The Monk and the Merchant
The Monk and the Merchant9 mins 496 9 mins 496
Dedicated to my Master Dr. Chandra Bhanu Satpathy
"I am not a monk or an ascetic. However, I live an austere and extremely simple life, to the point of not using any air-conditioning. I wear cheap trousers and shirts like any other poor man. I work and earn to serve my back and belly. The difference is that the poor man wants the goodies of life but I don't. I am happy to have what I have. I have a child and my wife too, "said Bijoyananda to the forty-something man who was a total stranger.
The stranger said, "But Sir. . !Yes. . . I was told that you were a monk and you had some disciples!"
"If people call themselves my disciples, I really regret it. They defeat my very purpose of living. When I tell them my experiences in the hope that they will benefit by it, they admire and adore me. I try to transform them so that they might get genuine happiness and bliss, but they try to push me down. "
"How is that. . ? Will you please explain. . ?"
"This is very simple Sir. . When people admire and adore me, I feel tempted to enjoy their admiration and adoration. Only my body can enjoy such things, and Sir you know as long as we cling to the body, we can't enjoy uninterrupted and eternal bliss. The body is destructible, and hence whatever joy or pleasure the body gets is also subject to decay and destruction. . By the way, please introduce yourself Sir. . "
The stranger said, "My name is Prabhakar Reddy. I belong to Andhra Pradesh. I have got everything minus mental peace. You can call me a wine merchant. I have a flourishing transport company too. Why am I sad?Why do I fear things?A gentleman named Rajiv Mohanty told me you might help me. . Swamiji please help. . "
Bijoyananda burst into a giggle at being called "Swamiji. " My name is Bijoyananda Mishra. I am not Swami Bijoyananda. Then he said, "Whoever comes into this world has to live the kind of life you are living now. Life offers twists and turns, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. Every human being has to accept them. . . I live in stark poverty. . How can I help you?Of course, it's paradoxical by earthly parameters to say poverty and eternal bliss live together. They are inseparable like fish and water. The view 'Men decay where wealth accumulates' has a grain of truth in it. It was Oliver Goldsmith who said it. "
"But Sir I am determined to acquire the knowledge that can make me completely fearless. The scriptures say the soul is eternal. I want to discover my soul. I want to know what it is like. . . "
The monk was amused at the gentleman's naivety and innocence. Next he was also vastly pleased at his simplicity as opposed to the modern day man's complex and critical mindset. He said to his esteemed visitor, "Sir it seems the time is now to take the plunge. You want the peace that Ramakrishna obtained, the peace that Sri Sai was incarnate and Vivekananda so eloquently relates in his writings. . But you must know and bear in mind henceforth that the gate to Heaven is through Hell. . . "
"I promise I'll not touch wine, I'll not eat meat and fish, I'll not lose my temper under any circumstances, I'll not look at beautiful women. . "said the merchant.
"Halt. . a while Sir. . Halt. . "said the monk. "It's easy to make such promises and also possible to stick to them for a short time. . Can you beg. . ?Can you approach people and stretch out your hand for a one rupee coin so that you may keep alive?"
"Swamiji, don't you think begging is nearly a social evil? Mahatma Gandhi was against begging. . " the merchant expostulated.
"Gandhi also said not to commit any kind of violence. . Even a country mustn't have an army!But Lord Krishna ugred Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to kill his own kinsmen.
Was Gandhi wiser than Lord Krishna. . ? Gandhi was highly opinionated and mulish. He thought what he believed and practiced was unquestionable and final. "
"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. . . " Mr. Reddy said.
"You are quoting Bertrand Russell. . . !" said Bijoyananda laughingly.
The merchant couldn't think of an instant answer.
The monk said, "I call begging the noblest of livelihoods for seekers of Truth. Imagine how difficult it would be for a rich man to ask people for money and food for survival. . This is the most effective way to destroy the ego. The ancient Hindu sages were not fools. Of course, present day sages have made begging a most lucrative source of income which enables them to maintain a wealthy and luxurious lifestyle.
Consequently, these rogues live a life of greed, lust and vice. "
"Swamiji, I'll beg. . . Yes I'll beg if it can help me reach my goal. . "
"Don't promise what you can't do. . !"said Bijoyananda with some severity.
"But I would like to know whether begging helped you find the inner peace the scriptures refer to. . . . "
"Mister, I had to do something much worse degrading and insulting than begging. Can you imagine I had to go from door to door and press calling bells to meet great people seeking for a job for about twelve years? Anything that could help arrange for me just enough to meet my bare minimum daily expenses. . . "
Bijoy stopped to swallow. A moment of silence came. Then he resumed:
"In a temporal sense, one should hide one's dirty nylon from the public. However, I'll tell you all that came my way. . Because it will help you. I wanted a newspaper job. . I tried to meet many, many towering Odias, some now dead, those bastards, those treacherous mother-fuckers treated me like a cur. . Strangely, the Odia people now extol them as their heroes. . They celebrate their birth anniversaries with great pomp.
However, now I am grateful to those demons. . The cruelties and humiliations they meted out to me helped me unearth the beauty of life. . the secrets of the universe. In fact, Mother Kali had employed them to lead me from darkness to light, yes. . to the sunshine of eternal bliss or Truth. Only a most loving mother does know how immensely beneficial could be some repulsively nauseating and bitter potion to her weak and unhealthy baby's recuperation. . . . "
"Sir. . I can't make head or tail of what you are saying. . . !"Reddy said.
"My dear Brother. . Do as you are bidden. . Swallow the bitter pill of life. . . You will then be as sweet as sugar candy. . . Suffering is the input. . Eternal peace is the output. . . "
"You say very strange things Brother. . How can suffering make people happy. . ?Maybe you mean a suffering man becomes hardened against misfortunes. . And then he fears nothing. . "
"That's a very very cheap answer Brother. . Only a super class fool would like to say so. . something so stereotyped. . so superficial !"said Bijoy.
"It's no use trying to catch his meaning. . " Reddy said to himself and walked away.
The monk stared after him for some time and smiled with meaning.
Reddy returned to the monk's place after about five months. He had disposed of his gold-plated wrist-watch, his gold and diamond-studded rings to buy food, a blanket and a pair of shoes. He sported a long half-black beard and his long hair had become unkempt and matted. He was the perfect picture of a vagrant loon.
It was evening. The dashing young monk was poring over something like a hand-written letter. Reddy appeared in front of him in tears. His looks confirmed he had suffered a lot. Now he resembled a genuine beggar in his tattered outfit. His shrunken hungry eyes revealed his profound affliction inside. His body was now emaciated and frail, reduced to half its previous size.
Bijoy welcomed Reddy and offered him a seat. Reddy's face had lost its natural glow. Now it looked blackened. Bijoy told his wife to give some good food to their visitor.
After the visitor had taken his meals, Bijoy said to him, "What was it that disrupted your mental equilibrium?"
"Swamiji, it's something very personal. . But let me make a clean breast of it. In fact, my wife developed an illicit relationship with my manager. I fired the man, but they began to meet each other secretly. Not a single day passed without an argument. I lost my peace and left home. "
"What did you do after you had left here?"
"I have been wandering since I left this place. I begged alms. People cursed me calling me a parasite. I could have gone back home but I didn't. I loved the woman who left me for another man. . ! It's me who had paid her study expenses. It was me who had given money to her brother to go abroad for his higher studies. It was me who had paid for her father's recovery from cancer. In spite of this, she betrayed me. . "said Reddy.
"What do you think about people now? What do you think about this beautiful creation?"asked Bijoy.
"I strongly hate people. Every human being is pure evil incarnate. All things I see are nothing but gall and wormwood. . . Yes nothing but pure poison. I do hate the world. . " Reddy was not crying. He was bitterly disappointed with the world.
"What do you think about God. . ?"Bijoy asked.
"God. . ?He is the number one villain. . !He gives only pain and suffering to those who are honest and kind-hearted. . . . . "
"You are absolutely right, Brother. . !You are absolutely right. . . He gives us only pain and suffering. . . " said Bijoy but I don't agree with you calling Him the number one villain. . You'll shortly see and realise how He is your greatest well-wisher. . "
Reddy looked at Bijoy wonderingly. He was curious to know Swamiji's meaning. Bijoy said, "No need to wander here and there any more. Stay with us. All the three of us love you. . But you will have to meditate. . The world is a hell. All things you see are evil. So now it is the right time to look within yourself. Now outside things can't distract you. . In fact, your desires to have them are dead and gone since they are not worth having. Nothing in the external world is now desirable. Please do look deep into your interior. Watch, observe and explore the imperishable diamond that you are. . . "
Reddy meditated for three days. He was puzzled to find out that he had neither any beginning nor any end. The fear of death had disappeared.
Except he himself nothing was real. The visible things were mere unsubstantial shadows, be it a skyscraper or a mountain peak.
(to be continued)