Once in the heart of the black forest of Bengal, there was a small gurukulam, a place of study, where students had the opportunity to isolate themselves from the world and devote their time to studies. By living with the master, students could enjoy the knowledge of the Vedas. In this particular gurukulam, there was a disciple by the name Pitu, whose name means the nectar that is good and auspicious. Pitu had decided to clarify some questions that were still unclear to him as far as his understanding of himself.
Pitu approached his master:
“Namaskaram, Swamiji”, he said. “I have 2 questions… if I may and you are not in a hurry”.
The master grinned, and twisting his white eyebrow, he said:
“Why don’t you come with me to the temple of Ashvatha-Ganapati? I have to get some Soma, a sacred drink, for the afternoon rituals”.
They talked looking at the sunset during the stroll, crossing various pastures and passing by different animals.
Pitu: My first question is… I’m going back to Calcutta soon. I’ll have to go back to work, as you know my father owns a shoe store, but I’m not sure this is what I want to do. The trade of shoemaking does not appeal to me, little is gained, all the products are the same, and I still have to deal with a lot of people who do not really appreciate the new ideas I have. I’m not sure what to do; I thought about studying to be a doctor, because I think it’s a more prestigious profession and I could then apply my knowledge and make shoes and accessories for medicine. What do you think?
Master: Pitu, sometimes we complicate things due to our lack of knowledge about what things are for, and furthermore, your analysis about the medical profession may be very simplistic. Do you have any idea how much studying goes into becoming a doctor, and that even after studying most diseases are incurable? The neighbor’s Ashvata (tree) always seems greener on the other side, but if you stop to look at it, you’ll find it has so many problems.
Doctors work hard. You wouldn’t be able to come to the gurukulam so easily if you were a doctor. Too much work, too much studying and a lot of frustration because the disease is either easily treatable by prescribing medication or is so complex that no one knows the cause, which leads to a lot of pain and suffering. Lastly, it takes a long time to earn money in this profession because it takes many years of practice to get recognition and build up a clientele.
Pitu: So I don’t know what to do…
Master: Perhaps the concept of the perfect profession is misrepresented in your mind, since the purpose of the work is not clear, as I was saying. Every profession will always have a huge amount of obstacles and variables that we cannot control; therefore, the wise person do not choose their occupations by the number of obstacles. Everyone is endowed with aptitudes and a natural attraction for certain activities in this world; it is precisely these activities that are actually the best starting point.
Pitu: But what does a starting point do? What is the purpose of work?
Master: All karmas, actions of this universe, are intertwined, as human beings we depend on many things: our parents, animals and society. Therefore, work is a natural way to participate in this grand scheme. It’s your share; it is how you contribute to your family, your friends, with our country, with humanity and with nature, with Mother Earth and the entire cosmos. And, if you ask me what to do, I say start with the people around you and contribute with the skills that are your starting point, which come naturally to you.
The starting point is simply a human being who is trying to survive with a limited set of capabilities; the point of arrival is that of a contributor who can see the role of his/her small part in the movement of the universe. Focusing on what to do to in order to be happy is a mistake, that is, it’s only a fantasy. If there was some activity that could be done in order to make people happy, everyone would be doing the same thing and life in society would thereby be rendered impossible. The real challenge is to discover how to enjoy that which must be done by you, which is revealed naturally in each moment of your life.
Pitu: I understand, but it’s funny because despite knowing that work is not the cause of happiness, it has the power to ruin my good mood – to say the least. Actually, this brings me to my second question. I’ve been studying for a long time, yet I feel neither satisfied nor that my issues have been resolved – which becomes quite appartent when dealing with the world. I’ve studied hard and dedicated myself to my disciplines, as well as exposing myself to that knowledge; however, when it comes to dealing with the world, I see only suffering. I ask myself if there is really a solution for this life, everything I do seems to go wrong. I do not know if it’s the moment I’m going through, but what if it does not change?
After paying respects at the temple of Ganesha, the master asks the local vendor for two jars of Soma. Pitu collects branches of Ashvatha, which are important elements of their daily rituals.
Master: Young man, you’ve been studying for a while, but you do not see yourself free in everyday life and you want to know what to do. I should be asking you: What to do?
Pitu: I don’t know, there is no solution.
Master: Stop being lazy and think! What to do depends on what you need, right?
Pitu: But I do not know what I need. Be honest, with so much misery everywhere, how is it possible to be happy? Everyone has so many reasons to be sad. The books tell us to get to know Ishvara, which is the order of this universe. Now tell me, are both violence and compassion Ishvara???
Master: Oops, now I found something that can be corrected. Pay close attention. Yes, both compassion and violence are Ishvara, but that’s not what is meant in terms of recognizing Ishvara. The idea is that the same violence, without the vision of Ishvara, is a cause of suffering; whereas with the vision of Ishvara, it is not. Without Ishvara, violence is not only undesirable, but make us feel helpless, small and gives the impression that God is unjust. With Ishvara, violence has a role in the scheme of things and a reason to affect each person, and nobody is really a victim of the universe. The idea is that when the vision of Ishvara is present in one’s life even if the situation is uncomfortable, there will be an internal space for the discomfort not to turn into sorrow, regret or the remorse that life is hopeless. This is good! A beautiful planet, so much knowledge, so much to do and so much to share and you dare to say “my life is hopeless”!?!?!
Pitu smiled. He knew that the master had a great affection for him and that in fact this way of speaking had a purpose, despite how aggressive it may have seemed. He opened his heart to the words of the master and was taken by them…
Pitu: Okay, so I need the vision of Ishvara. Ishvara is the order that governs everything that happens here in this universe, isn’t that right??
Master: No. That’s not entirely wrong, but something is missing.
Master: What do you say?
Pitu: Let me see… To have a vision of Ishvara, I need to study the Vedas more.
Master: My boy, without the Vedas you will not have the vision of Ishvara, that’s correct, but you have been studying, right? You know Sanskrit, mantras, rituals, yoga, pranayama, and even the secret upasanas of Yajurveda, right? And you practice it everyday with sincerity, as prescribed, right? So that’s not the missing element, after all you already do that. Try again, you can do better than that.
Pitu: Well, I don’t know. I need just to live life I guess.
Master: Everyone is living life, this is not the answer that I expected from you…
The sun went down and, back to the ashram, you could see the starry sky with virtually no clouds, an incredible sight. Pitu sits on the edge of the temple of Subramanyam and with tears in his eyes attempts to find a solution. The master, serious on the outside, but very happy inside, looks at the stars and prayers for Ishvara to open the boy’s eyes. The master was happy because this is a very important moment in the search for self-knowledge.
Pitu: I don’t know… (voice trembling)
Master: I’m going to try to help you follow my thoughts. You need the vision of Ishvara; you don’t have it. You don’t know how to get it. Correct?
Pitu: What do you mean by the term vision?
Master: Good question. Vision is a term that refers to the limited cognition of a subject that is needed to accomplish a task. For example, to make shoes you do not have need to be an expert in orthopedics, or in the anatomy of the foot, but you need to have a vision of the subject. You may not able to explain why a particular cut or sole does not work, but you have accumulated experience by seeing feet and shoes, which gives you that vision. The truth is that not even an orthopedist who specializes in feet knows all the peculiarities of how the foot works, but his vision has more details and more clarity than yours, so emphatically we say that he has the knowledge and you have a vision of orthopedics. So you already have the understanding that Ishvara is the order that pervades everything – this is correct – and that it is impossible to really know this Order in detail. Just look at how many stars are in the sky; despite all of them, the truth is that this universe has many more stars than we are now seeing, more stars than grains of sand on the beach in Calcutta! This is why it’s called a vision, because it is what our minds can grasp. But, even if only relative, Ishvara must be present in my daily life. Being aware of this presence is the vision of Ishvara.
Pitu: I understand, but how to get that vision? Because in the case of the shoe, the trade gives us the experience, but with Ishvara that’s not possible.
Master: Right. What now? What to do? Everything around us is Ishvara, what to do? Even the logic you are using to figure out how to have a vision of Ishvara, is He too, is it not?
Master: Then nothing. Think about it. You do not have the vision and Ishvara is not like a shoe that you can live with it. Not even logic can help you. The truth is that unless you have a vision of Ishvara, you have no way of knowing how to get it. Because Ishvara is no longer an object that you can stumble upon. What to do? You do not have the vision, do not know how to get it and you know that you cannot know alone.
Pitu: I’ll ask someone who knows?
The master smiled. Although he could have given the answer to this question in the first instance it would not have made any sense to the disciple at that time.
Master: Really there is no other way, but unless you see it (which has no other way) clearly, what I have to say would not make sense. It would make much less would if you had not been studying Vedanta and studying the disciplines with the necessary seriousness. Listen carefully, because we cannot say that anything different than this is wrong, but will always be incomplete. Do you know who Ishvara, the creator, is?
He has infinite eyes. Of all the eyes of creation, of all those animals that are walking here, do you know who is behind them? He is. He is watching, including through mine and yours.
He has infinite feet, when something moves whether it crawls, runs or flies, do you know who allows this movement? He does. In the shape of the feet, wings, in the form of oxygen, the air that feeds the muscles, in the form of our blood and even the desire to move…
Sa bumim vishvato vrtva atiatinat ashangulam…
And having created all that is here and pervading all, don’t be fooled to think he is now trapped in the universe, he remains at “dashangulam” 10 inches of all that is here, in other words, he is free. Like the person who sleeps dreams with an immense universe, everything is him/her and at the same time s/he is not trapped by anything that happens in the dream.
And you say, Laws!? Ishvara are laws?!? Looks like we’re talking about a set of rules like traffic laws.
He’s alive, Pitu! And he’s listening to you right now, always is. Do you know how big he is?
You see. There are more stars in our galaxy than grains of sand on the beach, do you know what that is?!? You can get an idea of the size, of the power?!?
Only he can give you that vision Pitu, it’s like a blessing you just have to ask, he is listening. Even with all study the vision of Ishvara is a blessing that does not take long, it only takes maturity of time.
Everybody is rushing back and forth in this tiny planet, for a maximum of one hundred years of life, which is not even a sneeze in the history of the universe, and asking for things that are even more insignificant. It’s as if he were waiting for this moment: “Finally someone who wants to meet me!” (laughs)
Just open your heart let the tears run down and ask for him at the same time he will be present.
From the temple to the dormitories there is a small dirt road where they walked. Pitu was processing everything that was said and the Master was happy to have contributed his share. According to Vedic tradition, Ishvara, the creator, or the cause of the universe we are living, is not a matter to be believed or to have faith. It’s something to be understood, it’s a discovery that is supported by logic and by our experience with the help of the Vedas, which are our means of understanding. But the truth is that the understanding that everything around us is Ishvara only becomes true when our entire personality sees, has the vision of Ishvara as a gift and not as a set of inert laws or worse yet an intelligent being who we are going to find after death. And that’s how all the great masters we know in the history of the Vedas were also great Bhaktas, devotees, because that is the relative expression of the vision of Isvhara.
Lastly, in order to identify with the student and inspire him the master stroked the head of the disciple and said:
Master: I remember it was a very special moment when I asked my teacher this question because from that point on we are no longer alone. Because the more Isvhara becomes present, more maturity in the search and the more maturity and more Isvhara until the end. When the chest tightens, I remember that it is not suffering it is just nostalgia, and I sing this song to myself:
“Darshanam tarun maya…” Oh creator, please give us your vision…”
(this is a short video from one Pandit in Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, singing the referred song)
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