“What are stories but a way of helping us see the world and each other better.”
I heard this in one of Pavi’s talk on giftivism and wondering at the simplicity yet the deep meaning of it :)
I was part of one such story telling session (it was actually a class on upnishads at Shivananda ashram). When I was going for the class, I was a little apprehensive. I thought it will all be in Sanskrit and most is going to go over my head! But I still went because a friend had asked me to, and I can’t thank him enough. :) And it’s so wonderful that this is the story that started my journey of travelling solo in the mountains and afterwards…
Gopi ji (the Vedanta professor) was talking on renunciation. And he said nothing but share this beautiful story.
Once upon a time there was a kingdom which had a unique way of choosing its king. The ministers will let go of the royal elephant with a garland in the kingdom. The person to whomsoever the elephant puts the garland on is chosen to be the next king. It is taken to be a divine decision by all in the kingdom.
One day a sadhu was passing through the kingdom and he saw an elephant coming near him and a big crowd following him. He stood still waiting for the elephant to pass so that he can move forward. To his surprise the elephant stopped in front of him and put the garland around his neck. Immediately, the people following the elephant bowed down to him and started saying “O Noble king, we put ourselves under your patronage. Please come to the palace and rule us”. The Sadhu at first thought it was a mistake and they are confusing him with someone. He explained that he was a sadhu and no king. When the people didn’t let him go, he became angry and said they were disrupting his saadhana and that he has renounced the world. He cannot rule anyone. The people then explained him the kingdom’s way of choosing the ruler and said that God has sent him to this place. The sadhu then conceded, wondering what plans God wants to implement through him.
He went to the palace. Took the throne but always maintained his simple clothing and lifestyle. One day when he was looking at the accounts, he found a lot of money went into the upkeep of the army. He wondered at the need for keeping an army and decided to dismantle it, saying “we need our men in the fields and the factories”. Soon the kingdom prospered with no shortage of food or commodities. Trade flourished as they started selling their surplus to other kingdoms.
As the news of their prosperity spread to other kingdoms, one ruler sent his spies to this kingdom to find out the strength of their army so that he can wage a war on them. The spies went in the kingdom. They were surprised to see everyone was so happy and greeted them. Nobody asked them what they wanted or where they came from instead people welcomed them for meals and stay in their homes. Soon they learnt there was no army in the kingdom. They returned and gave the news to their ruler, who then set out to capture this prosperous kingdom and bring it under his empire. For 3 days he camped outside the kingdom’s boundary and when nobody came out to fight, the king with a few of his ministers went inside the kingdom, to the king’s court.
He was surprised to see a man clothed in white dhoti on the throne running the events of the day. He told this man that he has come to fight and win his kingdom. Hearing this, the Sadhu smiled. He got down from the throne, took his walking stick and water pot and went to hug the king. He said “Dear brother! Finally God has sent you. I have been waiting for you since so long. Please take the kingdom and rule these people as your own. I shall go back to my saadhana”. And he left with just the two things he had walked into the kingdom the day he was garlanded by the elephant.
The other king was spellbound. He went down his knees and held on to the Sadhu’s feet saying “My Lord, forgive my ignorance. Please accept my kingdom and bring light to all of us”
Gopi ji left us with this story and I was wondering how when we have something then that is all that we have and when we have nothing, we have everything :).
And I have been able to experience it in a little way in the last 3 months. In August I packed my home and kept everything in a storage container. Sikander left for Angola and I started traveling with a backpack and a few belongings. At first when people asked where my home is, I would say “I don’t have a home right now. My home is in a storage container.” But soon I felt and started saying “My home is where I am right now” In the last three months I have had more homes than I could have ever imagined having :). Strangers have been mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters – taking care of me when I was sick; holding me close when I was scared; loving me; teasing me and always making me feel that I’m home.
It’s just so wonderful to open oneself to the abundance of the universe!