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THE LEAKY BUCKET

THE LEAKY BUCKET

THE LEAKY BUCKET

 

In the very olden times, there was once a great king. This king had many, many servants to take care of every task. One particular servant was responsible for bringing water from the well to the King’s table. However, it was a long journey from the castle to the well from which fresh, clean and pure water could be obtained. As this was the time before cars and other convenient machines, the servant carried two buckets – one attached to each end of a long stick – to transport water back to the castle. One of the buckets was new – it shone in the sunlight and it was perfect in every way. The other bucket was older and it had a small hole on one side that caused water to leak from it onto the ground, along the road back to the castle.

Thus, whenever the servant arrived back to the castle, although he had filled 2 buckets of water, he had only 1 and a half to present to the king. This caused the leaky bucket great distress. Twice a day when the servant picked up the buckets to go to the well, the older one would look longingly at the new one, “Oh, why can’t I be as shiny and flawless as the other?” the bucket would bemoan.  The leaky bucket would cast envious looks at the new bucket as not a single drop fell from its new, glistening metal.

The leaky bucket tried every possible way of shifting its weight, of rotating its sides to minimize the leakage, but all to no avail. It could retain no more than  half a  bucket of water through the long walk back to the castle.

One day, the leaking bucket was distraught and cried out to the servant, “Why don’t you just throw me away? I’m of no use to you. I can do barely half the work of your new bucket. You have to walk such a long way back and forth to the well and I leak out half of the water you fill me with. The king is such a good, noble, divine king. I want to serve him as well as your new bucket. But I can’t; I can’t even give him a full bucket of water.”

The servant was very wise (sometimes wisdom lies hidden in places where we don’t expect it). He said to the bucket, “Look down. Look below you on the path to the castle, the path upon which you leak your water.” The bucket at first was too ashamed to look and see drops of precious water scattered on the ground. When it finally looked, however, it noticed a thick row of beautiful flowers – so many lush, blossoming varieties – lining the path with vibrancy and beauty.

“Every day I pick these flowers to decorate the king’s table and his room,” the servant said. “When I noticed that you were leaking, I planted seeds all along the path on your side of the road. Then, twice a day you come and water them. Now, they have grown and blossomed into the king’s favorite centerpiece. He says their fragrance calms his mind and brings peace to his heart. So, see, you are not useless at all. Rather, you are serving two purposes – both to bring water and also to bring beautiful flowers to the king’s castle.

So many times in life we condemn ourselves for our failures, we compare ourselves unfavorably to others, we grieve over our own shortcomings, wishing that we could be different, more like someone else or some pre-conceived ideal. And as we do this, we blind ourselves to our real assets, to the flowers we are watering each day, to the real gifts we can give to the king.

God has given everyone a unique, special set of gifts and it is up to us to make the most of these. Some of us will be able to carry water without spilling a drop. Our gift to the world will be a full bucket of water. Others of us will be able to give only half a bucket of water, but we will line the world’s paths with beautiful flowers and sweet fragrance. Let us never underestimate our potential or the significance of our own gifts. Let none of us ever feel just like a “leaky bucket.”

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HEAVEN AND HELL

HEAVEN AND HELL

I have heard the story of a land called Hell. In this
land the people are emaciated and famished. Yet, they are
surrounded by bowls and bowls and platters and platters
of luscious food. Why, then, are they ravished with hunger?
Because, in this land called Hell, their arms cannot
bend and thus they cannot carry even one morsel of food
from the plates to their mouths. Their hands grasp fresh
breads, ripe fruits, spoonfuls of hot stews. But, in this land
of Hell, their bodies can not receive the nourishment of
this, for it cannot reach their mouths. Their stick straight
arms wave wildly in the air, desperately trying to figure
out a way to carry the delicious food to their mouths.
The people in Hell cry out day and night. They futilely try
to force their arms to bend. But the arms are rock solid
straight. They try to eat directly with their mouths, but
this is forbidden and they are beaten for it. So, they wither
away eternity in this land of never-ending frustration,
deprivation, and starvation.
I have also heard the story of a land called Heaven. In
this land, as well, the people have only stick-straight arms.
They, too, are surrounded by platters and bowls of scrumptious
food which they cannot carry to their mouths. Yet,
in Heaven, everyone is plump, well-fed, satisfied and joyful.
Why is this? If you look carefully you will notice that,                                                           rather than obstinately trying to bend their own unbendable
arms, they have simply learned to feed each other…
This is, truly, the only difference between Heaven and
Hell…do we stubbornly fight the will of God? Do we wrestle
unsuccessfully each day with situations that cannot be
changed? Do we flail around, wildly and desperately, trying
to change the unchangeable? Do we ignore our loved
ones, our friends, our colleagues who could help us immeasurably?
Do we insist on suffering in silence, never asking
for a helping hand from those near us? Do we watch
others suffering and withhold our own help because we
are so caught up in our own distress? If so, then we are
living in Hell.
Or, do we assess the situation, look around and see how
the situation can be improved? Do we graciously offer our
hands and our help to others? Do we accept others’ help
when we are in distress? Do we take joy in “feeding others”?
Do we spend time nourishing other’s bodies, minds
and hearts? Do we let ourselves be fed with love? Do we
allow others to nourish us, rather than thinking “I can do
it myself?” If so, then we are living in Heaven.
Too often in the world I see people who are living in the
Hell of their own isolation, in the Hell of their own frustration,
in the Hell of their own determination to change the
very nature of the world in which they live.
Families and friends gather together, frequently after many
months of separation. Too frequently, though, I hear
people say, “Oh, I dread this time of year. I dread it when
the whole family comes together,” and then they continue
on in a litany of complaints about this relative, that inlaw,
this friend. I have seen innumerable situations in which
family members and friends could so easily put an end to
another’s pain. Yet, they won’t. They don’t want to be the
one to offer, “Here, let me feed you.”
Or, in the opposite, but similar situation, I see so many
people suffering who could be helped by their families and
friends. Yet, they won’t ask for help. They won’t let others
help them. They say, “I can do it myself.” Their pride and
ego will not allow them to say, “Will you feed me, please?”
However, this is not the way it should be. When we gather
with our loved ones, we must realize that it is they who
can feed us when we are hungry, it is they who can alleviate
our suffering, it is their love which will turn our lives
from Hell to Heaven.
But, we must be willing to see the situation as it stands. If
our arms are unbendable, we must accept that they are
unbendable and then look for other ways to solve the problem.
If we keep trying to change the unchangeable – in
ourselves, in others or in the world – we will forever be
frustrated and hungry – not only in the body, but also in
the heart and in the soul.
So when families and friends gather together, if you
see someone suffering, be the first to offer your help.
Put aside any grudges or complaints or judgments.
Simply offer your hand in assistance. And, if you are
in distress, ask for help. These are your closest family
and friends. Put aside your ego and pride. See how
they can help you and ask for that. Then, as you feed                                                         them and as they feed you, your lives will change
from Hell to Heaven.

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SACRED DROPS OF BLOOD

SACRED DROPS OF BLOOD

There was once a very great sanyasi; he possessed the
ability to transform people by his mere words. The sound
of his voice carried listeners into the stillest, most peaceful
meditation. But, he wanted to do more for the world.
His vision was to help all of humanity, to be of service to
all those he met, to heal the world on a massive scale.
He prayed to God to give him the ability to save people’s
lives. “You cannot save everyone; you can not be of service
to everyone. Just keep speaking, keep chanting, keep writing,
keep praying. In this way you will really heal,” God said
to him.
But the saint was not persuaded. “Please, God, let me be of
service – of direct service – to all. Let me save people’s
lives.”
The sanyasi had performed so much tapasya and was so
pure in his desire to help, that God granted him the boon
of being able to save the life of anyone who came to him.
He had simply to take a drop of his blood and place it on
the patient’s upper lip. Any ailment would be cured; any
suffering would immediately be alleviated. The saint was
exuberant; his dream had been fulfilled. Now he felt that
he would really be able to save the world and to cure those
who came to him.

The first day four people came. For each person, he simply
pricked the tip of his finger with a needle and the blood
came out. One small drop had such miraculous healing powers.
That night, the selfless saint had a beaming smile on
his face for those whom he had cured.
The next day, forty people came, having heard of his miraculous
powers. For each he squeezed a small drop of blood
from his finger and blessed them as he placed it on their
upper lip. Each was instantly cured. Paralysis, leprosy, depression,
anxiety – all disappeared with the simple drop of
the sanyasi’s blood. As word spread throughout the land,
more and more people flocked to his healing magic. And
the sanyasi was in bliss – here he was using his simple Godgiven
blood to cure so many. He dispensed these drops
freely – with no hesitation, no discrimination, no vacation.
“I am in your service…” he would say.
Soon, thousands were flooding the simple ashram in which
he lived; they were overflowing in the streets. The saint
was dispensing the equivalent of cups of blood each day.
But, he did not even notice. Such was his dedication and
devotion to those whom he was curing. He sat, in meditative
bliss, as he squeezed first his fingertip, then the veins
in his arm to dispense blood to those in need.
It was not long before the sanyasi had to squeeze harder
in order to coax the blood from his body. Soon, a mere
needle prick was not a large enough opening; he needed
small knives to pierce the prominent veins of his forearms
and legs. From there, the blood flowed freely again, and
all were relieved. However, soon, even those veins were no                                                 longer coursing with high volumes of healing nectar. They,
too, were becoming drier and drier.
As his blood volume dropped each day, the sanyasi became
weaker. The color drained from his once vibrant face.
Darkness drew circles around his eyes. His voice, which
previously had boomed, singing forth the divine glories of
God, was now not much more than a whisper. But, the
sanyasi was not worried. Those who loved him urged him
to take rest, to take at least a break from giving blood, to
let himself recuperate.
Although he listened with his ears and appreciated the
concern, he could not stop pumping blood from his body.
He would say, “I am in the service of the world…These
people have come from so far…They have been waiting for
so long…This man is an important minister, but he’s suffering
from pneumonia…I feel no pain. I feel no weakness. I
feel only the joy of giving myself to others.” Those who
loved him could do nothing, other than watch the scores of
people continue to pour in, continue to plead for “just one
drop.”
Soon, even the once succulent veins of his forearms would
give no more blood. Even the largest, most abundant veins
of his body held on selfishly to their sparse quantity of
this life-giving fluid. But, the sanyasi was not deterred.
“This is only a challenge. Only more tapasya to do,” he would
say. He ordered his servants to build a device which would
squeeze harder than human hands were able to, a vice-like
apparatus into which he could place a limb and have it
milked completely of the blood inside.
Throughout this, the people kept coming. As word spread –
in frantic whispers – that the saint was ill, that the blood
was running dry, the people flocked even more frenetically.
They pushed and trampled one another in an effort
to get “just one drop.” People, who perhaps had been postponing
a visit until a later date, dropped everything and
came running. “Please Maharajji,” they would plead. “Please,
just one drop. We have come from Madras, we have come
from Nepal, we have come from London. My daughter has
this horrible affliction on her face. My husband lost his
arm in a car wreck. My son refuses to get married. Please
Maharajji, please just one drop. Just one drop and then
we’ll go away so you can take rest.” For each who came,
the saint smiled as he placed a drop of blood on their upper
lip.
The ocean of his blood soon became an arid desert. Where
once his veins had flowed like copious rivers, they were
now limp and desiccated
His devotees pleaded with him to stop; their tears of concern
poured onto his holy feet. But, all he could see were
needy, ailing people stretching out to the horizon, each one
crying pitifully, “Please, Maharajji, just one drop.”
When those who had flocked for blood realized that the
sanyasi could give no more, they were un-deterred. “We
will work the pumping machine,” they screamed. And they
stormed toward the saint, who sat peacefully, although
nearly lifeless, draped only in his simple dhoti. But, the pumping
machine was not powerful enough to pump water from
a desert. So, they tied him up, the ropes cutting deep into
his parched skin. And as some pulled the ropes tighter and                                                   tighter, others cut into his veins with knives (no longer small
ones, but now the type used for butchering animals).
“There must be another drop left. There must be,” they
cried furiously.
As his beloved devotees watched, the last drop of life blood
was cut from their great sanyasi, who had once overflowed
with life, with vigor, with dynamism. Now he hung, lifeless,
still in the ropes which had tied him, completely desiccated.
However, they noticed, there was a smile on his limp and
pallid face.
“Just five minutes,” we plead. “Just step foot in my house
to bless it…just take one meal at my home.” It may not be
physical blood we demand, but both our desperation and
the effects on the saints is the same. “But, I’ve waited 5
years. But I’ve come from America. Please, Maharajji, just
five minutes….but Maharajji, my daughter said she won’t
get married unless you are there…but, I can not go into
surgery unless you come to the hospital…but it would mean
so much to us if you could just come to our home for 10
minutes…”
When we go to visit a saint, rarely do we ask when he last
took his meal or what his usual time for rest is. “It’s only 5
minutes,” we convince ourselves. “Just one drop, one drop
of blood…” When we are blessed enough to have a saint
at our home, rarely do we say to him, “Go to sleep. You
must be tired. You have sat with people [or worked] all
day long.” Rather, we think “But, it’s only once a year he
comes,” or “But this is the first time we’ve ever had him
alone.”
“Just one drop…just one drop and then we’ll let you take
rest.”
Sure, it is only five minutes, or one hour, or one night. For
us. But, we do not have the vision to see the streams of
people, flooding out to the horizon, who will beg for “just
five minutes,” after we have had ours. Rarely, even do we
lift our eyes to look.
“But,” you may ask, “if the saint healed so many with his
blood, why does it matter that he died? His purpose on
Earth and his desire were to heal people. So, why does it
matter that he lost his physical body in the meantime?”
The answer is that a doctor could have healed most of the
physical ailments that came to him. Those suffering from
emotional/psychological problems could probably have
been helped had they put into practice that which he taught
in his lectures. He did not need to give his actual blood to
so many. But, it is easier to get the “instant cure,” easier to
let him place the blood on us than to make the trip to the
doctor and take the medicine he prescribes, or to implement
the necessary diet of less fat, less sugar, no meat, etc.
It is easier to be cured by someone than to cure ourselves.
Somehow, when a saint speaks in public, giving instructions
and messages publicly, we think that it pertains to
everyone but us. “But I need to speak to him personally,”
we decide. “My problem is different.” Rarely do we take a
saint’s “no” as “no.” We know that if we plead harder, beg
more desperately that they will give in, because they truly
are in the service of humanity.
But, do we want to milk the blood from their bodies?                                                             Do we really want to be healed at their expense? Is that what
love really is? We must realize that each of our demands,
that each 5 minutes, each compulsory visit to a home, each
one drop of blood, is only one of thousands more that he
is selflessly giving to others. We must be careful to let him
nourish himself such that his blood continues to flow. We
must make a sincere effort to keep the life alive in these
saints who would give their lives to us, without hesitation
and without discrimination.

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GOLD UNDER BOULDERS

GOLD UNDER BOULDERS

I heard a beautiful story of an ancient village where one
day the villagers found a large boulder in the middle of
their main pathway. The busy, rich businessmen and merchants
had their servants carry them around it. Others
simply turned back and returned in the direction from which
they’d come, realizing that to try to pass was futile. Others
gathered around the site of the boulder to criticize
the King of the area for not taking better care of the
roads. They stood by as the boulder obstructed passage
on the road, condemning the King and his ministers for their
laziness!
Finally, a peasant came by who was carrying a load of vegetables
to sell in the market. He needed to pass the boulder,
and so he calmly put down his heavy load and tried to
push the boulder out of the way. However, the boulder
was quite heavy. The peasant, though, just kept pushing
from different angles and finally the boulder rolled out
of the road. As he bent down to pick up his load of vegetables,
the peasant noticed something lying in the road
where the boulder had been. It was a wallet filled with
gold coins and a note from the king. The note said, “This
reward is for he who has the commitment to move the boulder
from the road.”
So frequently in life we see that the “King” has thrown                                                          obstacles in our path. Our natural instinct is to bypass them
– using our influence or wealth – or to simply turn around
and go a different path. Or, we give up the path altogether,
seeing the obstacles as insurmountable. Perhaps
we find ourselves criticizing life, circumstances, or the great
“King” who is making our lives difficult. Yet, for he who
has the commitment and dedication to conquer the obstacle,
the rewards are great. Not only will the path be
clear, but we will also become far richer (whether spiritually,
mentally or financially) by having the tenacity to overcome
the hurdles in our path.
Life is not always a clear path. If it were, we would learn
very little. Rather, to test us, to teach us, to mold us and to
make us stronger God challenges us. He – as the King of
kings – places obstacles on our way. And, just like the king
in the above story, He watches to see who will have the
courage and the commitment to overcome these difficulties.
There is a beautiful saying in our scriptures which says:
Prarabhyate na khalu vighna bhayena nicheh
Prarabhya vighna vihata virmanti madhyah
Vighneh Punah punarapi prati-hanya manah
Prarabhya chottam-janah na parityajanti
This means that there are three types of people in the
world. The first type, the lowest on the hierarchy of evolution
toward God realization, contemplate the possibilities
of failure before undertaking any task. Then, realizing that
some obstacle will inevitably arise, and fearing the difficulties
inherent in overcoming the obstacle, they decide
not to act. Thus their lives pass in vain, and they perform
no good deeds at all, for they are paralyzed by thoughts
of hurdles that may arise.
The second type of people begin to perform good deeds
but as soon as they encounter any difficulty, they turn back
and relinquish the task. These people have good hearts
and good intentions and they want to perform worthwhile
deeds; however, they are unable to gather up the inner
resources necessary to overcome any challenges. Thus,
their lives also pass in vain, and although they have innumerable
projects that were well-begun, they have not even
one that was completed.
The third, and highest type of people are those who just
keep going, no matter what obstacles they find in their
path. They are so committed to completing their duties
successfully that they steadfastly remove all hurdles from
their way. They are entirely focused and centered on the
ultimate goal, and they keep God’s image in their mind,
knowing that He is with them and that He will help them
achieve their noble goals. These are the people who succeed,
not only professionally in life, but also spiritually and
mentally.

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DIVINE ASSISTANCE

DIVINE ASSISTANCE

There was once a man who was a great devotee of God. He
always believed that God would take care of him, regardless
of the circumstances.
One day a great flood came to the town in which he lived.
All the neighbors began evacuating their homes. However,
this man was not worried. “God will take care of me,” he
assured himself.
Soon, the flood waters began to rise and water filled the
first floor of the man’s home. “No problem,” he thought
and moved to the second floor. At this time a boat came
by, and the men in the boat shouted to him through the
window, “Climb in, we’ll save you.”
“No,” the man replied calmly. “That’s all right. God will save
me.”
The men in the boat urged him to evacuate his home. “The
waters are rising and rising,” they cried. But, the man was
undisturbed and sent them away, firm in his conviction that
God would come through for him.
However, the rain continued and the waters rose and rose.
The second and then third floor of his house filled with
water. “No problem,” he thought as he moved onto his rooftop.
Sitting on the rooftop, wrapped in a rainjacket, the
man saw a helicopter fly overhead. From the helicopter, a
life preserver dropped down into the man’s lap. “Grab on,”
the pilot yelled. “I’ll save you.”
But, the man would not grab on. “God will save me,” he yelled
back. “I don’t need your life preserver.” So, eventually,
the helicopter flew away.
The flood rose and soon the man drowned.
When he entered Heaven, he said to God, “What happened?
How could you let me drown? I thought you said you’d always
save me. I had such faith in you.”
God looked at the man sadly and said, “I sent you a boat; I
sent you a helicopter. What else could I do?”
How many times in life do we avoid taking advantage of
the situations which present themselves, instead holding
tenaciously to our belief in karma, or fate, or divine will/
intervention? God will not always come to you draped in
a saffron dhoti, flute in hand and whisk you away from
unfortunate situations in His chariot. He is more subtle,
less obvious. He sends us the life preserver, but it is our
choice whether to recognize it as “God sent” and grab on,
or to cling to the belief that something better and easier
will come along shortly.
Karma does not mean that we have no choice or no free
will. It means we are handed a certain set of circumstances
due to past lives, sanskaras, and so many other factors.                                                       However, what we do with that set of circumstances is only
partly determined by “fate;” the rest is determined by our
own free will. For example, let’s say that due to past
karmas, in this birth we are given a cow. The cow is due to
our past karma and our fate. We cannot change it and get
a goat or a dog instead. But, what we do with the cow is
up to us. If we drink its milk and use its manure in our
fields, then we will have radiant health and rich, fertile
crops. However, if we eat the manure and spill the milk on
the ground, our health will suffer and our crops will be
weak and unproductive.
So many times we blame God for the situations in our lives,
or we simply concede that it “must be our karma.” Yet,
sickness and failing crops are not our “karma”; rather they
are due to our own bad choices that we made with the
cow that we were given.
We must realize that everything comes from God, that everything
is due to His will, and simultaneously we must
understand that He has given us the power of discrimination
and reasoning to make the right choices. It was the
man’s karma to have a flood destroy his home. It was
God’s kindness and compassion that sent the boat and
helicopter, but it was the man’s own ignorance and obstinacy
that led him to drown.
So, when a flood comes in our lives, no problem. Perhaps
that was meant to happen. BUT, when boats and helicopters
come to save us, we must recognize them for what
they are – God sent

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GOD’S WIFE

GOD’S WIFE

A small, impoverished boy was standing barefoot on the New York City streets, looking wistfully in the window of a shoe store. A well-dressed woman saw him and asked him, “Why are you looking so solemnly in this window?” The small boy looked up at her and replied, “I am asking God to please give me a pair of shoes.” The woman took the boy’s small hand and led him into the shoe store, where she immediately asked the clerk for a bucket of warm water and 10 pairs of socks. Then, placing the boy’s dirty feet into the water, she tenderly washed them and then put a pair of warm socks on him. Then, she told the clerk to bring shoes for the boy. As they left the store, the boy’s small feet now snugly in a pair of new shoes, he clenched the woman’s hand and looked up into her eyes. “Are you God’s wife?” He asked. This story is not only a beautiful snippet from life in a big city. Rather it is a deep lesson about how to live our own lives. Instead of simply saying, “Oh, how sweet,” and moving on, let us really take this story to heart. How easy it is to pass by those less fortunate with a simple sigh of sympathy or with a token “aid,” perhaps a coin or two tossed in their direction. These small gestures of empathy and charity make us feel like we are compassionate people who just live in an “unjust” world. However, is the homeless man helped by our sigh of disdain? Does the coin we hand him really make a difference? Are we really being compassionate, or are we just soothing our own consciences? How much more difficult it is to really stop, take a moment out of our hectic lives and see what is needed. Yet, how much more divine that is. There are always places to be and things to do. If we wait until we are “free” in order to take care of others, the time will never come. Real divinity, real selflessness is giving when it is not necessarily convenient to give. It is giving according to the others’ needs, not according to our own agenda and convenience. The wealthy woman probably had some place else to be on that cold day in New York City. She could have easily walked by the boy, thinking to herself, “Our government really needs to do something about homelessness;” she could have looked the other way and continued on with her errands. But she didn’t. That is what makes her special. We tend to give decadently to ourselves and to our own families. We will pile gifts under Christmas trees until there is no room left. We will shower each other with new clothes, toys, and other merchandise on birthdays and anniversaries. No problem. We love each other and so we give gifts. This is fine. However, let us also remember, thoughh, to extend that compassion and that love to others who really need it. Let us vow never to turn a blind eye on someone in need. Let us vow to use what God has given us to really serve His children. Let us live our lives as though we, too, are “God’s wife.”

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BREAKING THROUGH OUR SHELL

BREAKING THROUGH OUR SHELL

There was once a man who noticed a beautifully woven cocoon on a tree outside his home. He carefully watched the cocoon every day in order to catch the first glimpse of the beautiful butterfly he knew would emerge. Finally, one day he saw a tiny hole in the cocoon which grew quickly as the hours passed. He sat watching the butterfly break her way out of the cocoon. However, suddenly he noticed that it seemed the butterfly had stopped making progress. The hole did not get any larger and the butterfly seemed to be stuck. The cocoon was bouncing up and down on the branch as the butterfly tried to squeeze herself, unsuccessfully, through the hole she had created. The man watched in dismay as it seemed his butterfly would not be able to emerge. Finally, he went inside, took a small pair of scissors, and carefully cut the cocoon, allowing the butterfly to emerge easily. However, the butterfly immediately dropped to the ground instead of soaring gracefully into the sky as he imagined she would. The man noticed that the butterfly’s stomach was swollen and distended but her wings were small and shriveled, explaining her inability to fly. He assumed that after some time, the stomach would shrink and the wings would expand, and she would fly in her fullest glory. However, this was never to be.

The man didn’t know that it was the very act of forcing her body through the tiny hole in the cocoon which would push all the fluid from her stomach into her wings. Without that external pressure, the stomach would always be swollen and the wings would always be shriveled. In life, too frequently, we avoid the challenges, looking for the easy way out. We look for people who will “cut our cocoons,” so that we never have to work and push our way through anything. However, little do we realize that it is going through those times of difficulty which prepare us for the road ahead. The obstacles in our path are God’s way of making us able to fly. With every bit of pushing and struggling, our wings become fuller and fuller. So frequently, people come to me and say, “Oh, why has God given me so much strife. Why has He put so many obstacles in my path? Why is He punishing me?” We must realize these are not punishments. Sure, karma plays a large role in what we receive in this lifetime, but even the things that seem like “bad” karma, are actually opportunities for growth. Even an extra small hole to squeeze through is actually an opportunity for our wings to expand to great lengths. So, let us learn to take our challenges for what they are, rather than looking around for a “different” hole, or for someone with a pair of scissors. These things may help us quickly through the cocoon, but we will be unable to fly in life.

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THE MESSAGE OF THE BUDDHA

THE MESSAGE OF THE BUDDHA

There is a beautiful story told of a disciple of Lord Buddha who wanted to publish a book of the teachings of Buddhism. So, he spent several years compiling the great wisdom of Lord Buddha and placing it in book form. Then, it was time for the task of raising enough money to publish the book. He went door to door to his friends and neighbors requesting help in bringing this project to fruition. After he had collected enough funds, he was about to publish the book when a large cyclone hit a poor area of the country. Immediately, he sent all the funds to the disaster-struck region to help the victims. Again, then, he underwent the task of collecting money to publish this important book. Again, his friends, relatives and colleagues helped him reach the goal. Then, an earthquake struck another area of the country, killing thousands. Again, the disciple sent all of his hard-earned funds to the region. Several years passed during which he tried, with difficulty, to raise the funds a third time. However, people were not ready to keep giving for the same book. Thus, it took him quite some time to raise enough money to publish the book. No catastrophe struck and the book was published. On the inside cover of the book, beneath the title “Teachings of Lord Buddha” was written “Third Edition.”

So many times in life we read spiritual teachings, we listen to lectures and katha, we say our prayers. However, do we actually implement these teachings in our life? The book was a “Third Edition” because the teachings of Buddhism include compassion, non-attachment and service to the poor. Thus, by donating the funds for the book to disaster-struck victims, the disciple was, actually, teaching and illustrating the word of the Buddha. He knew that the word of the Buddha was to help those in need. Thus, it is even more illustrative of Buddhism to help the poor than to publish books. In our lives, too, we must remember not only the words of the teachings, but also the true message of the teachings. We read the books, we listen to the lectures, but do we absorb the message? Sometimes we get so caught up in reading, hearing and reciting these teachings that we forget to live them! Service to others is the true message, the true teaching, the true wisdom of spirituality.

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THE DANGER OF ANGER

THE DANGER OF ANGER

There was once a young boy with a terrible temper. He used to speak harshly and get angry many times a day, at the slightest provocation. His wise father told him that every time he got angry he had to hammer a nail into the wood fence in the backyard. The first day the boy hammered 45 nails into the fence – practically his entire day was spent in the back yard. The next day, with his arm sore from hammering, he tried to get angry less. He hammered only 25 nails into the fence the second day. By the end of a few weeks, the boy proudly went to his dad and told him that he had not gotten angry at all that day. So, the boy’s father told him that now he could start removing the nails from the fence. There were 2 ways that nails could be removed: either if the boy could go an entire day without getting mad, or if the boy apologized sincerely to someone whom he had hurt through his anger. So, the boy began to apologize to people whom he had wounded and he tried hard not to get angry. Slowly, slowly, the nails began to get pulled out of the fence. One day, the boy proudly went to his dad and told him that all the nails were out of the fence. He told his dad that his anger was “a thing of the past.” His dad then led the boy by the hand to the fence and

showed him how the fence was now riddled with holes. It was no longer the sturdy, strong fence it once had been. It was now weakened and damaged. Every time the wind blew strongly the fence swayed in the wind, for it was so full of holes that the breeze caused the fence to move. “Do you see that?” The father asked the boy. “For you, anger is a thing of the past. Yet, this fence will never recover. Every time you get angry at someone it is like driving a nail into them. You may later remove the nail, but the hole is still there. The effect of your anger can not be removed.” In life sometimes it is easy to get angry, easy to yell, easy to hit those we love. We assuage our own consciences by saying, “He made me mad,” or, “She made me hit her.” But, whose hand is it really that hits? Whose mouth is it really that speaks harsh words? We think, “It’s no big deal. I said sorry.” Or we say, “Oh, but that was yesterday. Today I’ve been nice.” For us, it may be that easy. But remember the fence is still sitting there with a hole in it, even though you have moved on. If you hammer enough nails into someone, eventually they will be forever weakened, forever damaged. You can stab someone with a knife and then pull out the knife but the blood will continue to pour. “Sorry” does not stop the blood of wounds. It may pave the way to recovery, but the wound is still there. The goal in life should be to be like water – a stone falls in and only causes a ripple for a moment. The “hole” in the water caused even by a large boulder does not last for more than a few seconds. When we get hit – verbally, physically or emotionally –we should be like the water. We should be able to just let the ripples flow and, within a few moments, it should look as though nothing happened. However, unfortunately it is very difficult to be like the ocean. Very few people in the world are able to accomplish this task, for it is a task of great sadhana and vairagya (non-attachment). It is much more common that people are like fences – the holes you hammer into them stay with them for a lifetime. Children, especially, are like the wood fence. No matter how much they grow in life, no matter how wise they become or how old and strong they become, those holes are still there. We must remember that our loved ones are like wood. Therefore, we must try to be very, very careful before we hammer holes into anyone, before we stab knives into anyone’s heart…if there are too many holes, the fence will fall.