Gurjas Chahal narrates a story illustrating the fact that wisdom dawns only when we are ready for it
Long ago, when my mom was alive and I was a little girl, there came a Muslim fakir to our house one day. Dressed in pale white kurta-pyjama, shoulders wrapped in a cream shawl, he looked every inch a radiant being. My mother had great faith in him. She used to go to him often for taking advice on many family matters. One day, he happened to visit our side of the city and, on a humble invitation from my mother, came to our house.
I vaguely remember he said many wise things, out of which one was the all-important trick of how to get rid of one’s vices. The query raised to him was how a person’s habit of drinking liquor may be gotten rid of. His simple reply was that the person who wants to get rid of the drinking habit should pray once in the morning before God saying he might be given strength to spend the rest of the day in sobriety. In the evening, if he feels like drinking, he should indulge, but before sleeping, he must pray before God seeking forgiveness for the breach. The next morning, he should again seek forgiveness and pray for becoming strong enough to resist the temptation to drink. This cycle of morning and evening prayers, if repeated over a period of time, would surely correct the person of his vice.
Putting the lesson into practice
Time passed. I grew up and got married into a family in which one of the relatives of my husband, Ashwin, was a hard drinker. When I heard from his wife (my husband’s adopted sister Devi) that she was vexed with Ashwin’s drunken brawls at home and the undesirable impact they were having on the children, I felt concerned for her. I offered help, which she gratefully accepted. I told her the Muslim fakir’s trick I had heard in my childhood days and that I was willing to pray for Ashwin in the manner explained by the fakir.
After a few days, it came to be known that there was no change in Ashwin. In my mind, I was crestfallen, but I put a brave front. I thought that my prayers would help Ashwin come out of his addiction but it did not make any difference to his drinking habit. I realised that, to have any effect, the prayers should be made by the person concerned and that too from the heart.
A sea change
Once, after a gap of a few years, my husband and I visited Devi’s house on the occasion of Deepavali. We were surprised to know that her husband was now a totally changed person. He had left drinking altogether. And how did this change come about? Devi said, “Ashwin, under the good influence of some of his morning-walk friends, had joined a yoga group, where he learnt about Yam-Niyam—the first two limbs of Maharishi Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga—besides the other popular limbs like Aasan and Pranayama. In the Niyam limb, one of the five attributes which one should imbibe in one’s life is ‘swadhyay.’ Devi told us that ‘swadhyay’ helped Ashwin in coming out of the bad habit of drinking.
On returning home, I kept wondering what was so magical about this attribute. I checked up in the scripture ‘Yoga Darshan’ by Maharishi Patanjali for the exact meaning of ‘swadhyay.’ It said, “‘Swadhyay’ means reading and imbibing the Vedas, Shastras, works of great sages, etc., and chanting of God’s name like ‘Om’ or any other name or the Gayatri Mantra. It also means the study of one’s own life. Thus, the seeker should, by his own intellect, keep finding his vices and keep eliminating them.”
The penny dropped
This was a pretty long and complicated concept for a person like Ashwin to understand. I decided to visit his yoga instructor in person and enquire as to what the concept means for a layman. The next morning I was in Devi’s neighbourhood park. After the yoga class, I waylaid the instructor on his way back home and, with folded hands, paid my salutations. I requested to be briefed about how one should make Yam-Niyam a part of one’s life.
The yoga instructor was an aged person who had been leading a godly life for the past 35 years. He gracefully enlightened me, giving very simple meanings of all the limbs of yoga. Responding to my particular interestin ‘swadhyay,’ he explained that this word simply meant that before sleeping, one should go over the day’s happenings in the mind. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. How would this help? Following this practice would act like magic and automatically eliminate bad things done duringthe day.
I reflected upon the fakir’s and instructor’s words in my mind and felt that what our great souls say is more or less the same thing but we understand it only when we are at a certain stage of life—the stage when we are receptive to it.
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