What is God’s Worry?

— by Acharya Ratnananda

Long Long Ago, and Far Far Away, a group of saints and sages met to find out ways to establish a violence-free society. “God has provided us with all the facilities to live in peace…then why should people indulge in violence and violate His intentions? Why not appeal to Him to banish violence in human affairs.”

However, before such an approach could be adopted, they wanted to unravel the mystery behind conflicts. One wise lady then said that the basic cause of all the conflicts was a feeling of worry. It was worry that created fear, and it was fear that promoted wrong actions, and wrong actions generated conflicts. The best way then, to prevent conflicts, was to prevent worries!

All our problems could be solved, if God gave us the power to overcome our worries (which often overtake our wisdom!). This solution found instant acceptance with all the wise ones, and an intense prayer followed. The Divine appeared in response to their prayers, but laughed at their request!

“My dear children,” said God, “you are asking for something which is impossible even for me to grant.” To the shock of the entire assembly, God continued, “You are all worried about solving your own worries, but have you ever considered, that I have more worries to face than all of you? Your worries have only one-track, which is much simpler! However, I have to face two-track worries – much more complex!” The entire gathering was shocked and confused at this revelation that even God suffered from complex worries unknown to themselves, and appealed to the Divine for enlightenment.

God smilingly continued, “Worry is an illness that affects both good and bad people, with the difference that good people worry about the welfare of others, and bad people worry only about their own welfare. For example, while a righteous person prays to prevent robberies, the thief prays to me to prevent being caught. I have to answer both their prayers! My problem is how to reward the former and reform the latter, and make both of them happy! It is really a two-track worry!”

The saints had to humbly accept when the Divine said, “I advice you all to go back and solve your worries yourselves, and leave me to solve mine. However, since you have all come to me, I cannot send you back empty handed. Hence, I grant you the strength to face your worries. Solve them yourself if you can, or approach a realized Master to help you in your endeavor.”

This story from the Upanishads reveals that we are mostly responsible for our worries, which affect us directly or indirectly, and it is our own responsibility, with the guidance of a realized Master to either solve them or at least shelve them. Do the work on hand, but keep the worry in abeyance. This is one way to deliver us from the all pervasive disease of worry!

What is God’s Work?

by Acharya Ratnananda (from The Speaking Tree, June 16, The Times of India)

Once a proud but benevolent king sent for his prime minister and said, “All of us have some definite work or assignment to perform. A king rules, a soldier fights, a trader trades, a teacher teaches and a preacher preaches, though as individuals they do other things also. Then what is the primary function of the Creator? Can you answer my question?”

The minister was puzzled. No one knew, and no book ever explained what God’s work was. After some thought, he said, “I, too, have often wondered about this like you. But my duty here is to advise and assist you on worldly affairs. This involves spiritual matters and the right person to answer you is our bishop.”

When the king repeated his question to the bishop, the bishop asked for a week’s time to reply. At the end of the week, the bishop was sitting under a tree on the outskirts of the town, thinking whether to face the king’s wrath the next morning, or to run away from the kingdom.

A shepherd boy who was passing by enquired about the cause for his worry. The bishop brushed him aside, saying he was deeply worried about a spiritual matter. The boy was quite insistent, and so the bishop related his trouble, without any hope of solution or solace from the boy.

“My dear master,” said the boy, “is that all that worries you so much? Please go in peace to the king. Tell him that the shepherd boy knows the answer.”

The surprised bishop begged the boy to give him the answer, but the boy preferred to meet the king in person. So the bishop went home, and the next morning he was at the court when the king eagerly asked for a reply.

“My dear king!” said the bishop, “i need not have taken so much time or trouble to give you a reply. However, i would request you to call for my shepherd boy who will give you a satisfactory answer.”

The surprised king immediately sent for the boy, who promptly presented himself before the king. His appearance was repulsive to everyone, but the court awaited his words with interest.

“You, shepherd boy,” said the king, “do you know the answer to my question which even learned scholars are not aware of?”

The boy paused for a while and said, “My dear sir, before i answer your query, may i request that proper protocol is observed. You are a student, as far as this question is concerned, since you want to learn. I am a master as i am to give you the knowledge. Normally the master occupies a higher seat than the student.” After some hesitation the king slowly came down from his throne and let the boy sit on it. So eager was he to know the answer!

But the boy, after ascending the throne, was calmly enjoying the new-found dignity and did not speak for a while. Impatient, the king shouted at the boy, “You fellow! Where is my answer? What is God’s work?” The boy calmly replied, “Here’s the answer, to push down the haughty and to push up the humble – that is God’s work!”

This is one of the 1,50,000 stories found in the ancient puranas, which have relevance even in modern times. This story, and more can be found in Acharya Ratnananda’s book “Tales for the Young and Old”

Acharya Ratnananda (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s father) left for his heavenly abode on June 8. Vaikunth Aradhana on June 19 at the Art of Living International CentreBangalore. Priti Bhoj at 10 a.m. All are invited.

A few Recollections about my Grandfather

Truly Grand in every sense of the word, my grandfather means the world to me. Growing up with grandparents is such a blessing. I was three years old when Arvind, my younger brother was born in Bangalore. After spending three years in Pondicherry (about 200 miles from Bangalore) on the East Coast, I got to move to Bangalore, where my mother’s parents lived. My father’s parents passed away before I was born, and I never got to see them, but I was extremely lucky to be able to grow up with my mother’s parents.

Grandparents, somehow, always know the right thing to do and say. They have more experience than our parents no doubt, and that teaches them a few tricks ☺ Their patience and love, and their gentle way of teaching us as children has left an indelible impression on both of us, and we will always appreciate them for this.

I remember asking my grandfather (Tatha) to narrate a new story every night – and he would tell me the most wondrous stories of King Vikramadiya, of Wise Sages, of Tenali Rama, and many many more from the Upanishads and the Puranas. Each night, Arvind and I would look forward to story time with Tatha. And Tatha would relate them with such interest and attention to detail, that he would make the story come alive in our mind’s eye. Each story had a moral to it – and through these wondrous and light hearted stories, Tatha was able to instill a sense of morality and uprightness in both of us. When we were with Tatha, there was always time for fun – and he would spoil us with toys and chocolates – at one point I had very few teeth left – mostly chocolate stained ones 🙂

Tatha was also the one who evoked the traveler in us – every summer, he would take my grandma, Arvind and me on a journey to temples, national parks and monuments. He was learned in such a wide range of knowledge on so many different topics, and he had such a unique way of interpreting stories and the myriad symbols in the temples. He would explain why different towns or cities were named that way, and would get us thinking rationally and encouraged us to cultivate a scientific temper.

For Tatha, the world was a beautiful play of Divine consciousness – in the plants, in the animals and birds, and in people, Tatha saw that Divine spark. A deeply spiritual man, he was not one for following rituals and superstitions. He always told us about the Oneness of Divinity – and that it was one Divinity that manifested in so many thousand forms. He encouraged us to question prevalent customs and rituals, and never believed in the rigid separation that the caste system had caused in society. Explaining that the ancients used the “Varna” system to help continue trades and professions, because it was easier in those days to learn from your father, he believed that all individuals were created equal and that everyone had a right to education. His belief was mirrored in the way he approached Vedic education coupled with modern science at the schools that he helped start.

Tatha’s role was crucial in starting two big organizations dedicated to spirituality, science, and service.Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth, an educational non-profit institution and VISTA-India, an institution dedicated to women empowerment. Right from a young age, he inspired us to share, and share alike. When he would bring us a chocolate, he would encourage us to share it with the other children in the neighborhood. Whenever someone would come home, he would ask us to come and meet with and spend time with them. He helped us cultivate our social skills and got us to feel comfortable and friendly with people of all ages. He would take us to meet with the children of Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth and the young women learning tailoring and computer skills at VISTA-India and encouraged us to continue on the path of service to society.

Today, both Arvind and I feel extremely grateful to Tatha for all his love, guidance, and support, in becoming who we are. He once told me, that when most men pass, they go horizontally, after spending many years of relative quiet. He said that he did not want to go that way, he preferred to serve and pass away vertical, in action. This statement of his remains true. He returned from the VISTA-India Project site two weeks ago, and was ready to return on May 16th. However, his health condition did not allow him to do so, and he passed away on June 7, 2011.

He always taught us to pray – not just for ourselves, but for the welfare of all life in creation. On this day, I pray for the welfare of all life, and seek blessings for this noble soul. Even after his passing, he will always live on in my heart and in the way I look at the world. He is truly my GRAND Father, and he has made my life so Grand.

A Prayer to the Divine

Give Me Strength

— Rabindranath Tagore

This is my prayer to thee, my Lord
Strike, strike at the root of penury in my heart.
Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.
Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.
Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.

An Invitation to Reflect…

If

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two imposters just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, 
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breath a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch; 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; 
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run – 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, 
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Reflection: I understand Kipling’s poem as about being yourself and believing in yourself. He emphasizes that we are all unique individuals and calls for us to use our discretion and intellect, and reflect upon our thoughts and actions to make ourselves better. In my opinion, poems like these will have even greater and longer-lasting impact on our thoughts and actions, when we are able to understand these ideas through the lens of spirituality. Spirituality helps us go beyond the intellectual concepts – and helps us understand and experience what it means to be natural – and to stand ready to serve.

Invictus… Unconquered…

Nelson Mandela had this poem written on a piece of paper he kept during his years in the Robben Island prison. The words kept him going when his challenges seemed insurmountable. A poem about the strength of the soul that resides within each and every one of is – something I find truly inspiring.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Earnest Henley

People Power!

News headlines everywhere talk about the unrest in the Arab world – and their implications for authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the world. This morning’s news talks of governments trying to stifle opposition through the unprecedented show / use of force. (Saudi sends tanks to riot-hit Bahrain, Oman deploys army units fearing more unrest).

What is really interesting to see is that these protestors are not as easily intimidated by these scare tactics – thanks to the connectedness with people around using cell phones and social networking technologies! (Palestinians try to create Facebook Revolution). These revolutions are not something that were predicted a few weeks ago – but they are bringing an incredible amount of change to a region that has traditionally been under the grip of a few authoritarian leaders.

The prospects for democracy finally seem to be brightening for the Arab world. Very exciting times we live in!

Viva People Power!!

Where the Mind is without Fear!

The recent events in the Arab world have rekindled the hope for democratic rule in the Middle East. History shows that most of these transitions were marked by violence and chaos. What really stands out in the case of Egypt is the protestors’ commitment to nonviolence – and their ability to overcome the fear of reprisal. I heard one man on the radio who expressed that he was no longer afraid for himself or his own family. For his what mattered was that Egypt as a nation came out stronger and that a democracy would be established.

I think Rabindranath Tagore’s poem is particularly apt for this occasion. This poem inspired many freedom activists in India during the struggle for independence. In many ways, the people of Egypt are struggling for independence from oppression today. I believe that such inspiration is important for a society’s future. Though it is still unclear about what sort of a future awaits the people of Egypt, I pray that these events lead to a truly vibrant, secular, and democratic Egypt – despite all the odds!

Where The Mind is Without Fear

WHERE the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

– Rabindranath Tagore

Inspiration for Practical Idealists :)

“Everyday, in every way, please make us better and better,” this was a prayer that we were taught as young students at Sri Aurobindo Memorial School. At home, my grandfather would keep reminding me that it was our responsibility to leave things a little better than how we found them. As far as I can remember, this has been his advice to me – and it continues to be.

I have found this sense of aspiring to be better – to mould yourself into a better human being – to be of service to those around me – to be growing stronger as I get older 🙂 My inspiration, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s guidance is to be like a swan – to be able to discern between that which is good and not good – and to seek out the goodness in everything around you. You definitely run the risk of being made fun of as an idealist – but what is the purpose of life then, if you are not able to live it with some ideals to inspire you to move onward?

Idealism coupled with Practicality perhaps is what most of us look for in life. Most of us start out as idealists as children and as we grow through our teenage years something changes. Often one finds those who are idealistic have lost touch with reality and those who are practical tend to overlook the ethical and moral dimensions in life. People also tend to become cynical and lose sight of their childhood goals and dreams. This is where I believe a healthy dose of spirituality can help bring a balance between one’s need for ideal inspiration and the need to remain grounded in practical reality.

More on this soon 🙂