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The Lord Accepts Imperfect Gifts

Date: Thu May 07 1998 - 13:49:10 PDT

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Dear Bhaagavathaals,

Perhaps it's Sri Anbil Swamy's wonderful postings on the nature of Brahman 
(the more you know, the more you realize how little you know...) and his 
advice that we should learn to have simple and complete faith in our 
stories.  Perhaps it was someone's ranking of worthy and not-so-worthy 
emails that'll fly off the "sanga palagai" (the author meant well, only as a 
humble intro to his email)... Perhaps the thoughts of some NRI who returned 
to India triggered this, but I've been thinking about one of my favorite 
Gunas among the trillion KalyanaGunas of our Lord....

The Truly Great Are Truly Humble, and The Lord Is The Humblest Of All:
We, especially when we get "used to" a few conveniences (how quickly we can 
get "unused to" a simple lifestyle :-)), do not always find it easy to "come 
down" in our circumstances. We enter a friend's home in India, and even if 
we think of ourselves as simple folks, we're aware of the size/condition of 
chairs... Most of us did not grow up in palaces, and yet, however hungry we 
get, we cannot currently imagine swallowing a fruit (not without hesitation, 
anyway) that an old woman in a hut bites first , and hands to us with her 
"echhil" on it. If such was offered to us, we may not even focus on the 
level of affection with which it was given, but on a self-focused "How can I 
refuse this without hurting her feelings...?" Sabari Moksham is a story that 
brings most people to tears, to think of Lord Sri Ramachandra Murthy seated 
on the floor of her hut, the impulsive Lakshmana uncharacteristically hiding 
his own hesitation, with Lord Rama smilingly accepting Sabari's offerings 
(she had waited many long years for Him), is a very moving scene.

Lord Krishna did not lag behind. Not only did He eat mud as a child, but 
even when He was the King of Dwaraka, He eagerly snatched the plain "aval" 
that his poor friend Sudama had brought wrapped in a bit of cloth torn off 
the end of the well-worn and old sari that his wife had been wearing at that 
time. (The story of Sudama, who lived in utter poverty, and yet could only 
think "what can I give Him?" and not "what should I ask for?" when he went 
to visit his rich friend, is a particularly good lesson for the poor 
children (there are so many ways to be poor) growing up here amidst too many 
toys...) While we're always talking about His Makara Kundalam and Ratna 
Kireetam, He suggested gifts He would appreciate: Phalam, Pushpam, Patram, 

It has always seemed to me that Humility holds the key to all understanding 
of our faith, our lives, even our cooking! Mothers tell their daughters, 
"Aennu kekkaathe, naan sollarathe pannu!" (Don't ask "why") I remember 
wondering at the age of eight or so why one always had to sprinkle turmeric 
on "paruppu" to cook it. Some years later I read in the recipe section of a 
"Back to Godhead" issue that "turmeric not only kills the particular type of 
bacteria found in lentils, it speeds up the time of cooking..".

For generations people have kept a Tulasi plant in each home, and few have 
been taught that it gives out ozone (so I read, I don't know).... When 
French scientists went to "clean up" the Ganges, there was a spate of 
articles about some extra oxygen molecules in the waters of the Ganges that 
neutralize pollutants, and that the same amount of toxic substance in 
ordinary water vs Ganges water showed very different results...that after 
some time for settling, the toxicity was less in the Ganges water...the 
"amazing purifying properties" of Gangajal was then in the news... (one 
could see thousands of rishis opening one eye and saying "oh, really?")

When iron ore was discovered in India at the start of the KudreMukh project 
(so named because of the rock formation showing a horse's head), there was 
much excitement when it was pointed out that in the Ramayana, it says 
"Ashwatho Mukhaha, Dhaatu Mandithaha". So, fact or fiction? If one gets the 
impression that there is a lot more to all this than one can comprehend in a 
lifetime, and therefore, it's wise to simply take for granted and accept as 
truth, that's a solid foundation, a platform for growth, and what's more, it 
teaches humility, one of the hardest lessons for us  humans.

When Western science, especially in the field of Health, makes "new" 
discoveries -
"Breath control can effect mind/emotion control!"
"Faith helps cure even terminal illnesses...a study is being conducted.."
"Vegetarian diet is an anti-cancer diet.."
"Meditation/yoga have health benefits"...
etc, we feel thousands of years older.

Could it not be, that other truths that we question should have been as 
obvious to us, but we're both too ignorant and too arrogant (always a bad 
combo) to either "see" or accept..?

We get out our scales and we measure people in every little group and 
subgroup. Dr. Sadagopan is a Pandithar, Sri Madhavakannan's intellectual 
reach is impressively vast... (Luckily for us and for them, their humility 
is a comfortable shield agaist all encomiums...). Relatively unsung, Shree 
goes on with Manobodha, and who's to say the power of saying Ramanama can be 
any less ("Bhavasamudra sukhad naav ek ramanaam.." Ramanama's the only boat 
you need to cross samsaara..)..

Our stories tell us again and again, there are many ways to get there... (a 
great comfort to the likes of me, who has accepted that great intellectual 
achievement is a lost hope for this lifetime...). Here's my favorite:

A sage sits alone, meditating in the stillness of the Himalayas... A crane 
flutters its wings as it lands near him, disturbing his concentration. The 
sage has acquired many powers due to his penance, and now, angry with the 
bird for disturbing him, he glares at it, and the bird burns to ashes right 
there. (It always seemed to me that much trouble could have been averted in 
our stories if "krodham" and "lobham" had been the purchase price taken away 
before any boon was given... but the Lord is so resourceful - remember His 
bending at Sage Brighu's feet as if in obeisance and plucking out the extra 
eye, or stooping to conquer as Vamana - He likes to play games).

Months/years later, the sage leaves the Himalayas, and one day, he 
approaches the house of a Pativrata. "Bhavathi bhikshaam dehi!" he shouts. 
It being one of those olden style homes, he can see the lady of the house 
moving about far inside. She carries food from the kitchen to the next room 
to serve her husband. She can hear the sage, but being a pativrata, she will 
not be distracted until her husband has eaten. So she keeps walking back and 
forth with various vessels. The sage is enraged but continues to wait. When 
the husband has eaten, the woman picks up a vessel of rice and comes to give 
the sage, but he stands there glaring at her in anger. Regardless, she 
approaches, and then asks with a smile, "Kokkenru ninaithaayo kongannava?" 
(Oh, Brahman, did you think I was a crane (to be vaporized by your 
glare)...?) So the ability to be a "seer" and know all that had happened in 
some distant land, the same powers that one can get thru severe 
penance/intellectual search etc, one can get simply by implicitly following 
one's dharma.

Human beings build hierarchies....quoting this work is impressive, quoting 
that entire other work is even better. It's about as inflexible and 
unimaginative as the thinking in some circles that the only worthwhile 
occupations are those of doctors or engineers. I sense that there are any 
number of brothers and sisters on this list who may not have an impressive 
bibliography to reference, but perhaps a personal experience or sharing of 
love for the Lord.... I would like to encourage you to write too (as if to 
say, duh, if I can write...) ....otherwise the same 5 people carry the load 
(granted they have amazing pearls to share and we're very fortunate to have 
them do so). Yes, "we particularly enjoy Alwar poetry and Upanishadic 
philosophy", but the fields of interest should considerably broaden when we 
focus on the tastes of the Central Player.

He asks for so little...
Everyone knows the story of Sage Narada referring to himself as the Lord's 
Greatest Bhaktan and Lord Vishnu saying with a smile, "oh no, my greatest 
bhaktan lives in bhoolokam". Sage Narada came down to check out the bhaktan, 
a farmer, and found him to be busy in the field all day. The man only 
stopped once in the morning and once in the evening to say "Hari". When Sage 
Narada asked the Lord how that could possibly compare with his own scholarly 
and spiritual magnificience, the Lord asked him to carry a pot (brimming 
with water) around the building without a single drop falling out. At the 
end of the exercise the Lord asked the sage how many times he had thought of 
So He understands about earthly chores, and is pleased with every bit of 
love and Bhakti...

"I bow my head, but it can never reach down to where Thou dwells,
Amidst the Poorest, the Loneliest and the Lost..."

Viji Raghunathan