We can change

“If we have discrimination we can improve our actions. When we have the right attitude, we can change our actions and experiences for the better.

“One of Amma’s spiritual sons who had dreamt of becoming a doctor, had studied hard for the examinations, but had missed getting into medical school by just one mark. So, he had no choice but to choose another profession. It so happened that he got a job working in a bank. But he could never bring himself do the job wholeheartedly because he was upset about not being able to become a doctor.

“He felt a lot of resentment and frustration inside, which started to reflect upon his performance at work. He would get mad and yell at his customers, especially on crowded and busy days. He asked Amma what he should do to change his attitude at work. Amma told him to imagine what he would do if one of his best friends were to send someone to see him at the bank. Wouldn’t he greet this person with a smile, and give him very good service? Or, how would he treat someone Amma Herself sent to see him? Similarly, he should imagine that each and every one of the bank customers were people sent to him by Amma. Doing so, the boy was able to change his attitude to one of love and respect.

“Children, we should try to perform all of our actions as sacred jobs entrusted to us by God. Then all of our actions will be transformed into devotional worship of God, and thus give us fulfilment. See all work as coming from God and our attitude will change and we will change”

Arjuna Chooses Grace

Before the Mahabharata battle began, Lord Krishna gave Arjuna and Duryodhana a choice. Krishna told them, ‘I can give My entire army to one of you but I will not come. Or, I can come without any weapons as your charioteer and My army will help your foe. Which do you choose, Me or My army?’ Without hesitation Arjuna said, ‘I want you, Lord. You alone are enough. I do not need the army.’

Now within the battle itself, Arjuna had a fight with Karna who was a far superior archer. Intending to severe Arjuna’s head, Karna shot a divine missile. Lord Krishna, Arjuna’s charioteer, foresaw this great karmic danger coming towards Arjuna. Immediately, the compassionate Lord made the five horses kneel down and pushed the chariot wheels a few inches down into the earth by pressing hard with his big toe. This made the arrow take away Arjuna’s crown without injuring any part of his body.

There are a few points to remember regarding this story. First, the Lord was Arjuna’s charioteer. This means that Arjuna chose the Lord to be the one to hold the reins of his life’s chariot. Arjuna knew how to discriminate. He chose the Divine Lord alone to help him. That makes a big difference. The Grace of the Lord lets the karmic arrow pass over your head, maybe destroying an insignificant crown or something similar, but saving you from a fatal mishap.

Second, Duryodhana and the Kauravas were a much bigger and better army than Arjuna and the Pandavas. They had many great warriors and were stronger in every way. Duryodhana and his army represent human power and strength without the aspect of Grace. Thus, as a result of their arrogance, wickedness, and egotism, the Kauravas were ruined. However, Arjuna and the Pandavas were able to win the battle through effort coupled with the Grace of the Lord.

How to change the world

There was once an old man who was looking back on his life. He sat in a tea shop with his friends, telling them his story. ‘When I was a young man, I was arrogant and thought I knew it all. I felt I could do anything, and wanted to change everyone. I would pray to God to give me the strength to change the world. When I reached middle age, I awoke one morning and realised that my life was half over. I had done nothing, and I hadn’t changed anyone. So, I prayed to God to give me the strength to change those who were close to me since they needed it so much. But now I am old and my prayer is very simple: ‘God, please give me the strength to change at least myself.’ ”

“Children, don’t try to change the world or other people before you are able to change yourself. If you try to change others without changing your own attitudes, it will not have any effect. Change yourself, the world around you will change.”

Work as Worship

A man was travelling in a bus one day. He was amazed at the behaviour of the bus conductor. The conductor was very relaxed and smiled at everyone as he dealt with them. He always rang the bell at the right time, so that the bus would stop at the right places. And when the passengers paid for their tickets, he always gave them the right change. No matter how crowded the bus was, or how badly the passengers behaved, his self-composure was never disturbed.

Having observed all this, the man asked the conductor, “How is it possible for you to always keep smiling in a crowded bus like this? I have never seen anything like it! Tell me, what is your secret?”

The conductor smiled and said, “There’s no great secret to it. It’s simply a lesson life has taught me. Before taking this job, I worked in a factory. I had to travel to and from work by bus every day. Whenever I waited for a bus, it was my experience that the bus never bothered to stop at the right bus stop. It would pass me and stop a little farther away, and I’d end up running after the bus; but before I could catch up with it would start again. Or if the bus did stop for me, it would take off with a start the moment I had stepped onto the bus and I would have to struggle to keep my balance in the crowd. And then, after I had paid my fare, the conductor never bothered to give me my change. If I asked for it, he’d get angry. And if I didn’t have the exact change, he’d scold me. On many occasions, I was about to lose my temper. But I somehow managed to control myself, thinking that I would have to travel on the same bus the next day as well. Because of these unpleasant experiences, when I reached the factory I was always in a bad mood. I never smiled at my fellow workers. I was never kind or loving towards anyone. My attitude caused people to be indifferent towards me. Because of all this, I couldn’t concentrate properly on my work; this often led to my being rebuked by my boss. In the evenings when I returned home from work, I vented all my frustrations on my family. I scolded my children and quarrelled with my wife. The atmosphere at home wasn’t peaceful at all. I didn’t show my children any love, nor was I able to open my heart to my wife. Thus I felt very lonely both at home and out in the world.

“Then one day when I came to the bus stop, the bus had arrived but it began to move before I could reach it. When the conductor saw me trying to catch the bus, he rang the bell, signalling for the bus to stop again. I got on the bus and, to my surprise, he waited for me to get inside before he signalled for the bus to continue. All the seats were occupied, but the conductor gave me his own seat.

I had never seen this conductor before. I was speechless with joy and gratitude. I was so tired that I fell asleep along the way. When the bus reached the place where I was supposed to get off, the conductor woke me up.

“You can’t imagine how comforted I felt by his kindness. It was like a gift of cool, fresh water for someone dying of thirst. His kindness and consideration gave me tremendous inspiration. As I walked from the bus towards the office, I experienced within me a joy that I had never known. In contrast to my usual sullen manner, I smiled at everyone in the factory. And they responded by smiling at me. That day I worked with diligence. Noticing this, my boss congratulated me. The workers under my supervision were clearly happy because I was so pleasant towards them. They, in their turn, behaved completely differently towards me; they were really friendly. When I came home from work that day, I spent some time with my wife and children. I felt so at ease with them and showed them so much love. I hugged my children — something I hadn’t done for a long time. It was like a festival. I was so happy.

“I realised that a great change had taken place in me because of the simple kindness of just one person. From that day on, I was very careful about my attitude towards people and how I behaved towards them because I knew that whatever we give out will come back to us. It would be impossible for me to change for the better if I were first to wait for everyone else to change. I realised I could choose to be good, regardless of everyone else; and that once we change for the better, it has a positive effect on those around us.

“Soon thereafter, I got this job as a bus conductor. I remembered the conductor who had transformed me, who had changed my life. I remembered the great lesson he had taught me. I vowed that I would always behave in a loving, respectful way towards everyone. I made the decision that I would contribute my share of spreading love and brother/sisterhood throughout society. I will never forget that bus conductor and how he affected me.”

My children, society is made up of individuals, and the thoughts and actions of each individual influence the culture of that society. Instead of waiting for others to improve, we should try to improve ourselves. And once our attitude has changed, we will be able to perceive goodness throughout world. If there is a positive change in us, it will also be reflected in others. It is only what we give that we can hope to get back. We should always remember this.

The heart sends blood to every cell of the body, and in this way the cells are nourished. The same blood then flows back to the heart. If the flow is obstructed, the person will die. We need to learn this process of give and take from the heart. For the benefit of others, and also for ourselves, we should have the attitude of sharing and giving. We are all links in the chain of life. If one link is weakened, it will affect the strength of the whole chain.

Our every thought and action has the power to bring light or darkness into the lives of many. So we have to be careful that our actions are the kind that bring joy and satisfaction to others. We shouldn’t fall into a state of despair when we see the evil in the world. Nor should we allow the wrongs done by others to encourage us to do similar wrongs. Instead of cursing the darkness, let us try to kindle a small lamp. If we can’t do this, let us at least refrain from causing others any discomfort.

You may wonder how this can be practised in our day-to-day lives. One way is to perform all our actions as an offering to God. We should make our every action a form worship. This will give joy to others and will benefit us as well.

Amma remembers something that one of her children said to Her about 15 years ago. He had a strong wish to study medicine, but he failed because of the difference of one mark. He was so disappointed that he didn’t apply for anything else. Later, because of the insistence of his family, he wrote a test for a position in a bank and was given the job as a clerk. It was then that he came to see Amma. He said to Amma, “I am always in a bad mood. I easily lose my temper. I never smile at the customers or treat them particularly well. I even doubt that I will be able to continue with this work.”

That son was very depressed. Amma said to him, “Son, suppose a close friend of yours were to send someone to you, how would you behave towards that person?”

“I would do my duty.”

Then Amma asked, “Son, suppose Amma Herself were to send someone to you. How would you behave towards him?”

“I would treat him extremely well; I would be very loving towards him because You had sent him.”

Amma said, “That shows that you can do it. Imagine that every person who comes to you has been sent to you by God. Then you will be able to be pleasant and loving towards everyone. Just make the effort and you will definitely succeed.”

From that day on, there was a remarkable change in him. He now had the attitude that his work was a way of worshipping God. This made him happy, and he was able to transmit his joy and satisfaction to others. If we perform each action as a form of worship, it will benefit not only ourselves but all of society as well.

Greatest devotee of God

Sage Narada thought that he was a great devotee.

“Once Lord Krishna said, ‘Narada, there is one farmer on earth who is a greater devotee than you.’ Narada doubted this and came down to earth to see the peasant in person. He found that the farmer would chant the Lord’s Name only three times a day. ‘How could he be a greater devotee than I?’ thought Narada. Upon returning, he mentioned his doubt to the Lord.

“The Lord gave him a small vessel filled to the brim with oil and asked Narada to keep it on his head and go round a particular hill without spilling even a drop of it.

“When Narada returned after finishing the round, the Lord asked, ‘How many times did you chant My Name in between?’

“Narada thought and was surprised to discover that he had not remembered the Lord’s Name even once because his attention had been fully concentrated on keeping the vessel of oil steady so as not to spill it.

“The Lord smilingly said, ‘Now do you understand what a great devotee that farmer is? Even in the midst of his toilsome work, thrice he is remembering Me, is he not?’

“Children, one who simultaneously does karma (action) and remembers God is the noblest. “

Entire life should be full of happiness

Today is Tiru Onam; it’s a day of celebration, enthusiasm and joy. It’s a day when even the most sorrowful tries to forget his sorrows. Right remembrance is the remembrance in forgetting. While operating on a patient, if the doctor is thinking about his wife and children, the operation will not be successful. Or if the doctor is thinking about his patient when he comes home from work and his children run to him calling out, “Father, Father,” he wouldn’t be a good father.

So also he won’t be a good husband, if he is not able to give attention to his wife when she wants to talk to him about her problems. One should be able to fix one’s attention on the work he is doing. A good doctor forgets about his home when he is in the hospital and forgets about the hospital when he is in his home. Success in one’s work and happiness in one’s life depends upon one’s ability to forget what is not relevant at the moment.

Is it enough that we rejoice only on Tiru Onam? No, our entire life should be full of happiness. If we rejoice only on one day and remain sorrowful on all the rest, we won’t be able to really be happy even on that one day. Children, think about this.

All the 365 days in a year have to be filled with happiness and joy. The whole life should become a festival. Spirituality shows the way to such lasting happiness. It calls for surrender, total surrender to the Paramatman. Truly Mahabali exemplified that surrender in his life. He was born an Asura. However he was able to offer himself — his ego — to the Supreme Self. The only thing that the Lord asks from us is surrender. God is the all-merciful one who with outstretched hands is ever waiting to receive our ego. That is the dakshina (offering) he expects from us. And what Mahabali offered him was verily that. If we are not prepared to offer Him our ego, He will somehow extract it from us, for that is the only way we can become happy. When we offer ourselves to the Paramatman, our mind and intellect become purified, our sorrows come to an end and our entire life becomes a festival.

It is said that we can be happy only if there is tyaga (renunciation) in our life. Often we do small acts of tyaga in our lives. Those who are fond of cricket are prepared to bear the rain and sun for its sake. Parents are ready to forego their work and sleep in order to look after their sick child. There are so many such small small acts of tyaga in our life that we willingly undergo for the sake of something we consider important. We derive a sense of satisfaction and joy from them. Now in order that we experience the supreme ever-lasting joy, there is a need for the supreme tyaga — the sacrifice of our ego.

The happiness that we derive from small acts of tyaga is short-lived. Perhaps you remember a story that you might have studied in the first or second grade in school. A lump of soil and a dry leaf went out to play in the fields. When they were engaged in play, suddenly the wind began to blow. The lump of soil was sorry to see the suffering of the dry leaf. Out of compassion it stood over the dry leaf and protected it from the wind. After the wind was gone, they continued with their play. After sometime there was rain. This time, the dry leaf protected the lump of soil by shielding it from the rain. However after some time rain and wind came simultaneously. What was the result? The dry leaf was blown away and the lump of soil was washed away.

Our lives are like this when we depend on others. Of course, we are able to obtain some consolation and happiness from them for some time. However when a calamity overtakes our life, none can save us. Then only God can save us. Only the surrender to the Supreme Self will be our sole refuge. Infact surrender to God is the only guarantee for our protection. Self surrender to the Supreme Self — that’s the only way how we can remain blissful in all our lives.

Fathers box

A father was approached by his grownup sons. “Father,” they said, “please divide your property amongst us. We will always look after you.”

Heeding the words of his children, the father agreed and divided all his property amongst them. It was decided that he would live with his sons, staying with each for two months at a time. So, when the partitioning of the land was completed, the father went and stayed with his eldest son. Hardly one week had passed when the attitude of his son and daughter-in-law showed signs of change. They began to neglect him. They treated him so badly that, long before the two months were over, he left them and went to stay with his second son. But there he fared no better. After only five days he had to leave them as well because he couldn’t bear the verbal abuse inflicted upon him by his daughter-in-law. His experience in the house of his third son was even worse. There, he was reduced to constant tears. Finally he took refuge in an ashram.

The guru of the ashram gave him some advice. A month later, the father returned to his sons carrying a locked box. They were eager to know what he kept inside. When they insisted that he tell them, he said, “I have some valuable jewellery in there. I will not give it away until I die. After my death, anyone can have it.”

When his sons heard this, their attitude towards him changed drastically. There are no words to describe the love they suddenly showed their father! Each son pleaded with him to come and stay at his house. Thus the father once again began went to stay with his sons, except that this time he was treated very well indeed!

Finally the father died. His sons didn’t waste any time: they rushed to the box and opened it. But what a surprise they got when they found only a few stones inside the box!

“My Children, this story describes the nature of worldly love. There is selfishness behind all forms of worldly love. If we spend our lives seeking love in the world, we will do nothing but grieve.”