Last Sunday I was spending time in a small library attached to a Hindu Temple, waiting for my daughter to finish her lecture and join me. A few shelves of religious/spiritual books, magazine racks, a long table at the center with chairs around, a librarian’s counter on entry to the right and a small office room in a far corner. The ubiquitous sign admonishing all to maintain strict silence hung on the inside and above the entrance.
I selected two books for perusal: Oh MIND Relax Please (OMRP) by Swami Sukhabodananda (SS) and a book of VIkramaditya-Vetal stories. Found a few interesting stories/anecdotes in OMRP that I made notes of. Here’s short one that I liked:
A Zen monk was on his death-bed. All his disciples thronged around him, in sorrow. They asked, `Master! What is your last sermon?’
The monk, instead of replying to their question, asked for a sweet. When the sweet was brought, he looked at it with elation, like a small child. He then ate it, bit by bit, fully savoring its taste, tapping his hands rhythmically. Thereafter, he simply died…
And there were more that I hope to bring in here in the time ahead.
As I was scribbling my notes from the book, I heard a thud. Right in front of me, the lone library staff manning the counter had lifted a pile of books out of a carton letting the empty carton freely drop to the floor. That was the thud. Not done with it yet, he kicked the carton to the nearest wall and turning around plonked the pile of books on the counter-top. You well know a pile doesn’t stay plonked without cascading down. And books are no cats in landing on the floor elegantly and noiselessly. It took a while for the startled readers to resume where they had left off.
I looked up at the stern message hanging over the entrance to check if it exempted the library staff from its demand.
Surrounded by shelves of books, can’t blame the man (library staff) if the monk’s message had not reached him:
(in SS’s words) “Eating a sweet is a very ordinary affair. Even that should be done with total involvement and relish. This was the last message that the monk wished to convey.”
Years ago, I stayed for a short time at a small place in Gloucester and commuted to work by the Underground. Lifts were available at this station to reach down 3 or 4 levels. This middle-aged man made an indelible impression on me that has lasted till date. Unwearily he operated one of those lifts standing on his feet all day. At every stop, he would dutifully caution the passengers lost in their thoughts to be mindful of the gap as they stepped in/out. And there were gaps enough to catch the unwary. His message would ring loud – not too loud – and clear for all to hear, even if he had an audience of just one. All unsupervised, unaudited by any ISO certified. Did it matter if he was not doing it with a dance? I was young and shy to talk to him on what he thought about it – an opportunity I lost.
Coming back to the plain and simple message from the monk, seriously, it’s strange the management gurus/life-coaches/mind-scientists haven’t yet grabbed it with two hands as an operating principle to cure many societal/personal ills.
Any alternative would be too dreary to live by. What do you think?
PS: In hindsight, I hold him (the lift operator) as a humble but thoroughly inspiring example and embodiment of: ‘Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana…’ (B. Gita 2.47)