Walk in Faith – don’t worry about your clothes getting wet!

In Life’s most excruciatingly painful moments, keep the Faith – fundamentally in yourself. Know and believe that if you have been created (obviously, without your asking for it), you will be looked after, provided for and cared for.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836~1886) often used to tell the story of a milkmaid to awaken people to have faith in themselves. Let me share that story with you.
A farmer’s daughter’s duty was to carry fresh milk to customers in various villages. One of the customers was a priest. To reach his house, the milkmaid had to cross a stream by a sort of ferry raft, for a small fee.

One day the priest, who performed worship daily by offering fresh milk to God, finding that it arrived very late each day, scolded the milkmaid. “What can I do?” she lamented, “I started out early from my house, but I had to wait a long time for the boatman to come.”
The priest refused to accept her explanation. He barked at her: “What! People have even walked across the ocean, on the water, by repeating the name of God, and you can’t cross this small stream?” The milkmaid took his words very seriously. From then on she brought the priest’s order of milk punctually every morning. After a few weeks of the milkmaid’s improved, on-time delivery, he became curious about it and asked her how it was that she was never late anymore.
“I cross the river repeating the name of the Lord,” she replied, “just as you told me to do, without waiting for the ferry.” The priest was shocked. He didn’t believe her, and asked, “Can you show me this, how you cross the river on foot, how you walk on water?” So they went together to the stream and the milkmaid began to walk on water. Looking back, the young lady saw that the priest had started to follow her but he  was floundering in the water. He was refusing to move forward beyond a point.
“Sir!” she cried, “You are uttering the name of God, yet all the while you are holding up your clothes from getting wet. That is not trusting in God!”
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to sum up the moral of his story thus: “If you lose Faith you lose everything. Faith in ourselves, Faith in the God within, this is the secret to greatness. If you have Faith in all the three hundred and thirty million gods… but still have no Faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you!”

I relate totally to that perspective. Most of the time, most of us are like that priest – holding up our clothes from getting wet, while professing faith in all the religions around us and in an external God. And that’s precisely the reason why we often feel depressed, deprived and lost in the face of Life’s challenges. When we learn to walk in Faith, in ourselves, than by sight alone, we will have learned to cross the river of Life – peacefully and joyfully! 

Pain can have no voice if you can mute the suffering

Pain is a visitor. It will stay with you, serve a tenure and go away. If you focus on the pain, you won’t be able to enjoy the Life you have as long as the pain lingers on!
I had been postponing a series of dental procedures for a few years now. The reason has been simple: lack of money to fund them. As happens with most urgent and important matters, my dental situation started causing me discomfort over the last few weeks. After a round of opinions, and a full mouth X-Ray, my dentist, a very mature and reassuring lady, Dr.Aparna, advised that I get rid of two of my teeth. One of them at least required a surgical procedure. I am 48 now. And barring the ‘usual’ stuff like what most of us deal with – colds, virals, two severe bouts of rheumatoid arthritis and a now-benign asthmatic condition – I have never been in hospital with someone cutting me up. My diabetic condition too means that I must be be extremely wary of any invasive procedure. But we decided to go with Dr.Aparna’s advice. In preparing me for the procedure, she asked me: “Sir, how would you describe your ability to handle pain?” I thought for a moment and said, “My ability to handle physical pain is average, but I am very good at handling emotional pain.”
Indeed. While our bankruptcy has helped me become emotionally resilient and I must say I do deal with mental trauma very efficiently, I have, mercifully, not had much experience dealing with physical pain, especially on the health front. Yes, bouts of severe asthma and rheumatoid arthritis can be very painful – and debilitating. But I have not had any surgery done on me. So, this procedure was to be a different experience.
(The last time I had had a dental procedure done, at least from what I can remember, was when I was six years old. We used to live in Jaipur. And the name of the clinic was Mohan Dental Clinic. It was bang opposite Prakash Talkies. My dad bought me an ice-cream and took me to watch a movie playing at Prakash – it was called “Zanjeer”, a movie that not only marked the arrival of the Angry Young Man, and Superstar, Amitabh Bachchan in Indian cinema, it also marked the beginning of my fan journey, which still continues, with him! Interestingly, when I walked in for my extraction yesterday, I was reading a new book “Written by Salim-Javed: The story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” (Penguin, Diptakirti Chaudhuri). The book, among so many other stories, looks at the evolution of Amitabh Bachchan, considered to be Salim-Javed’s protégé.)
This procedure was indeed a new one for me. The local anesthesia administered made the process simpler – and in fact “cool” and “enjoyable”! Dr.Aparna had told me to expect pain within an hour of the anesthesia wearing off. And surely it arrived. Initially, it seemed unbearable. But I decided to employ all my spiritual experience – and learning – to deal with the pain. I was reminded of the Buddha’s most powerful – and my favorite – saying: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I made a choice: I was not going to suffer. I was not going to resist the pain or ask how long it would be there. I told myself: let it be; and let me be. I guess it worked. I slept peacefully last night. I still have a nagging swelling and very mild pain – I feel both only when I think of the procedure and the wound it has left behind!
I can now totally relate to what Ramakrishna Parahamsa (1836~1886) once said. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in the beginning of 1885. During his last days he was advised not to speak – so as not to aggravate his ailment. But he preferred meeting, interacting and conversing with his followers. He told his doctors, “My disease and I peacefully co-exist in my body”. This is such a spiritual and evolved perspective.

Most of us see all forms of pain as traumatic because we don’t know how to detach ourselves from our situations or conditions. We also think that pain arrives in our Life with an agenda to make us suffer. Here’s what I believe it is: Pain is pain. Pain has no agenda.Whether it is the bankruptcy – and resultant complexities we are having to deal with daily on that count – or a dental procedure that I had to deal with or any other situation/condition that may come tomorrow, I will suffer only if I wish the situation/condition didn’t exist. Suffering is clearly a human creation. Pain is a natural process. In Life, what goes up will come down, what is gained will be lost, the human body will have its share of wear and tear and you will be faced with myriad grievous situations – physical and emotional – yet, all this pain can’t touch you, won’t affect you, if you just treat your pain as a visitor and choose not to suffer. Simply, pain has no voice if you can mute the suffering!

Whatever happens, let your music play…..

Whatever happens, know that Life will go on. And you too must flow with it, ‘letting your music play’!

There are times in Life when you wish you could do something about what you are faced with. But you will be unable to. So, instead of hating what you have been served, just start loving it and live in the moment.

I watched ‘Titanic’, James Cameroon’s classic movie, one more time during the weekend. And learned one more time from the amazing musicians on how to ‘let the music play’ till the very end.

Wikipedia says: “After the Titanichit an iceberg and began to sink, Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster and violinist, and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard ‘Collapsible A’ claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing just behind the first funnel, by the Grand Staircase. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase’s deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, just before Hartley exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!” A newspaper at the time reported “the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea.””

I wouldn’t say it is heroism. It is simply intelligent living. Because you can only control what’s within your control. All your worries and anxieties, fears and insecurities, come from what you can’t control. Now, instead of worrying, fearing and suffering, if you can just look at the situation and say, “Well, well, well….if this is what it is, let me see how I can find peace within this situation.” This really is the only way to live a Life which we didn’t ask for and whose game-plan we have no idea of either!

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Let us remember that there is the opportunity, always available to us, to change our most dreadful moments into ones full of grace! All we need to do is to be open to the opportunity. When we are grieving, mourning, sorrowful, we are closed. We are not open to the Universe’s energy __ its compassion, its warmth, its grace. As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said, “The winds of grace are always blowing. You must open and hoist your sails to catch it.

So, unfurl and open your sails, open up your soul. If you are in a difficult time, accept it. Don’t resist it. This may not take the pain away. But it will help you immensely by ridding you of all your suffering! This then is the only way to ‘let your music play’….