Chapter 98: Greatness
Here we see nine vignettes of life experiences which determine the greatness or the meanest of a man. From top to bottom there is a student studying diligently, a man working hard in the field, a lazy fellow, a priest who is worshiping in the temple, a farmer tilling his rice fields, a thief breaking into another person‚Äôs home, scholar teaching his students, a father mediating an argument with his neighbors and, finally, a criminal who has been imprisoned.
You can access the entire text, in Tamil and English here:
The aspiration for glorious achievement is the light of life.
Disgrace is the dark thought that says, "I can live without it."
All men who live are alike at birth.
Diverse actions define their distinction and distinctiveness.
Lowly men are never high, even when elevated.
High souls are never low, even when downtrodden.
Like chastity in a woman, greatness is guarded
by being true to one's own self.
A man possessing greatness possesses the power
to effectively perform uncommonly difficult deeds.
"We will befriend great men and become like them."
Such thoughts seldom intrude upon small minds.
When small-minded men do achieve some distinction,
it only serves to augment their arrogance.
Greatness is always humbly self-effacing,
while pettiness adorns itself with words of praise.
Greatness abides in the absence of arrogance.
Smallness proudly parades its fulsome haughtiness.
Greatness conceals by silence the weaknesses of others.
Pettiness promptly proclaims such things to all.
In our monastic order, a monk can only take lifetime vows once he becomes a sannyasin. Until then he is under short term vows that must be renewed every two years on the auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima. He is known as a "Postulant" monastic. Some days ago our postulants all gathered in the Guru Temple to renew their four vows of Humility, Purity, Obedience and Confidence. Below are the introductions to each vow.
HUMILITY IS THE STATE OF profound maturity in which the soul, immersed in the depths of understanding and compassion, radiates the qualities of mildness, modesty, reverent obeisance and unpretentiousness. There is an analogy in the Saivite tradition that compares the unfolding soul to wheat. When young and growing, the stalks of wheat stand tall and proud, but when mature their heads bend low under the weight of the grains they yield. Similarly, man is self-assertive, arrogant and vain only in the early stages of his spiritual growth. As he matures and yields the harvest of divine knowledge, he too bends his head. In the Tamil language this absence of pride or self-assertion is known as pannivu. Pannivu also means "jewel." In the Tirukural it is said that "Humility and pleasant words are the jewels that adorn a man; there are none other."
PURITY IS THE PRISTINE and natural state of the soul. It is not something which the monastic attains as much as that which he already is, and which becomes evident as the layers of adulterating experience and beclouding conceptions are dissipated. Purity is clarity and clearness in all dimensions of being. It is innocence as opposed to familiarity with the ways of the world. It is for monastics the observance of chastity, called brahmacharya. In Tamil purity is given its fullest expression in the term tirikarannasutti, which means "purity in mind, speech and body." These three--also called thought, word and deed--convey the fullness of the ideal of purity.
OBEDIENCE IS THE STATE OF willingness and cooperation in which the soul remains open and amenable to enlightened direction. For the monastic it is an unbroken pledge of trust in and surrender to the satguru, the guru parampara and the mystic process of spiritual evolution. In the Tamil language this definition of obedience is expressed in the term taalvu enum tanmai, which denotes "the quality or state of humble submission." Obedience does not consist in blind submission and yielding to authority, nor in weakening our own will that it may be dominated by the will of another. Yet it is, in another sense, submission to a sacred purpose and the divine authority of the Second and Third Worlds. It is, for the monastic, an inner quality that allows him to remain consciously tractable and responsive.
CONFIDENCE IS THE STATE of trust in which the sacred teachings and sensitive or personal matters are not divulged to others. Spiritual matters must be protected and preserved by those to whom they are entrusted, never wantonly or indiscriminately revealed. When we confide in another, we do so with the assurance that sensitive and serious information will not be inappropriately disclosed. In the Tamil language confidence is known as rahasiyam, meaning "secret or mystery." Confidence as applied to these Sacred Vows does not mean "certainty," "a belief in one's abilities" or "self-confidence." Rather it is a confiding, a trusting and a relying upon. It is the controlled sharing of privileged teachings or information that should not be disclosed, but held in confidentiality. In its most simple form it is the keeping of a secret. Confidence for the monastic may be defined as wisdom in handling information.
A new sign has been installed at the entrance to the Rudraksha Forest and Hanuman. It is an experiment with new technology--the art is printed directly on an aluminum plate that measures four feet high and nine feet long. The printing is beautiful, and we will now see how it weathers in the tropical climate. Sadasivanathaswami and Kumarnathaswami took it out three days back and permanently attached it between the entry and exit gates. Now visitors driving down the road will have a strong landmark to find the forest.
Did you know there are redwoods on the tropical island of Kauai? Some of us didn't either! Last retreat a few monks and task forcers elevated ourselves 4000 feet to Kokee State Park where a cooler dryer microclimate harbors thousands of redwood trees. We hiked along a somewhat hidden path around this landscape admiring the trees and flowers while enjoying fresh plums and berries from the plants.
Satguru's recent Publisher's Desk Editorial from Hinduism Today's July 2022 issue
"A common perspective regarding major challenges is that we would prefer life without them. Why would anyone want to face all these difficult times, to regularly wake up in the morning and be seriously challenged by life? My guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, held a different perspective. He stated, “This is why we are born on this planet, to evolve through challenges. We are here for no other reason.“ What Gurudeva was telling us is that it is actually by living through karmas and thereby gaining better control over our instinctive and intellectual natures that we progress spiritually..."
Chapter 97: Honor
A man has been brought to a judge in a secure courthouse. The judge finds him guilty and offers him two choices of punishment, shown by the two fingers he holds up. The accused does not see honor in either of those choices, and he holds up a third finger on his hand to indicate he is choosing death instead of dishonoring his innocence.
You can access the entire text, in Tamil and English here:
Shun any actions that will diminish honor,
even if they are vital for the preservation of life.
Those who honorably pursue glory never act ingloriously,
even if glorious fame is to be gained.
Cultivate modesty in the midst of good fortune,
but in times of adversity preserve your dignity.
Honorable men fallen from high status
are like useless hair fallen from the head.
Unworthy acts, though mustard-seed small, will bring down
a man, though he towers like a mountain.
It offers neither Earth's renown nor Heaven's refuge,
so why do men run after and stand by those who revile them?
Better to die right where you stand, the saying goes,
than to live running after those who despise you.
Will any medicine preserve the body of the high-born man
whose honor has already perished?
Shorn of its hair, the yak will refuse to live.
Such men do exist who prefer death to the loss of honor.
The world will extol and exalt honorable men
who exult in death rather than endure dishonor.
For years we have bought black cinder in 20# bags for our tropical propagation efforts. Our high rainfall (up to 122" a year) requires plants to have excellent drainage, lest they drown during weeks of daily rainfall. Black cinder is the ideal medium for this. Light and porous, it allows water to reach the roots but then keep moving down and away from the plant.
Recently a local soil expert offered to ship us 40 yards of black cinder from the Big Island, at a savings of 80% from our old Home Depot source. We said yes, only later discovering this container was meant for his business, and he rerouted it for the monastery and reordered for his own needs. Goodness is still alive and well in the Pacific Islands.
The slideshow explores the world of lava rock.
Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.