Yesterday morning the monastery began its new phase with it's usual homa. Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami is traveling so Sadasivanathaswami filled in to offer written prayers to the fire and to give a talk to those present after the homa concluded. Paramacharya told a long and interesting story. here it is in its entirety:
Story of All Is good
When Yoginathaswami and I were in Rishikesh almost two years back, we visited the Divine Life Society. We met the president, Swami Vimalanandaji,in his office, a humble leader of the center. Then we walked along the banks of the river, through their garden paths and past the press. On the third floor we entered the chamber of the Vice President, Swami Nirliptananda. Sitting on mats on the floor we spoke a bit and stumbled on the idea that everything is perfect, even when it does not seem that way.
Though he knew we had an appointment for which we were already late, Swami began to tell a long story about how everything happens for a good reason. Here is that story in full. You may want to get a cuppa before you begin!
Once upon a time there was kingdom in the far far away land (nah…actually just few hundred yards from Rishikesh). The king was known for his kindness and his love toward his subjects. He was so noble and wise that people considered him as their god. Instead of taking the first harvest of their crops to a temple, they would set it aside to offer it to the king first.
The king had a pious, intelligent and good-hearted minister. This minister lived each day in absolute surrender to Siva. To him God was the creator of all, and His creation was flawless. He always affirmed that everything that happens is for the good; there can be no other reason. The king wasn't really fond of this philosophy, but he was exceedingly fond of his minister.
One day one of the kingdom's farmers brought the season's first mango ripened from his private orchard as an offering to the king. This is unusually large mango and the farmer had waited until it was ripe to perfection before plucking it. The farmer insisted that the king must taste the mango and thus bless the family's harvest season. Everyone knew of the king's love of mangos, and all rejoiced to see the happiness on is face.
The king asked for platter and a knife to be brought to the court at once. A silver platter and a sharp silver knife wee rushed to his majesty's chamber right away. The king insisted that he cut it himself, because it is such a rare and luscious mango and he wanted all present to have a bite. As he cut through the ripe orange flesh, the fragrance filled the room and all knew this was something remarkable, the gem among mangos. Some spoke of saving the seed and others shared that the tree might be relocated near the king's garden or a branch air layered to capture the genetics.
Suddenly, the king, distracted by all the talk, nicked his finger and the blood spilled onto the partially cut mango. All present were aghast. Oh my God, what has happened? What asuras have caused this? What does it portend for the kingdom?" Their joy quickly turned to dismay and uncertainty.
The minister rushed forward immediately, setting forth to the task of washing the wound and applying herbs and bandages. He was calm while all others were more and more upset by the mishap.
The king too was perturbed. After all, it was he who was injured. He said, "I can't believe I cut my finger doing such a simple task. Why was I not more careful? Now it will take a week to heal and my work will be adversely affected. Woe is me."
But the minister, you will remember, was a firm believer that all happenings are for good. He soothed the king by telling him that he should not blame himself, that all things are for the good, even this little accident."
(We halted the story here for a moment to say that there is a word for the minister's philosophy. It is agathism. Agathos is a Greek word meaning "good," and agathism is the philosophical belief that ultimately everything is good, the universe moves toward that good. Among the isms, it is a reassuring one.)
The mango was cleaned and shared with all present and the audience came to a close. As the king was walking back to his private quarters, he called the minister to walk with him. The king rebuked the minister, "It was unkind of you to say that the cut on my finger is for some good reason. I was in real pain. I was bleeding before all my guests and disturbed by my carelessness. Do you really think this is a good thing? Shouldn't you be a bit more compassionate?"
The minister was unfazed by the king's scolding. With full conviction he boldly affirmed his believe that what had happened was for a good reason, though he admitted to not knowing just what that reason could be.
The king was visibly a bit disturbed at this point with his minister's uncompromising and unsympathetic view. He thought to himself, "I need to teach him a lesson. The next day the king asked the minister to go for a ride to the near by forest--with their palace horse. They rode their horses together for an hour and reached the boundary of the palace which was in a deep forest.
Approaching an abandoned well, the king reined his horse to a stop and told the minister, "Let's walk to that well." Once there, the king asked, "What do you see in the well?" The minister leaned over to see inside and replied, "It is a deep well with barely any water in it. It needs some repairs and..." Midsentence, the king pushed the minster into the well!
The minister landed in the shallow waters which cushioned the fall as the king knew it would. He lay there for a moment, in shock. The king bent over the edge and asked with a regal attitude, "So, my friend, do you think this just happened for good reason? Unless you admit there is no positive reason for it, I am going to leave you in here. Then you will come to your senses about such things."
The minister with not even the slightest hesitation called up to his liege, "What the king has just now done is for some unknown good." That upset the king who thought his lesson would have more effect, so upset that he turned and left the minister in the well, walked to his horse and rode alone back toward the palace.
As the king was riding, the sun began to set. The combination of the darkness and his emotional turmoil, he took the wrong path. Some time passed until he realized that for the first time in his life he was lost in his own dense forest. He halted and decided there was nothing much he could do until the sun rises. He unsaddled the horse and took rest under a tree to await the dawn. Sleep came quickly, as it had been a day full of adventure.
This forest was home to a tribe of adivasis--aborigines. They are primitives, unspoiled by modern ideas and holding an ancient believe in the "Forest's Guardian Spirit." That unseen spirit dwells in the subtle realms and will protect and provide them abundance of food, but only if they give the spirit an offering. The greater the offering, the greater will be the spirit's reward to the tribe. They had seen this work many times and today was no different. The adivasis smelled something special and sent out their best hunters to find the source of this unusual fragrance.
Within half an hour the hunters came across the king sleeping in the grass under the tree. They captured him, bound his arms and took the king to their chief priest, thinking since this was the most powerful man in the land he would would be a suitable candidate for offering to the Forest Spirit. The head priest was delighted. He summoned the tribe's assistant priests and instructed them to prepare the offering for next morning's ceremony, which was to be right after sun rose.
The group of priests ceremoniously prepared the king for the sacrifice. At sunrise, they took the king to the sacrificial plinth. The chief priest was chanting songs of praise to the Forest Spirit when his eyes fell on the king's hand and he noticed the bandage. What is that," he demanded of the king. "It is just a small wound I suffered when cutting a ripe mango yesterday," said the king.
The priest was furious. Forest law said that offering must be perfect and here was an injured king, still bleeding from an open would. This was no offering. "Untie the king, let him go. Offering him will only upset the Forest Spirit and bring us years of want and adversity. Offerings must be without flaw and the king is clearly flawed. The king was untied and sent on his way.
As he walked away from what was certain and agonizing death, the king felt more relief and joy than ever in his life. He had been saved by a small nick on his finger. How amazing is that? "Hmmm," he thought, "Does this mean that the minister was correct? Could it be true that everything happens for a good reason?" In the daylight it didn't take him long to find his way back to the well.
The minister was still at the bottom of the deep well, unable to climb the steep rock wall. He was hungry but more so thirsty, as the water was brackish and undrinkable. He was wet, tired from a sleepless night and happy to see the king. The king took a rope from his saddle and pulled the minister up, sat him down and built a fire to dry his clothes. It was not the usual protocol, but the king humbly admitted that his minister had been right, and he wrong. He told the minister that were it not for the cut on his finger he would be dead by now. That cut had saved his life.
But the king remained puzzled about one thing and shared his uncertainty with the minister. "Friend, I still don't see how my pushing you into the well has any good to it. You have suffered all night long and in your suffering I too have been made unhappy." To that the minister replied, "If we had been together when you were captured, the tribe would have spared you, but I would have been sacrificed to the Forest Spirit and be dead this morning. It is because you pushed me into the well that my life was spared!
Not only that, but during the night I was looking for some plant roots to eat, digging in the mud at the bottom of the well and discovered a large box. Opening it I found hundreds of gold coins which can be added to the kingdom's wealth to benefit all your citizens. This will make for a prosperous season for all."
The king was astounded and more convinced than ever that everything that happens in our lives is for a good reason, even when our intellect does not grasp the meaning.
The two returned to the palace happy to be alive and together they ruled the kingdom happily ever after.