A Sufi parable and a Sunday lesson

Don’t identify yourself with your problems and feelings. Stay detached. And you will be in peace.

Junaid, a famous Sufi mystic, was in the market-place with his disciples. He always coached his disciples using real-Life situations.

A man was dragging his cow by a rope. Junaid walked up to the man and said, “Wait!”
He then told his disciples: “Surround this man and the cow. I am going to teach you something.”
The man stopped obeyed Junaid  and stopped. He was also interested in what he was going to teach these disciples and how he was going to use him and the cow.
Junaid asked his disciples: “Who is bound to whom? Is the cow bound to this man or is this man bound to this cow?”
“Of course,” the disciples said, “The cow is bound to the man. The man is the Master, he is holding the rope, the cow has to follow him wherever he goes. He is the Master and the cow is the slave.”
And Junaid said, “Now, see, what happens.” He took out a pair of scissors and cut the rope – and the cow escaped!
The man ran after the cow, and Junaid told his disciples, “Now look what is happening! Now you see who is the Master; the cow is not interested at all in this man – in fact, she is escaping.”
The man was very angry. He asked Junaid: “What kind of experiment is this?”
But Junaid was busy explaining the learning to his disciples: “And this is the case with your mind too.
All the nonsense – your memories, fears, anxieties, grief, guilt, all that and more – that you are carrying inside is not interested in you. You are interested in it, you are keeping it together somehow – you are becoming mad in keeping it together somehow. Only you are interested IN it. The moment you lose interest, the moment you understand the futility of it, it will start disappearing; just like the cow, it will escape.”
This beautiful Sufi story teaches us the power of detachment and the futility in identifying with situations and emotions. The more we identify, the more we will suffer. When we fail at something, for instance, we are quick to label ourselves as a failure. Wrong. Failure is an event. It is not a person. Similarly, you make a mistake. It is an event. Don’t identify with the mistake by feeling guilty. Just learn your lesson from the mistake, from the experience, drop the guilt and move on. It’s all a mind-game at the end of the day. The more importance you give to what your mind is saying, it will lead you and hold you hostage. The moment you disregard your mind, it will, like the cow in Junaid’s story, stop leading you. And you will then be free and at peace!  

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How to dissolve in prayer

Prayer is not sitting in front of an idol or reciting verses or visiting a place of worship. Prayer is simply living Life fully – being content with what you have and being happy, caring and loving!
A Sufi mystic was so full of love, and so full of joy — his whole Life was laughter, music and dancing. And the story goes that God became very interested in him because he never asked God for anything; he never prayed. He felt his whole Life was a prayer, there was therefore no need to pray. He never went to the mosque, he never even uttered the name of God; his whole existence was the argument for the presence of God. If anybody asked him whether God exists or not he simply laughed — but his laughter was neither a yes nor a no.
God himself became so intrigued that he decided to pay the mystic a visit. When he met the man, God said, “I am immensely happy because that’s how I want people to be — not that they should pray for one hour and do everything against it for twenty-three hours. Not that they should become very pious when they enter the mosque, and when they go out they leave their piety in the mosque and they are just their old selves: angry, jealous, full of anxiety, hatred and violence. I have watched you and I have loved you. This is the way: you have become the prayer. You are, right now, my only argument in the world that something more than man exists — although you have never argued or vouched for my existence, you have not even uttered my name. Those are superfluous things… but you live, you love, you are so full of joy that there is no need for any language; your very presence becomes the argument for my existence. I want to give you a blessing. You can ask for anything.”
The mystic thought deeply and said, “But I don’t need anything. I am so joyous, and I cannot conceive there can be anything more. Forgive me, I cannot ask because I really don’t need anything. You are generous, you are loving, you are compassionate; but I am so over-full, there is no space within me for anything else. You will have to forgive me, I cannot ask.”
Osho, the Master, would tell this story to his followers and explain that true prayer is not an action. It is a state of being. In that state you are everything that Life is about – joyous, peaceful, abundant, loving, forgiving and giving. In that state, you don’t need an external God to pray to. You become the prayer. When you reach this stage of evolution, you even learn to wish your detractor, or someone that you can’t relate to, all success, good health and joy. Selflessly. The selfless seeking of another’s joy, success and bliss is true prayer.
It is very easy to love someone you like. But it is very difficult to love someone you don’t agree with, relate to, or even, at times, hate or have hated. Our normal tendency is to distance ourselves from people we don’t agree with or get along with. But if we make an effort, we may still be able to do our duty in a situation where such differences arise and exist, and more importantly, do that duty in peace. Prayer is about practicing to do this. Day after day after day. And include in the circle of influence of such prayer, every person we know on this planet. Slowly, our world becomes the world we always wanted to be in. Full of peace and calm. This is when, as they say, you dissolve in prayer and you realize God or discover Godliness in you!!

Only when you are ready and willing, will you experience Life’s beauty and magic

For you to see Life’s beauty, for you to experience the miracle of Life, you must be both ready and willing!
There is a famous Sufi story I remember reading.
A young man went in search of a Master. He was ready to go around the world, for he was determined to find the Master, the true Master, the Perfect Master.
Just outside his village he met an old man, a nice fellow, sitting under a tree. He asked the old man, “You look like a wanderer…”
The old man said, “Yes, I am a wanderer. I have wandered all over the earth.”
The man said, “That is the kind of person I was hoping to meet who can guide me. Can you suggest to me where and to whom I should go? I want to be the disciple of a Perfect Master.”
The old man suggested a few addresses to him, and the young man thanked him and went on.
After thirty years of wandering around the earth and finding nobody who was exactly fulfilling his expectations, he came back to his village, dejected and depressed. When he was entering his village he saw the old man again, who had become very old now, sitting under the tree. And suddenly he realized that this old man was the Master he had all along been searching for! He fell at his feet and he said, “Why didn’t you say it to me, that you are the Master?”
The old man said, “But that was not the time for you. You could not recognize me. You needed some experience. Wandering around the earth has given you a certain maturity, a certain understanding. Now you can see. Last time you had met me, but you had not seen me. You had missed. You were asking me about some Master. That was enough proof that you could not see me, you could not feel my presence. You were utterly blind; hence I gave you some bogus addresses so you could go. But even to be with wrong people is good, because that is how one learns. For thirty years I have been waiting for you here, I have not left this tree.”
In fact the man, who was not young anymore, looked at the tree and was even more surprised. Because in his dreams, in his visions, he was always seeing that tree and there was always a feeling that he would find the Perfect Master sitting under this tree. Last time he had not seen the tree at all. The tree was there, the Master was there, everything was ready for him, but he was not willing, even if he was ready.
This is why we don’t often find what we are seeking. Inner peace and happiness. Because even if we are ready to seek it, we are not willing to let it enter our lives. Only when we are ready and willing, both, can we experience Life’s beauty and magic!

sssssssssssssssh! … here’s the secret to happiness!

The secret to happiness is pretty straightforward. Learn to Live with what you have. Never grieve over what you don’t have. And simply don’t have any expectations.
Once a man met a Sufi Master and wanted to know the secret to happiness. And the Master told him this story.
There was once a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror and noticed she had only 3 strands of hair on her head. “Well”, she said, “I think I will braid my hair today.” So she did and she had a wonderful day. The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two strands of hair on her head. “Hmm,” she said, “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.” So she did and she had a grand day! The next day, she looked in the mirror and noticed she had only one hair on her head. “Well” she said, “I am going to wear a ponytail today.” So she did and had a fun, fun day! The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Yeah!”, she exclaimed, “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”.’
That ability, said the Master, to look at what you have and not worry about what you don’t have, is the simple secret to happiness. Learn to Live with what you have, you too will have have a grand, wonderful, fun, fun Life!

Make your doing, your being

Whatever you do, immerse yourself in it – and your will be one with it. That’s how you make doing, being!
This past Sunday, I read an article by the enfant terrible of Carnatic music, T.M.Krishna, in the Sunday Magazine of The Hindu. No, Krishna was not waxing eloquent on music. Instead he wrote, provoking thought in the bargain, about how “great sportsmen and artists share a transformational quality”. His piece, ‘Beyond the Boundary’ examined if Sachin Tendulkar’s technique is really an art form. Krishna wrote: “I have watched the phenomenal Sachin Tendulkar almost right through his career, especially in his Test innings… there have been phases in his great innings when he seemed to dissolve into cricket itself…. In this state, not just cricket or sport but Life itself seemed to be one uninterrupted flow…. The man and his bat became one; the ball was not an object that needed to be negotiated, caressed or decimated; the bowler, not an enemy; and his wicket, no point of reference…. What actually happened was that everything merged. Sachin became one with that existence and, as a beholder, I saw Life’s beauty in its most natural self, without any burden of names, identities, action or result…To me, at that instant, even the fact that it was Sachin batting was immaterial. This was an artist lost in his moment of Life, living it to its fullest.
Krishna’s keen observation and perspective there has been simply, beautifully, explained by Osho, the Master, thus: “Forget the dancer, the center of the ego. Become the dance. Dance so deeply that you completely forget that you are dancing and begin to feel that you arethe dance. Dance so totally…because the dancer-dance division can exist only when you are not total in it. The dancer must go until only the dance remains.”  
In the Sufi tradition, dervishes of the Mevlevi order, perform the ‘sama’, or dancing meditation, where they abandon their ‘nafs’or egos or personal desires, by spinning in repetitive circles, symbolic of the planets in the solar system orbiting the sun. The dancer is merely a metaphor that Osho and the Sufis use. You could be a cook, a gardener, a writer, an orator, a clerk, a traffic policeman, a painter, a singer, a truck driver or a nurse. Who you are is immaterial. How you are (being) who you are is important. Of course, choosing to do what you absolutely love doing, is critical for losing yourself – for making your doing, your being! While it may be possible to even immerse yourself while loving what you are doing, your inner joy is always several notches higher when you have chosen to do onlywhat you love!
But your Life may not always pan out that way. As it turned out to be with my father. He is an amazing Carnatic vocalist himself – having been trained for over two decades by an accomplished Guru. But way back in the ‘60s, the pressures of having to raise a family forced him to seek a career in the private sector textile industry, and later with the government. “Financial security and stability” were chosen over “what gave him joy”. I don’t understand the nuances of Carnatic music as much as I should. But over the early years of my growing up, and even now, when he is well past 75, I have found that my dad always lost himself to his singing whenever he was or is having a stressful time. In those times that I have watched him sing to himself at home, I found him immersed in the music. In fact, I believe, he always became the song. On the few occasions when he has performed concerts too, I have found the singer (in him) disappearing and only the song remaining. I cite his example here because you may not often get to make a Life – and living – out of what you love. Yet it is imminently possible that if you still do what you love, even if it is done infrequently, it can help you just be! And that just being is happiness!
As I grew older and my understanding of Life evolved, I have come to realize that when you don’t force yourself to do anything, Life flows through you. The cosmic energy then expresses itself through you. Your doing then becomes your being. That state, when you are in unison with the Universe, is what is also known as bliss! And as you can see, from the expressions of Krishna, Tendulkar, Osho and my dad, that state is imminently attainable!

To heal a hurt, simply forgive!

Ever so often we encounter people that cause us pain, injury and grief. When such people are the ones you trusted, your suffering is unbearable. You begin to question humanity itself and wonder if you were foolish enough to have trusted someone like that. In hindsight all of us are wise. And while we may continue to suffer, we swear never to trust another person another time. Wrong. Continue to trust. Continue to believe that your detractor is behaving so only because she or he is passing through a time that is making you experience her or him that way. Dealing with detractors does not need strategy, guile or tact. It needs love.
Osho used to tell a story that illustrated this point so beautifully.
One of the greatest Sufi mystics was Rabiya al-Adabiya, a woman who was known for her very eccentric behavior. But in all her eccentric behavior there was a great insight.
Once, another Sufi mystic, Hasan, was staying with Rabiya. Because he was going to stay with Rabiya, he had not brought his own copy of the holy Koran. He thought he could borrow Rabiya’s holy Koran.
In the morning he asked Rabiya for the holy Koran and she gave him her copy. He could not believe his eyes when he opened the Koran. He saw something which no Muslim could accept: in many places Rabiya had corrected it. It is the greatest sin as far as Islam is concerned; the Koran is the word of God according to them. How can you change it? How can you even think that you can make God’s teaching better? Not only had she changed it, she had even cut out a few words, a few lines – she had removed them.
Hasan said to her, “Rabiya, somebody has destroyed your Koran!”
Rabiya said, “Don’t be stupid, nobody can touch my Koran. What you are looking at is my doing.”
Hasan asked, “But how could you do such a thing?”
She replied, “I had to do it, there was no way out. For example, look here: the Koran says, ‘When you see the devil, hate him.’ Since I have become awakened I cannot find any hate within me. Even if the devil stands in front of me I can only shower him with my love, because I don’t have anything else left. It does not matter whether God stands in front of me, or the devil; both will receive the same love. All that I have is love; hate has disappeared. The moment hate disappeared from me I had to make changes in my copy of the holy Koran. If you have not changed your Koran, that simply means you have not arrived in the space where only love remains.”
I have not read the Koran. I am not even sure if this story is factual. But I believe that it’s essence is unmistakeable. The story reminds us to replace hurt and hatred with love. For ourselves and for those that let us down. You carry a hurt as long as you think about the person that caused it as someone who has wronged you. Instead think of that someone as one who is lost in Life. Who knows not what he or she is doing. And then watch your anger, your hurt, transform into something beautiful and liberating – forgiveness!