Last weekend, I met a very senior professor at a University. He is an old man who gives an impression that he knows his craft well and I totally enjoyed his presence and whatever we discussed.
Sitting in his office, I observed him holding something strange, like a small electronic counter in a hand where you press a button and the number display on screen increments by one, like one of those devices gatekeepers in malls use to keep track of the footfalls in a store.
I eagerly waited for a moment alone and asked –
“Sir, If you don’t mind, what is that thing in your hand?”
He smiled and started explaining to me that it’s an Electronic replacement of JapaMala
Just in case you don’t know – Japa Mala is a string of prayer beads commonly used by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and some Sikhs for the spiritual practice known in Sanskrit as japa. It is usually for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a deity.
I was not expecting this answer, from a senior university professor, or it was the Spirituality and God where I get a bit confused and disconnected, hence my second question without waiting –
What is the purpose of all these chanting names of a deity, spirituality, and God?
I also mentioned that recently, I tried to read Bhagavad Gita which is a jewel of Indian spiritual wisdom, which is spoken by Supreme Godhead Lord Shri Krsna himself to his intimate devotee Arjun, the book reveals man’s essential nature and ultimately his relationship with God.
And, being an Existentialist to core and idea of getting controlled by superior power, challenges my beliefs, hurts my ego and distorts my reality.
But, a very natural human tendency starts to kick in, when we are uncomfortable with an idea or thought; What we do? we DISAGREE!
So I disagreed a big time, and couldn’t read the book any further of page-20, it’s still sitting on my shelf unread.
He was listening to me patiently; smiled again and answered-
Let me tell you a small story about and a teacher and his student…
Teacher to his student – Take this Jute basket, go to the river and fill it with water and bring it back to me.
Student as instructed went to the river, filled the Jute basket with water and started returning back to his teacher, but the jute basket leaked and could not hold water and it was empty by the time he returned to his teacher.
Teacher – Go and fill the basket again.
Student followed the instruction again… and again, but every time by the time he returned to the teacher the basket was empty. But after many hours of this tedium and meaningless effort the frustrated student, couldn’t resist asking his teacher…
Student – Teacher, I can see no meaning to this task, every time I bring water from the river it leaks and the basket is empty by the time I return to you. All my efforts are wasted! and what is the purpose of this activity after all? We’ve accomplished nothing so far.
Teacher [Smiling] – Son, You’re wrong. Look closely at the basket, you will understand. Do you see anything?
Student – I don’t understand, there is no water and basket is still empty.
Teacher – Yes it is empty, but it is many times cleaner now!
After listening to this small story suddenly it started to make some sense to me, maybe, MAYBE
Spirituality, God and religion don’t add any value to us,
but, it’s purpose is to refine and clarify what we already know.
Grandiose of spirituality is not to fill/add the vessel (our brain) with new ideas, but to clean the existing thoughts and ideas so that a better and more comprehensible meaning can be derived.
I think, maybe we hold our existing beliefs so firmly that there is no space for new ideas to sprout and this is I believe the most important point in education which we as a community and a society are missing and is never taught or emphasized.
My Mistake: Before concluding that the book was not for me; Only if I was able to give space and opportunity to new ideas to form in our minds to evaluate and analyze, before owning or disagreeing under the shadow of our existing ideas and beliefs. Maybe, MAYBE, I could have learned something meaningful.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Being able to look at and evaluate different values without necessarily adopting them is the perhaps the central skill required in changing one’s own life in a meaningful way.
Leaving you with this thought, and a promise that I’d be giving Bhagavad Gita and myself a second chance 🙂