Dharma - Devotion
Once as I wandered in the mountains, I came upon an outcropping of rocks, and as I sat on the highest rock to rest and look out over the valley, I saw a nest in the branches of a tree. The young birds in the nest were crying noisily. Then I saw how the mother bird returned with food for her young ones. When they heard the sound of her wings and felt her presence nearby, they cried all the more loudly and opened their beaks wide. But after the mother bird fed them and flew away again, they were quiet. Climbing down to look more closely, I saw that the newly hatched birds had not yet opened their eyes. Without even being able to see their mother, they opened their beaks and begged for nourishment whenever she approached.
These tiny birds did not say: "We will not open our beaks until we can see our mother clearly and also see what kind of food she offers. Perhaps it is not our mother at all but instead some dangerous enemy. And who knows if it is proper nourishment or some kind of poison that is being fed to us?"
If they had reasoned thus, they would never have discovered the truth. Before they were even strong enough to open their eyes, they would have starved to death. But they held no such doubts about the presence and love of their mother, and so after a few days, they opened their eyes and rejoiced to see her with them. Day by day they grew stronger and developed into the form and likeness of the mother, and soon they were able to soar up into the freedom of the skies.
We humans often think of ourselves as the greatest living beings, but do we not have something to learn from these common birds? We often question the reality and the loving nature of God. But the Master has said: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Whenever we open our hearts to God, we receive spiritual nourishment and grow more and more into the likeness of God until we reach spiritual maturity. And once we open our spiritual eyes and see God's presence, we find indescribable and unending bliss.
Amrita - Eternity
The fitness of our hearts and thoughts to receive God's spirit is like that of violin strings. If they are properly tuned, in harmony with one another, then the touch of the bow produces beautiful music. If not, then there is only discord. Whenever our hearts are truly ready to receive God's spirit, they will produce heavenly airs and joyous harmonies - both in this life and in the spiritual world.
Once a poor beggar sat for twenty-one years on top of a buried treasure without knowing it. He burned so hotly with desire for money that he even hoarded the pennies he received. Yet, he finally died in utter poverty. Because the greedy man sat so long in that one spot, a rumor arose that he had hidden something valuable there. So the governor had the place excavated and the hidden treasure chest was found, filled with precious gems. The greedy beggar died in ignorance of the wealth that lay a few inches under him, and in the end the riches went instead into the royal treasury. God's promise of bliss is very near to us - in our mouths and in our hearts.
Darshana - the Divine Presence
The story is told of a poor grass cutter who found a beautiful stone in the jungle. He had often heard of people finding valuable diamonds and thought this must be one. He took it to a jeweler and showed it to him with delight. Being a kind and sympathetic man, the jeweler knew that if he bluntly told the grass cutter that his stone was worthless glass, the man would either refuse to believe it or else fall into a state of depression. So instead, the jeweler offered the grass cutter some work in his shop so that he might become better acquainted with precious stones and their value.
Meanwhile, the man kept his stone safely locked away in a strongbox. Several weeks later, the jeweler encouraged the man to bring out his own stone and examine it. As soon as he took it out of the chest and looked at it more closely, he immediately saw that it was worthless. His disappointment was great, but he went to the jeweler and said: "I thank you that you did not destroy my hope but aided me instead to see my mistake on my own.
If you will have me, I will stay with you and faithfully serve you, as you are a good and kind master." In the same way, God leads back to truth those who have wandered into error. When they recognize the truth for themselves, they gladly and joyfully give themselves in obedient service.
Dhyanam - Contemplation
Dolphins can live in the deepest water without danger because they regularly come to the surface and take in the air that sustains them. We, too, must rise in prayer into the spiritual realm. To pray is to breathe in God's life-giving spirit that gives life and peace, even in this world.
The new-born child needs no instruction in drinking, but instinctively turns to its mother's breast for nourishment. For her part, the mother withholds no good gift from her child, but still the child cannot receive the mother's milk without effort. In the same way, we are carried at God's breast, but we must turn to God in prayer for the spiritual milk that sustains our souls.
The root tips of trees are so sensitive and responsive that they instinctively turn away from places where there is no nourishment and spread themselves instead in places where they can drink in moisture and life.
I have seen green and fruitful trees standing in the middle of a dry and barren desert. These trees survive and flourish because their roots have driven down and discovered hidden streams of flowing water.
Some people live in the midst of evil and misery but still radiate joy and lead fruitful lives. Through prayer, the hidden roots of their faith have reached down to the source of living water. They draw from it energy and life to bear spiritual fruit. If we lead active lives of prayer, we will also gain the spiritual discernment to turn away from illusion and evil and to find the truth we need for life.
Karma - Bondage
People may not even be aware of their mortal danger. They are like the hunter who caught sight of a honeycomb on the branch of a tree overhanging a river. Catching sight of the honey, he forgot everything else and quickly climbed up. The honey was sweet and he was so enchanted by its flavor that he did not notice the alligators waiting in the stream below. Nor did he see that around the foot of the tree, wolves had gathered. Worst of all, he didn't notice that the tree itself was infested with termites and was not strong enough to bear his weight.
While he was still enjoying the honey, the tree fell and the hunter fell prey to the alligators. So too, the human spirit enjoys for a time the pleasant but fleeting delights of the senses, forgetting that the world is like a jungle fraught with dangers of every kind. Sin gnaws at the very foundation of our lives, threatening to fling us to our spiritual deaths.
The evil of this world lures us with clever words and beguiling enticements like certain snakes that fascinate small birds with their glittering eyes until they can devour them.
Or think of the moth that gives no thought to the burning, destructive power of the fire. Fascinated by the flashing brilliance of the flame, it rushes to its own death. Likewise we often see only the allurements of the material world, seeking quick gratification of our own urges, and so rush headlong into spiritual death.
Once in the depth of winter, a bird of prey was busy feasting on a corpse that was floating toward a waterfall. When the bird came near the falls he wanted to leave the corpse and escape. But his claws were frozen to it and he could not fly away. He fell into the roaring waters and died a miserable death. Likewise, if we allow sin to numb our consciences, we become powerless to escape death and danger ahead, no matter how we struggle to escape.
Seva - Service
There are many people who waste precious chances to serve God and their fellow human beings. They should rouse themselves and make full use of the time that is given to them. Once a hunter picked up some pretty stones by a river in the jungle. He used them to shoot at birds with his slingshot, and so one by one they disappeared into the water and were lost.
Some time later, he was in a city and wandered through the market absent-mindedly tossing and catching the one stone he still had left. A jeweller caught sight of it, marvelled at such a precious gem and offered to buy it for several thousand rupees. When the hunter recognized the value of his stone, he cried out: "Woe is me! I have been carelessly shooting gems into the river. I could have been a millionaire. But thank God I have saved at least this one."
Every day of our lives is like a precious diamond. We may have wasted countless days already in idle and selfish pursuits, so that they are now lost in the depths of the past.
But let us at least awake now, see the value of the days that remain and use them to acquire spiritual wealth. If we use them in selfless service to God and if we use them to warn others who are still frivolously throwing away their days in pursuit of fleeting pleasures, then we will gain the boundless treasure of heavenly bliss.
Tapas - Suffering
If a newborn child does not cry out and scream, then it must be slapped until it does. No one has joy in slapping a child - only the longing that it makes full use of its lungs and draws in life-giving air. So in perfect love, God may strike us with blows and stings of pain so that the breath of prayer flows freely through the lungs of our souls. This is the only way we can become strong and fit for eternal life.
Look at the pearl. A pearl is a product of pain and suffering. Tormented by some foreign matter against its soft flesh, the oyster responds by embracing the irritant and transforming it into an object of great beauty. The creation of the pearl not only provides relief to the oyster but is also a source of wonder and pleasure to many others. But beware! The unique luster of the pearl can be easily destroyed. Ink or oils can contaminate and destroy its beauty. Pearls laid in ancient tombs often decay with the corpse of their owners; the dust of the pearls is then mingled with the dust of the dead.
Spiritual life - like the pearl - grows out of pain and suffering. And even when the pain has been transformed into a thing of beauty, the lustre of our spiritual lives can easily become contaminated and decay.
Thousands of years of heat and pressure come to bear on black carbon before it is transformed into a precious diamond. Even then, diamonds do not dazzle unless they have first been cut. When cut and polished, then the rays of the sun make them shine with wonderful colors. Scientists may manufacture artificial diamonds in laboratories, but careful examination exposes their inferiority. Likewise, we cannot attain spiritual perfection without passing through pain and suffering.