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Inspirng Stories

by Swami Sivananda

1. TIRUVALLUVAR

In Mylapore, Madras, there lived about two thousand years ago a born Siddha and born poet by the name of Valluvar, or, as he is more commonly known, Tiruvalluvar. He is regarded as an Avatara of Brahma. He married Vasuki and led the life of a householder to show people the way of leading a divine life, a life of purity and sanctity, while living in the world. All his wise sayings and teachings are now in book-form and is known as Tirukural. These sayings and teachings are in couplets. Here are some of them:

Just as the alphabet 'A' is the beginning of all letters, so also God is the beginning for this universe.

Learn the Sastras completely and then act according to their injunctions.

The Anicha flower will fade by smelling but guests are more sensitive if the hosts turn their faces a bit.

Death is like sleeping in the burial ground, birth is like waking in the morning.

These couplets are 1330 in number. They contain the essence of the Vedas, the Upanishads and the six Darshanas. Tirukural is regarded as a universal Bible. It is another Gita, Koran or Zend Avesta.

Some aspirants repaired to Tiruvalluvar and enquired: "O sage, which Ashrama of life is better-Grihastha or Sannyasa?" The sage did not give any answer. He simply kept quiet. He wanted to teach them the glory of Grihastha Ashrama by example. His wife was an ideal, chaste and devoted lady who would never disobey his orders, but would implicitly carry them out. Once Tiruvalluvar was taking cold rice in the morning. He said to her: "O Vasuki, the rice is very hot, bring a fan to cool it." She was at the time drawing water from the well when he called her. She at once left the rope and ran to him with a fan to cool down the rice. She did not say to her husband: "How can cool rice be hot? Why do you want a fan now?" She simply obeyed his commands. The vessel that contained water was hanging half way in the well fearful of her Pativrata Dharma Sakti. The aspirants noticed this strange phenomenon and the noble conduct of Vasuki, and were struck with amazement.

On another occasion, Valluvar called his wife at 1 p.m. and said: "Bring a lamp immediately, O Vasuki. I am stitching a piece of cloth. I cannot see the eye of the needle. I cannot pass the thread properly." She did not say: "It is broad daylight now. Why do you want a lamp? You can see the needle properly." But she implicitly obeyed his word. The aspirants were much inspired by the ideal life of sage Tiruvalluvar and the exalted conduct of his wife. They did not speak a word to the saint. They quietly left the place with profound satisfaction. They were deeply impressed by the practical and exemplary life led by the sage and his wife. They learnt a lesson that the life of an ideal householder is in no way inferior to that of an ideal Sannyasin who is treading the path of Nivritti and austerity in the Himalayan caves, and that each is great in his own place.

Dear reader! Can you find a single devoted wife like Vasuki in these days of modern civilisation and scientific advancement? If the husbands of the present-day behave like Tiruvalluvar, the wives will say: "My husband has become senseless. He wants to fan the rice when it is cold. He wants a light when there is broad daylight." The wives will rebuke their husbands and fight with them. They will seek separation.

That house wherein the wife serves the husband with sincere devotion and observes Pativrata Dharma, is heaven on earth. That house wherein the wife fights with the husband and disobeys his orders, is a veritable hell on earth. Ladies who practise Pativrata Dharma need not go to temples. They need not practise any Vrata or penance. Service of husband becomes worship. They can realise God through service of their husbands. Husbands also should be ideal persons with noble qualities. Husbands are the Gurus for their wives. Wives need not get any initiation from any Acharya. Glory to such exalted ladies who practise Pativrata Dharma!

2. STORY OF A BANIA

A Bania once approached a Sadhu for initiation. The Sadhu said: "I will initiate you when I meet you next time." The Bania pressed the Sadhu again and again on several days for quick initiation. The Sadhu totally declined. He returned to the Bania after a couple of years. He placed in his Bhiksha-bowl some mud, hair, urine and excreta and approached the Bania for alms. The Bania brought nice sweet-meats, Kheer, Halwa, etc., for the Sadhu. He prepared nice dishes as he thought he would be initiated this time by the Sadhu. The Sadhu said to the Bania: "Put everything in my bowl."

The Bania said: "How can I place them, Swamiji, in this dirty bowl. Kindly clean the bowl and bring it to me. I will place all the preparations in it."

The Sadhu replied: "When such is the case with this bowl how can I place the pure Lord in your heart which is filled with various impurities like lust, anger, pride, greed, etc. How can I initiate you now, when your mind is very dirty like this bowl?"

The Bania got vexed and went away in shame. He purified himself through charity and selfless service and got himself initiated by the same Sadhu after some time. The ground (mind) must be prepared first. Why do you bother much about Upadesha? Purify yourself, and get the moral qualifications, Brahmacharya, etc. The initiation will come by itself.

3. RAJA GOPICHAND

Minavaty, mother of Raja Gopichand, gave four instructions to her son: 1. Eat nectar-food. 2. Sleep on a bed of flowers (Pushpa Shayana). 3. Live within the iron fort 4. Enjoy with the most beautiful woman (Param Sundari).

The Adhyatmic meaning or esoteric significance of these instructions is this. 1. When you are really hungry, eat your food. It will be digested well. It will be palatable like nectar. Hunger is the best sauce. 2. When you become really sleepy, lie down; you will get sound sleep even though you lie down on a bed of stones. 3. Live in the company of dispassionate Yogis, Sannyasins and Mahatmas. This is the iron fort. No temptations will allure you. 4. Meditate and raise the Brahmakara-Vritti and enjoy with Brahman. This is enjoyment with the most beautiful woman.

4. STORY OF A PANDIT

Once a learned Khatha-Sastri, a Brahmin Pandit and a Chandala were crossing the river Ravi in a boat in Lahore. The boat capsized owing to the fierce wind. Both the Pandit and the outcaste were about to be drowned. They were drinking water again and again. The arrogant and audacious Pandit told the Chandala: "Do not drink the same water from the upper surface of the river which I am drinking. You are polluting me, O Chandala! Drink only the water from the lower portion of the river." Look at the petty-mindedness of the learned Pandit! The Chandala is at the point of death. His life is trembling in the balance and yet the Pandit sees so much difference and entertains the idea of Brahmin-superiority! Do you think that the Brahmin Pandit will feel his oneness with all even after millions of births? What is the earthly use of his Khatha-Sastra, learning and knowledge? Fie on those miserable wretched Brahmin Pandits who are petty-minded and narrow-hearted! Glory to large-hearted Pandits!

5. THE JOLLY ANT

Once an ant that was living in a mountain of sugar met another ant living in a mountain of salt and asked: "Hallo, my dear friend! How do you do?" It replied: "I am not as jolly as you are. My mouth is always saltish as I am living in a mountain of salt." The jolly ant said: "Come along now to my abode. I shall make you jolly. I live in a huge mountain of sugar. I shall make your tongue always sweet." The unhappy ant followed the jolly ant to the mountain of sugar and lived there for a week. The jolly ant asked his friend: "How do you fare now, my amiable comrade. It replied: "Still the same as my lot, my good friend. "Wash your mouth well with this saccharine solution. Rub your tongue well with this sugar soap. Your tongue needs good brushing up. You were living for several years in a mountain of salt." It followed the instructions of the jolly ant. From the eighth day its mouth became sweet. It also became very jolly.

Some aspirants keep within themselves some hidden subtle desires, greed, Moha and pride. These Doshas cling to their minds just as the old salt dung to the tongue of the miserable ant. They complain like the ant of the salt mountain: "We have no spiritual progress. We have no Self-realisation. We are not enjoying spiritual bliss."

Rub your mind and the heart with the soap of Japa and selfless service. Eradicate all the desires and impurities of the mind. You will enjoy the supreme bliss of Paramatman.

6. RAJA JANAKA

Raja Janaka once commanded a Brahmin who committed a serious crime to leave his dominion at once. The Brahmin said: "O Rajan, kindly tell me the extent of your dominion. Then I will leave your state and settle down in the dominion of another Rajan". Janaka did not say anything in reply. He sobbed heavily. He reflected seriously. Then he swooned suddenly. He came back to his senses after fifteen minutes. He then said: "I have inherited the state of my father. It is under my control, but nothing belongs to me exclusively. I cannot find my exclusive dominion anywhere, not even in Mithila and in my own progeny. Now real wisdom has dawned in me. I am now under the impression that either I have no dominion at all or all is my dominion. Either this body is not mine or the whole world is mine, and similarly that of others too. O best of the twice-born! This is my firm conviction. Stay in my dominion as long as you like and enjoy."

The Brahmin asked: "O king! What has made you regard this kingdom as not yours or all as yours? How have you renounced the feeling of 'mine-ness' in this kingdom of your ancestors, which you are ruling?" Janaka replied: "Everything is perishable on the physical plane. Life is evanescent. Everything passes away. I could lay my finger on nothing which I could call as mine. I remembered the Vedic text: 'It was anybody's property.' I reflected in this manner and so I have given up the idea of 'mine-ness'. Hearken carefully now as to how I see my dominion everywhere. I have no desire for the objects that give good smell: so I have conquered the earth. I have no desire for tasty things, beautiful forms, soft cushions or beds, or music: therefore I have conquered water, fire, air and ether. I do not desire anything for the mind, it is therefore under my perfect control. I do actions for the Devas, ancestors, for all beings and for those who come to my door."

Then the Brahmin smiled and said: "O king! I am Dharma in disguise. I have come to learn something about you. You are the only person to turn this wheel, the name of which is Brahman, the spoke of which is reason, which never turns back and which is kept to its course by the quality of goodness as its circumference." (Anugita: Ch. 17).

7. AN IDEAL KARMA-JNANA-YOGI

A Sadhu went to the court of Raja Janaka and observed all his manifold activities. He then thought within himself: 'How can we call Raja Janaka a Jnani? How can we take him for a spiritual man? He is only a worldly man. He is entrapped in so many worldly matters. He talks on worldly topics.' Raja Janaka, through his Divya Drishti or eye of intuition, understood the mentality of the Sadhu.

Calling the Sadhu to his side, Janaka said: "You seem to be a culprit. You are unfit to wear the garb of a saint. You are not thinking of God. The nature of faultfinding is deeply ingrained in you. I have decided to give you capital punishment. You will be hanged within a week.

The king ordered his servants to give the Sadhu vegetables without salt, sweetmeats with chillies, and delicious Kheer and almonds and raisins with tamarind daily. The Sadhu was terribly alarmed. He spent sleepless nights. He became very nervous. He always thought of the gallows. He dreamt daily that his neck was being tied with a rope. He became very thin and pale.

Raja Janaka sent a servant to call the Sadhu on the seventh day for execution. The Sadhu was unable to stand before the king. He trembled and fell on the ground senseless. He came back to consciousness after ten minutes when Janaka offered him some fruits and a cup of milk with salt. The Sadhu drank it. But his mind was on the gallows.

The sage-king then said: "Look here, O Sadhu! How do you like the taste of the milk now? Was it good? Did the milk contain sufficient sugar? How did you relish the food these seven days?" The Sadhu replied: "O Rajah, I did not feel any taste in the food or in the milk that you offered me just now. My mind is only the gallows all the time. I see only gallows everywhere. I have become a prey to the thought of the gallows. I did not know whether the vegetables or soup contained salt or sugar." Raja Janaka said: "O Sadhu, just as your mind is always on the gallows, so also my mind is always fixed on Brahman through my intense practice of Nididhyasan, although I engage myself in various sorts of worldly activities. Though I am in this world, I am out of the world always. Do you understand my mental state? In future do not look to the faults of others. Mind your own business always. Look to the good points of others. Glorify others. Do intense meditation. Realise. Work for the world unattached like myself. Now you can go."

The Sadhu was very much pleased with the king. He now realised his folly and the true glory of King Janaka. He understood fully that Janaka was a wonderful Brahma-Nishtha and had perfect balance of mind amidst multifarious activities. He prostrated before him again and again and took leave. Then he did intense Sadhana, realised the Self and followed the example of Raja Janaka in doing service to the world.

Raja Janaka was a full-blown Jnani though he worked in the world. His Jnana was tested. He was in the Durbar hall when a messenger brought the news that there was fire in the city. Janaka said: "My wealth is unlimited, and yet I have nothing. Even if the whole of Mithila is burnt, yet nothing is lost to me."

The name of Raja Janaka is always associated with Karma Yoga and Karma Nishtha. In the Gita also Lord Krishna speaks to Arjuna: 'Janaka and others indeed attained perfection by action; then, having an eye to the welfare of the world also, thou shouldst perform action. Whatever a great man doeth, that other men also do; the standard he setteth up, by that the people go. Therefore, without attachment, constantly perform action which is duty, for by performing action without attachment, man verily reacheth the Supreme.' Ch. III- 19, 20, 21.

It is very difficult to find out the state of a Jnani by his external actions. Jnana is purely a mental state. It is an internal condition. A Jnani only can understand another Jnani. Atma Jnana is imperishable and inexhaustible wealth. The wealth of the three worlds is nothing, I say nothing, when compared to the priceless treasures of the Atman. That is the reason why Janaka was not at all affected by the destruction of the city of Mithila. He stood adamantine on the rock of Atma Jnana.

8. HIGHEST SELF-SACRIFICE

King Yudhisthira performed a great sacrifice (Yajna) after the battle of Kurukshetra was over. He gave very rich presents to the priests and to the poor. All were greatly astonished at the grandeur of this magnanimous sacrifice. They exclaimed with great joy: "We have never seen in our life time such a splendid sacrifice. There had never been such a glorious Yajna in the annals of the world's history. Glory to King Yudhisthira! Glory to Arjuna! Glory to the Pandavas and Draupadi!"

A small mongoose appeared on the scene. Half of his body was golden and the other half was brown. He rolled on the ground where the Yajna was performed. He then exclaimed with sorrow: "This is no Yajna at all. Why do you praise this sacrifice in such glowing terms? You are all hypocrites and liars." The people replied: "What! You silly mongoose! Have you not realised the glory of this Maha Yajna? Thousands of poor people have become very rich. Millions of people have been sumptuously fed. Jewels and clothes have been distributed in abundance. The world has never witnessed such wonderful sacrifice. Get thee gone, O miserable wretch, O foolish mongoose!"

The mongoose replied: "My dear sirs, do not be annoyed with me unnecessarily. Just hear my words with patience. There was a poor Brahmin in a small village. He lived in a small hut with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. There was a great famine. The whole family suffered for months. They were starving for days together. One day the poor man brought some rice and dhal. When they were ready to take their meals, they heard a voice at their door. The Brahmin opened the door and found a guest. He said: 'O venerable guest, come inside. Take your seat and your food.' He gave his portion of the food to the guest. The guest said: 'Sir, my hunger is not satisfied. I am starving for the last fifteen days.' The wife said to her husband: 'My lord, here is my share. Kindly give him this portion of food. I am thy Ardhangini. It is my duty to share with you the weal and woe of life. The Sastras and Smritis declare like this emphatically.' The guest ate this portion also, but still his hunger was not appeased. The son said: 'Dear father, I must do my duty to you, otherwise people will criticise me. I must please you in the fulfilment of your holy wish. Give him my share also.' The guest ate this and yet he remained unsatisfied. The wife of the son said: 'O venerable father-in-law, you have all performed the greatest self-sacrifice. I must also join in this Yajna. Kindly give him my portion too.' The guest ate this portion and was fully satisfied. He then blessed the poor Brahmin and his family and departed in great joy. These four persons died of starvation the same day. A few grains of rice were found on the ground. I rolled myself on those particles. Half of my body became golden. Since then I have been travelling all over the world to find out another Yajna like that. Nowhere have I found one. Nowhere have I been able to convert the other half of my body into gold. This sacrifice of Yudhisthira has not turned the other half of the body into gold. That is the reason why I say that this is no sacrifice at all. Have you understood my point well. Do not become angry. Truth can never hurt the feeling of others." The priests and others who enjoyed the Yajna of Raja Yudhisthira were put to shame. They hung down their heads in shame. They realised now what true sacrifice was, that it should be free from pride and vanity.

Mark here the glory of the poor Brahmin and his remarkable spirit of self-sacrifice! He was an ideal householder. He was an ideal Karma Yogi. He reached the same state of Kaivalya as that of a Brahma Jnani or a Raja Yogi. May you all shine as this poor Brahmin!

9. STORY OF A BIRD

Four travellers had to take their rest one night under a big tree. It was winter. So they started a fire to warm themselves. A bird lived in the tree with its wife and children. The little bird looked down and saw the travellers. It said to its wife: "My dear, what shall we do now? There are some guests in our house. They are hungry. We must entertain them anyhow. We are householders and should show hospitality. We have nothing to offer them. I will offer my body to them." It dropped itself into the fire below and got roasted.

The wife of the bird witnessed the noble action of the husband. It thought within itself: 'There are four guests. The flesh of one bird is not sufficient for all of them. Let me also do some sacrifice in the fulfilment of the pure Sankalpa of my husband. The duty of the wife is to serve and please the husband at all times.' It also plunged itself into the fire and soon perished.

The five little ones said: "Still the food is not sufficient for our four guests. Our parents have done their duty well. We should keep up the name of our worthy parents. They have done great sacrifice; we should also contribute something towards this Atithi Yajna." They also fell into the fire and were burnt to death.

The four travellers were struck with utter amazement when they witnessed the deeds of the little birds. They did not eat the flesh. They remained without food.

Mark here the spirit of self-sacrifice of these little birds! Draw inspiration by remembering the ideal life led by them. A Karma Yogi or a householder should possess the virtue of self-sacrifice to a remarkable degree. He should be prepared to give up the body at any time to a noble cause. That Karma Yogi or householder who sacrifices his body for a noble cause reaches the same goal that is attained by a Raja Yogi through Asamprajnata Samadhi, or by a Hatha Yogi through awakening of the Kundalini and taking it to Sahasrara, or by a Vedantin through Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana. No pain, no gain. Greatness cannot be achieved without sacrifice both in the physical and spiritual planes.


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