Tolerate the world and its endless foolishness. Smile and keep on loving the people. – Chinmaya
What can be called the greatest foolishness in this world?
To forget God and to run after the world.
What is the end result of this foolishness?
Suffering, suffering and more suffering!
Persian mysticism tells of a wanderer who trudged along on a seemingly endless long road. He was carrying all sorts of burdens. A heavy sack of sand hung on his back, logged water tank was strapped around his body. In his right hand, he carried an odd-shaped stone, in the left hand a boulder.
Around his neck, an old millstone dangled on a frayed rope. Rusty chains, with which he dragged heavyweights through the dusty sand, wound around his ankles. On his head, the man was balancing a half-rotten pumpkin. With every step he took, the chains rattled.
Moaning and groaning, he moved forward step by step, complaining of his hard fate and the weariness that tormented him.
On the way, a farmer met him in the glowing heat of midday. The farmer asked, “O, tired wanderer, why do you load yourself down with this boulder?”
“That’s awfully dumb,” replied the wanderer, “But I hadn’t noticed it before.” With that, he threw the rock away and felt much lighter.
After going a long way down the road, another farmer met him and asked, “Tell me, O tired wanderer, why do you trouble yourself with the half-rotten pumpkin on your head, and why do you drag those heavy iron weights behind you on chains?”
The wanderer answered, “I’m very glad you pointed it out to me. I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself.” He took off the chains and smashed the pumpkin into the ditch alongside the road. Again he felt lighter. But the farther he went, the more he began to suffer again.
A farmer coming from the field watched him in amazement and said, “Oh, good man, you are carrying sand in the sack, but what you see far off in the distance is more sand than you could ever carry. And that big water tank – as if you planned to cross a desert. All the while there is a clear stream flowing alongside you, which will accompany you on your way for a long time.”
Upon hearing this, the wanderer tore open the belt of the water tank and leaked out its water into the path. Then he emptied the sand from his knapsack. He stood there pensively and looked into the sinking sun. The last rays sent their light to him. He glanced down at himself, saw the heavy millstone around his neck and suddenly realized it was the stone that was still causing him to walk so bent over. He unloosened it and threw it into the river. Freed from all his burdens, he gave a deep sigh of relief.
All our problems are only self-created. By the time we realise this truth, unfortunately, the entire life is over!
Bhagavan Shankaracharya laments in Bhaja Govindam:
बालस्तावत् क्रीडासक्तः तरुणस्तावत् तरुणीसक्तः । वृद्धस्तावत् चिन्तासक्त: परमे ब्रह्मणि कोऽपि न सक्त:||
(In the childhood one is busy with play; in the youth one is busy with the opposite sex. The end result? In the old age one is busy with worries and anxieties. Alas! None is attached to the Lord!)
How we busy ourselves with the unimportant and the insignificant things of life!
These are the words of Manohar Parrikar (Chief Minister of Goa) while he was under treatment for Pancreatitis in US Hospital:
“Life has given me abundant political respect and it has become synonymous with my name. However as I have noticed, except my work I rarely had any other moments of enjoyment. Only my political status has remained a reality.
Today in this bedridden state I introspect my life… The popularity and wealth – I thought to be milestones of life. And the inflated ego – all of it appears to be jaded and meaningless as I stand facing the death.
“With each passing second as the death creeps to me stealthily, I see the green lights of life-saving machines around me, their humming noise makes me realize my proximity to death. At this critical moment, I have understood that there is so much more to life than accumulating wealth and fame… I realize that of all the political success that I have earned, I can carry nothing with me…
“This bed of sickness is the most exclusive bed as nobody can use it except yourself. You can have servants, drivers, employees to serve and earn for you but none to share your sickness… All the things that are lost can be found or earned back but what cannot be retrieved is time…
“As you run through the rat race of life pursuing success you must realise that at some point of time you have to reach the last part of the drama in the theatre where the end of the show is inevitable…”
According to scriptures, happiness is our nature. When we seek it in the outer world, the scriptures call us “Vimoodhaatma”, a completely deluded fool.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Former Mr Universe, Hollywood actor and Governor of California) posted a photo of himself sleeping on the street under his famous bronze statue and sadly wrote: “how times have changed”…
The reason he wrote the phrase was not only because he was old, but because when he was the Governor of California he inaugurated a hotel with his statue. The hotel staff had told Arnold, “At any moment you can come and have a room reserved for you.” When Arnold stepped down as Governor and went to the hotel, the administration refused to give him a room arguing that he should pay for it.
He brought a sleeping bag and stood underneath the statue and explained what he wanted to convey: “When I was in an important position, they always complimented me, and when I lost this position, they forgot about me and did not keep their promise. Do not trust your position or the amount of money you have, nor your power, nor your intelligence. It will not last. When you’re important in people’s eyes, everyone is your friend. But once you don’t benefit their interests, you won’t matter.”
This is the way of the world.
यावत् वित्तोपार्जनसक्तः तावन्निजपरिवारो रक्त:। पश्चात् जीवति जर्जर देहे वार्तां कोऽपि न पृच्छति गेहे ||
(As long as one is an earning member of the family, he gets love and respect from others. Once he becomes old and incapable, none bothers about him.)
What should be our attitude in such a world?
First and the foremost – never be a fool to run after the world forgetting God. But when we have to deal with people who have done this mistake, let’s love and serve them with a compassionate attitude.
Gandhiji’s door was open to all.
Some came to seek his help to find employment; some to seek his help to settle disputes between husband and wife; some with the domestic problems of their families; some with tenant-owner problems; There was a theft in somebody’s house; somebody’s child was untraced; somebody had lost all his belongings; some came to narrate their woes; someone would seek advice on whom should one marry; someone on how one could make both ends meet with his or her meagre income; someone would raise problems of the traders.
Gandhiji not merely sat through all these but was totally tuned to the subject and to the person presenting the problem or seeking advice.
Thousands used to come to him with their sorrows, but there was hardly anyone who returned without feeling better and lighter.
Even when Gandhiji served all, he never expected anything from anyone. His inspiration and strength were from God and only God.
Let us hold on to God. Then alone can we, amidst all foolishness, tolerate, smile and love all.
O M T A T S A T