappachan Cherian, principal of Manav Mandir High school for his motivation. The only difference is that they are not students of the school but employees; while Tapekar is a peon, Borecha works here as a sweeper.
Tapekar, 40, who has been working for the school since the last 17 years, explains how monetary restrictions prevented him from appearing for the SSC Board examinations again after failing in 1982. Realizing the importance of education and wishing to set an example to his daughter, he decided to study again. "Our principal not only motivated me to appear for the exam, but also helped monetarily," he reveals, adding that he now wishes to become a junior clerk in the school.
Likewise Borecha, 36, who was keen on studying, was prevented from doing so because of an early marriage and financial difficulties. Inspired by her mother who is a graduate and her sister who is pursuing her M Com degree, she also decided to resume studies. "Our school principal encouraged and helped both of us throughout the year with our studies. He even guided us in the choice of subjects," she says, expressing a wish to now study even further.
The man who motivated Tapekar and Borecha to fulfil their dreams by clearing their schooling through the National Institute for Open Schooling (NIOS), Pappachan Cherian, is the winner of the Kala Guru award in 2005, for introducing extra-curricular activities in the school. "Schools are important tools through which a positive change can be brought about in society," he says, adding that both Tapekar and Borecha were eager to learn and worked hard during their exams. But that the world had more Pappachan Cherians...
To leap across an abyss one is better served by faith than doubt...
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