Dharma Questions

 In the Indian philosophy and religious texts, the word Dharma signify  ethical conduct or righteousness.

There is a pleasant narrative about the King Yudhisthira who was the son of dharma  in the Indian epic, Mahabharata, meeting his father Yama ( Dharmaraja or the God of Death) in the forest when they were in exile. Yama wanted to test his son and decided to set up a meeting.

A deer took the fire kindling kit of a  sage and ran away. The sage pleaded with the Pandavas ( the 5 sons of Pandu) who were living in exile at that time. All of them ran in pursuit of the deer who dodged them skillfully for a long distance and then vanished from sight. Yudhisthira , the eldest of them all, asked the others to look for a water source to quench his thirst, and the youngest Nakula upon his instruction went out in search and did manage to find a beautiful lake with crystal clear water and standing cranes. He was going to quench his thirst first when a voice alerted him.

“O Nakula! The water will turn into poison if you take it without satisfactorily answering my questions”.  Nakula, in arrogance, did not pay heed and he fell dead instantly. Nakula’s twin Sahadeva, coming in search of his brother, also found the same lake, saw Nakula dead, and was warned by the voice. But Sahadeva too ignored the crane and died after drinking the water. In the same manner, both, the great Arjuna and Bhimasena met the same fate.

When Yudhisthira , steadfast in dharma,  reached the scene, he was mortified to see his dear brothers dead. But when the invisible being told him what had happened, he was not angry and calmly asked for the questions, knowing fully well that this act could have been carried out by a mighty yaksha, or a  gandharva  to test him.

These were some of the questions asked of, and answered by Yudhisthira.

Question.  “What is heavier than Earth, higher than heavens, faster than the wind and more numerous than straws”?

Yudhisthira answered, “One’s mother is heavier than the Earth, one’s father is higher than the heavens, the mind is faster than the wind and our worries are more numerous than straws “.

Question . “Who is the friend of a traveler? Who is the friend of one who is ill and one who is dying”?

Yudhisthira responded, “The friend of a traveler is his companion. The physician is the friend of one who is sick and a dying man’s friend is charity”.

Question . “What is that which, when renounced, makes one lovable? What is that which is renounced makes one happy and wealthy”?

Yudhisthira replied, “Pride, if renounced makes one lovable, renouncing desire one becomes wealthy and to renounce greed is to obtain happiness”.

Question . “What enemy is invincible? What constitutes an incurable disease? What sort of man is noble and what sort is ignoble”?

And Yudhisthira responded, “Anger is the invincible enemy. Covetousness constitutes a disease that is incurable. He is noble who desires the well-being of all creatures, and he is ignoble who is without mercy”.

Question.  “Who is truly happy? What is the greatest wonder? What is the path? And what is the news”?

Whereupon Yudhisthira replied, “He who has no debts is truly happy. Day after day countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever. O Lord, what can be a greater wonder? The truth about Dharma and duty is hid in the cave of our hearts, therefore that alone is the path along which the great have trod. This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan (with such aids). This is the news”.

and now to end the story, I quote from the original source, the translated work in English available at the site link pasted at the bottom of this post.

The Yaksha asked,–‘Thou hast, O represser of foes, truly answered all my questions! Tell us now who is truly a man, and what man truly possesseth every kind of wealth.’ Yudhishthira answered,–‘The report of one’s good action reacheth heaven and spreadeth over the earth. As long as that report lasteth, so long is a person to whom the agreeable and the disagreeable, weal and woe, the past and the future, are the same, is said to possess every kind of wealth.’ The Yaksha said,–‘Thou hast, O king truly answered who is a man, and what man possesseth every kind of wealth. Therefore, let one only amongst thy brothers, whom thou mayst wish, get up with life!’ Yudhishthira answered,–‘Let this one that is of darkish hue, whose eyes are red, who is tall like a large Sala tree, whose chest is broad and arms long, let this Nakula, O Yaksha, get up with life! The Yaksha rejoined,-‘This Bhimasena is dear unto thee, and this Arjuna also is one upon whom all of you depend! Why, then, O king dost thou, wish a step-brother to get up with his life! How canst thou, forsaking Bhima whose strength is equal to that of ten thousand elephants, wish Nakula to live? People said that this Bhima was dear to thee. From what motive then dost thou wish a step-brother to revive? Forsaking Arjuna the might of whose arm is worshipped by all the sons of Pandu, why dost thou wish Nakula to revive?’ Yudhishthira said,–‘If virtue is sacrificed, he that sacrificeth it, is himself lost. So virtue also cherisheth the cherisher. Therefore taking care that virtue by being sacrificed may not sacrifice us, I never forsake virtue. Abstention from injury is the highest virtue, and is, I ween, even higher than the highest object of attainment. I endeavour to practise that virtue. Therefore, let Nakula, O Yaksha, revive! Let men know that the king is always virtuous! I will never depart from my duty. Let Nakula, therefore, revive! My father had two wives, Kunti and Madri. Let both of them have children. This is what I wish. As Kunti is to me, so also is Madri. There is no difference between them in my eye. I desire to act equally towards my mothers. Therefore, let Nakula live?’ The Yaksha said,–‘Since abstention from injury is regarded by thee as higher than both profit and pleasure, therefore, let all thy brothers live!”

Mahabharata – Yaksha Prashna

 

 

Advertisements

Sun Stories

Ganga had come late to school today also. The teacher chided her for being late every now and then. She was late most of the days in a month, let alone some days when she was absent. The only municipal school that stood at the periphery of  the village had an assortment of pupils drawn from various walks of life from the village residents.

Little did the teacher know that Ganga’s day started at 4 in the morning. She had to supply milk from Lalchand Seth’s diary to around 25 households which used to get over by 5:30 and go to Ratan Seth’s house to wash and clean the dishes.
Today the teacher had had enough and decided to give the punishment to the little girl. As she stretched out our hands for the cane to land, the teacher’s eyes fell upon the marks on the hands. It was full of cuts and bruises. When asked what had happened, Ganga preferred to remain silent. She escaped the beating this time, but will have to sit outside the class for 2 hours as punishment. As she sat outside, her eyes fell on the chirping sparrows playing in the sand and the parrots flying to some far off land. If only, I was one among them, she wondered as she shielded her eyes from the hot Sun making his presence felt.

Bala is standing beside the road with an assortment of guavas and oranges. Like his elder brother Shiva he is also a bread winner for his family, berefit of their father, and with 2 more siblings and an ailing mother to support. Both of them are out all the time selling wares. In the case of Shiva he has a make shift stall outside the main market that he uses to sell bangles, beaded chains and all  such items.

Bala used to buy 5 kilos of guavas and oranges and walk another 2 kilometers to a vantage scenic spot on the highway so that he could sell them to people or tourists frequenting the place. There were lucky days, when before reaching the spot, his goods would have been sold on the road itself. Bala had gone to school till his 4th standard and after that what ever knowledge he had gained in the last 5 years was  from these very tourists; He had picked up a bit of few languages at least that came handy in negotiating during the purchase or the haggling saga. There were days when very few people picked his wares or gave him a decent money in return for them. Today was a hot summer day and there were not many  people who even cared to look at him, let alone his fruit basket.

Rakesh was enjoying his vacation as his summer holidays had started a few days back. He along with his family is on the way to Nasik and planned to visit places that they had skipped in their visit last year. On the way, they saw some tourists have disembarked from the magnificent vehicles to see an attractive waterfall.

They also stop to get down to take pictures, selfies with all backgrounds possible. At this time, a boy of 12 approaches them. “Saab, madam,   Peru, Santra lo na; yeh bahut sast hai, saab ” in a pleading voice (translation: Sir..please buy these fruits Peru(Guava) Santra(orange), these are very cheap). Rakesh looks at the boy aged same as him, he appears shabby and sun burnt. The boy is watching him with awe and wants him to negotiate the sale with his parents. No no, the father says, we have enough food and fruits stocked in our car, no point in buying from this boy, don’t even know from where he has plucked all these.

The large guavas, for Rakesh, seemed inviting as also the boy’s eyes but his pleas fell on deaf ears and he had to get into his car that was raring to go with his parents. But before getting in, he waved back to the dark boy with his basket of fruits who was still looking at him with one hand shielding himself from the afternoon Sun.

While speeding through, in the cool comfort of his Innova car, that was now negotiating a hump, his eyes fell on a girl sitting outside a small school veranda near to the road. Pointing to her, he nudges his father.  Why is she sitting outside father? He curiously asked. “Maybe she hasn’t done her homework before coming to school ” was the quick reply..” Put the blinds on son for the sun is really hitting us even through the tinted glass”.

 

My Story

This story goes back to my school days in Bombay, now Mumbai, where I grew up. The 4 storeyed building where we stayed had around 72 tenants. Each tenant had a home of 450 square feet that included a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.The ground floor had an assortment of shops that had 2 laundry shops, 2 clinics, 3 groceries, a tailor, a medical shop, a co-operative bank, classrooms of a school and now to the central character of this story, the civil supplies ration shop.

The locality spread across roughly 30 plus acres was called Abhyudaya Nagar which had around 45 such buildings, and also had the Kalachowky police station quarters  opposite our building. The nearest railway station was Cotton green. To serve these tenants, around 3000 and amounting to an average of 15000 people, we had 6 or 7 such ration shops in the locality.

Since this particular ration shop was in our building, in my running around the building during play time and my weekly visits to buy our monthly ration of rice, sugar, kerosene and sometimes wheat, I became friendly with the owner of the shop, who also acted as the cashier. His job was to check the ration card, similar to a bank’s savings pass book and give out necessary receipts after collecting the payment. There was another person to help him dole out the ration to the customers as they came in whenever any or all of the above mentioned commodities was made available.

The wheat, sugar and rice came in jute gunny bags on lorries or trucks. Kerosene used to come to these shops on bullock carts from the nearby Sewri Indian Oil godowns at a distance of 3 kms. A 500 litre tank was drawn by one bullock, and sometimes the 1000 litre tank that made its appearance to these shops were drawn by 2 bullocks. In those days, the rationing for kerosene, priced at 1.20 INR per litre, was anything from 20 litres for a small family for a month or more based on the number of members listed on the ration card.

Since kerosene was a scarce commodity and strictly available only in ration shops during the early late seventies and early eighties, people used to flock to these shops in great numbers whenever such carts made their visits to the shops. At such occasions, during my playtime that would start at 3 pm to 5:30 pm, I sometimes used to volunteer for support to give the grains and sugar to such customers, since the only man was busy managing to give kerosene and grains at the same time. The shopkeeper liked me coming, since as I was known to him, and did not mind me helping him and thereby increasing the throughput and reducing the waiting time of customers in the queue.

I never went every day, as I could now remember but made it a habit of chipping in only when the kerosene carts came and when the queue was more than 15 to 20 people. Some people especially ones from my building was only too glad to see me serving them. There was one occasion when an old woman from the police quarters who blessed me saying, “Son, you will be never be want of food in your life for what ever help you are rendering to us”. It was during those formative years that I learnt my initial customer service and support lessons.

Once, during my 9th standard, these consortium of such 6 or 7 ration shops decided to bring a lottery scheme for all the ration card holders in this area, and the shop owners went to each and every home and sold lottery tickets which had the first prize as black and white television and other prizes which I do not remember. During those times, since color televisions had not appeared, the black and white one costed as much as 5000 INR, a costly luxury item for most of the people. They came to my house and our shop owner asked my mother to buy at least 10 tickets each costing 2 INR to which she obliged, since she did not want to upset either him or me who was present at that time. 2 rupees itself was a big amount in those days, because you could buy a kilogram of sugar or rice or wheat at that time.

The day of the prize came, and I had memorized the lottery series numbers which we had bought. That day however I forgot all about it and after school, I went out to play cricket. The shopkeepers were going to each and every building and announcing the prize winning numbers on a loud speaker and when they came to our building and announced, was I glad to hear that we had won the first prize…

 

 

Journey of life

All of us are walking on the road that leads us to our final destination. This is the path that everyone takes in their life and which no one can shun. All get pushed on to this road and walk they have to. Experiences that we gather get tagged as luggage on to us. Some are good whereas some are bad and others best to be forgotten.

These experiences and memories cannot be discarded as each event and action gets etched, some on your body and others most in memory. We get our family members to walk with us in this journey of life where some leave us soon and others stick on till the very end.

Friends come in from different directions as they meet us in their journeys. Some give you company  and lighten the travails of the travel. There are others who confront you with negative motives and who are best to be avoided but not everyone can, as some are forced upon you that leaves you weak and tired to continue the arduous path ahead. The journey is long for some who grumble about it and short for others who enjoy the travel.

The sun, the wind and other elements play their parts when they cross your paths daily as you walk ahead not knowing what is in store for you, a journey where the destination marks the culmination of a life well spent or best forgotten…
.

The lively professor

A professor when he was on the verge of retirement  dream’t of coaching eager students in his now retired life, so he thought, as he drove back from college on one of his last days.

He called up one of his old students who now worked in the press to put up a classified in the morning newspaper that would advertise his skills in accountancy, a tutor anybody would love and dream’t to have.

A few days back, 3 girls, all pals,  came to his house for coaching as exams were just a few months away but they saw a padlock greeting them on his door. They went away sadly as they could not meet the tutor who dream’t of teaching even in his retired life.

padlock

After a week they came again to inquire and this time they found him waiting and ready to teach. Not wasting much time, he taught the nuances about all he knew about the subject in those few months.

The girls loved him for his knowledge and more than that, the way he imparted it to them, making it look so easy. If only, they thought, all of the professors they met were like him.

On the day of the results, our girls were mighty thrilled and why wouldn’t they as the results outdid their expectations and they hurried to their old mentor to convey the great news but sadly the padlock greeted them this time too and they lingered on for him to arrive, for quite some time.

But arrive, he never did that day, and as it was late, the trio went back sadly each to their own homes. The next dawn they went back again to see the house still locked as they found it the earlier day. This time they inquired about his whereabouts with his not so near neighbors, only to know that he had passed a few months away…

 

Some good souls linger on to complete an unfulfilled wish…

Hands that lent life

A stone sat in the middle of the dusty road
no one cared or bothered to move it away
though some did stumble in the night
and broke a leg or sprained many a neck.

Nearby a tree stood in the centre of the road
everyone took care to go around it their way
there were many pointed and sharp stones around
but not good enough for anybody to sit and rest.

A shallow pit lay in the centre of the dusted track
with water filled from the occasional rains
treading with care, some did fell and got out
but everyone left it muddied as they found it.

A stone carver came that way one day
he carved a seat of the stone and with others
he constructed a platform below the tree
he felt proud as it helped many a tired traveller.

A mason ventured on the same path one day
he decided to make a well out of the pit
though he was at it, no traveller helped him
he felt proud of his creation and went his way.

The next day the Lord’s Angel walked that way
his job to help those in distress on this path
he blessed them who used their hands to help
not knowing if they would ever come back this way…

 

Maid for you

A lady in tatters, who came in search of work
she knew how best she was and yet had doubts
with no one to help poor her, she was rattled
one day she left her village to the city of hearts.

Coming into this big  metropolis, was she lost
in this big city she got never, where to start
she stumbled upon a family who needed her
a maid who could take orders of any kind.

As a donkey she worked for hours on and on
no one cared to ask her if she ate or drank
a bundle of clothes, a clutter of dishes
rooms of varying space was for her to clean.

She served everyone food, but had little to eat
she did the beds for all, yet had none to sleep
when night fell and it dawned she could never tell
how cruelly treated was she, till she fell apart.

Before sleep overtakes, she wonders aloud
if only someone had lent her a helping hand
she need not have come to this city of hearts
that was full of sick people who had none….