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Vedantic Stories

by Swami Sivananda

Prince or Fisherman?

A prince is sailing in a ship. He is the royal heir to a great kingdom. His father is a great emperor. The ship is caught in a cyclone and dashed upon a rock and through shipwreck all perish and only this prince clings on to a wood and he is washed ashore to an unknown land where no one knows him, and the land is strange and he is penniless, and starvation has made him ill, and some fisherman takes pity on him and takes him into the fishermen's colony and nurses him back to health, and after some t me he gains strength and becomes a part and parcel of the fishermen's colony. He has completely forgotten everything about his former state. He has got but faint memories of his previous life in the palace, but he knows nothing more of the palace. In this way he grows up as a fisherman, putting up with all the hardships of a fisherman's life. And then searchers have been sent by the king and these searchers are the saints, the children of God, and the spiritual books, and the Jiva is the ship-wrecked prince which has forgotten its home. From a state of plenitude it has come to the position of beggary, ill-fed, sometimes starving. Searchers are going country after country but who can recognise the prince among millions of people? Such a condition is the condition of Jiva. Ultimately someone manages to contact the prince after years of searching and he is one who is intimate with the emperor, who knows certain birth-marks on the prince through which he can identify the prince without any fear of error, and he happens to come across this boy and he recognises him and informs him that he was a prince, heir to a royal heritage. But attachment has grown between him and the fishermen and he cannot entertain the idea of leaving his foster-mother and foster-father. He declines to leave the fishermen. But the searcher tries to convince him. This is the process that takes place when the Guru tells the Jiva that Your real nature is bliss. Unlimited wealth is yours. But the Jiva is attached to this miserable existence. So, Guru has to wean the aspirant from the state of forgetfulness and then when the prince gets convinced by the knowledge given by the searcher, then a struggle comes. He has to make efforts to break attachment and if he has to get back h s lost heritage, he has to go back, and this going back is called Sadhana.

The Distant Inheritance

This brings about one more aspect of the previous story. There is a man in utter poverty. With great difficulty he is carrying out his living. He is in a certain country, and when he is in this condition, a multimillionaire has been travelling and somehow he came in contact with this person in a passing manner, and that man of unlimited wealth leaves in his will his entire fortune to this man as a legacy and he says in his will that this man has to come to the place where the rich man was living and establish his identity and claim this fortune, and he also says where the man is to whom he is leaving the will. Then the rich man dies and the solicitors who have got the will in their hands, send word to the poor man that he has to come there and get the wealth. News reaches him, You are the richest man in the world. You have inherited unlimited wealth and unlimited property. by cable this news is sent to him and he reads it, You are the richest man in the world. Now this man knows that he is a multimillionaire. So he will have no wants. He can buy anything that he wants. But at the moment he is actually penniless. He has to work hard for his livelihood. In his present condition he cannot get bread by merely saying that he is the richest man. Yet, undeniably it is a fact that he is the richest man, though he is not able to make use of his wealth. We are Nitya Suddha Atman. But if a mosquito bites us we get shivering and have to go to a hospital and take quinine. Yet, it is the real fact that we are Satchidananda Atman. This fact is true at all times. But practically it is of no use. We are unable to make use of it, because our condition is such.

Now what he has to do? Suppose the place where he has to reach in order to claim the will is 15,000 miles away. Now he has to work hard to meet his expenses of travel. Nobody will trust him and advance him money, simply because he says that he is the richest man in the world. He has to work hard and earn his passage-money. It may take him six months or even two years. And then he has to purchase the ticket and undertake the trouble and face all the hazards in the travel, and when he actually reaches the place and proves his identity, the fact of his being wealthy becomes turned into a concrete, practical, effective, living fact. Fact is there always. Even before he reached the place where he has to claim his wealth, he is the richest man. Similarly even now the fact is there that we are the Satchidananda Atman. But if the self-same fact has to become a vibrant, thrilling and vital experience and fully effective, sword cannot pierce me, wind cannot dry me, water cannot moisten me, all these things have to be demonstrated as an actual fact. Therefore, the necessity for doing Sadhana. Sadhana is the claiming of the wealth on the actual spot. Unless this is done, the fact of his being wealthy is useless to him. That is the condition of the Jiva, who is in full possession of the knowledge that he is the richest man. Such knowledge is useless to him until the condition of the will is fulfilled, and what is the will? It is that you are deathless, eternal, immortal Atman, the Light of lights. You are that from which countless universes arise. That is the ultimate will and God Himself has given this will, and if we have to make this knowledge a vital experience, what are the conditions to be fulfilled? Doing hard labour, earning passage-money, and undertaking the journey and reaching there is the condition to be fulfilled. What is that? That is Yoga or Sadhana and everything that Yoga implies.

The Parable of the Millionaire's Son

There was once a multimillionaire with unlimited wealth. He had an only child, a little baby son. The millionaire left all his wealth to the little boy who became the sole possessor of the entire huge fortune. So even at the little age of a year or so this tiny boy was a great multimillionaire. He was the possessor of a vast fortune. He had no need of anything at all. He himself was the owner of all the wealth. This was his real status.

But then what was his actual condition for all practical purposes? Let us see. Though it was true that the little boy was a multimillionaire yet all the same the boy was not in a position to enjoy the fact of his multimillionaireship in practical effect because of a number of things. Firstly as he was only a minor in age he could not utilise his status due to certain prevailing laws of inheritance. He had to attain the age of a major and then alone into active, effective and de facto ownership of his vast wealth and the status this wealth would give him. He was therefore subject to the operation of the law and WAS under the control of his guardian who was in charge until the boy attained the proper age of majority. Thus this multimillionaire had to obey the guardian and try to please him if he wished any of his special desires to be fulfilled. Secondly, the father had laid down certain specific conditions to be fulfilled by the boy if he was to get the fortune when he reached the age of majority, i.e., 18 years or 21 years as the law of the land required it. If he failed to fulfil these conditions then he was not eligible to the fortune.

Let us take for example that the father laid down in his will that the son would receive the fortune when he attained majority only on condition that he never smoked, drank wine, gambled or did anything that was disgraceful to the fair name of the family, etc. , etc. Now we see that even though it is a fact that the boy is a multimillionaire and no one can deny this fact nor no one can alter it yet all the same at the particular juncture until the boy has fulfilled all the conditions required by the Law as well as the father's will the mere fact of his being a multimillionaire (however true and real that it may be) does not in any way free him from his present limitations nor place him above from all wants. If he wants to experience that state when he is not at all in need of any thing whatsoever then he has to patiently wait till he grows up and also take care to fulfil the several conditions laid down by his father in his will. Then alone he will ultimately realise the full state of plenty and power and independence.

But before he has actually done this if he tries to act on the strength of his status he will find that will not succeed. If he orders for a motor car for 10,000 dollars the dealer will only smile but nothing will come out of it. But the guardian can make a purchase on the heir's behalf. The heir cannot do it though he is himself the real owner of the wealth. Is this not a very peculiar state of affairs really?

Similarly, even though you are in reality Satchidananda, Absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, you have to realise to fulfil all the conditions (viz., cultivation of virtues and eradication of vices) and undergo all the preparatory exercises like concentration, meditation, etc.

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