by Nick Andrea
Our June monthly theme is: Life Before Death – What does it mean to measure the success of our lives by the quality of our living? What is quality living, for that matter? I’d like to share two stories to illustrate. The first comes from a yogic tradition, in which a great teacher, “Prabhat,” is having a conversation with his student, “Pranay.”
From time to time, Pranay would reiterate that the object of his life was to enjoy life like the people of America and England. “This is just the umbra and penumbra of enjoyment,” Prabhat would say, “like a dog whose mouth bleeds when it chews on a dry bone and thinks that it’s enjoying a tasty delicacy, when in fact it is its own blood that it is tasting.” Pranay argued with him, but as time passed, the questions Prabhat posed, the riddles to the mystery of human life, sunk into his psyche and began to demand more and more of his attention…
[Prabhat has read the palm of Pranay some time ago, and Pranay was eager to know what he saw.]
Prabhat halted and fixed his gaze on Pranay, who immediately felt disconcerted.
“Do you really want to know?” Prabhat asked, after several moments pause.
“Of course. That’s why I am here.”
“Very well then.” Prabhat resumed walking. “Tell me, what is the aim of your life?”
“Be happy,” Pranay said. “Laugh and make merry.”
Prabhat laughed out loud. “Your thinking is defective, Pranay. I can see that you are headed towards a great abyss. If you continue on this path, you are going to fall.”
Pranay shuddered. He reminded himself that he didn’t believe in fortunetellers, but he couldn’t help but feel apprehensive.
“Is there anything I can do to prevent it?” he asked.
“I feel pity for you, Pranay. Let me think over the matter. Why don’t you meet me again tomorrow evening at the same time?”
[After this encounter, Prabhat taught Pranay how to meditate, and to live for purpose of serving humanity (From The Jamaplur Years, by Devashish Acosta pgs. 42-44).]
The second story comes from a book entitled, Hasidic Tales, by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. It is called “Know Your Path.” In this story, a great scholar comes to his rebbe asking for his advice on a career change. He was tired of hard work and saw others who seemed to have enough time to relax, be leisurely, and meditate on the kabbalistic mysteries of God. The rebbe responded by saying that we tend to worship the easy and convenient rather than truth, itself, and that there’s no way to tell whose effort is greater or lesser, only whether our own is true to ourselves. The rebbe told him that we each have our own personal way to God, so the scholar to follow his own path and meditate on the mysteries of God while he was doing his work (pgs 7-9).
What these stories point to is a different kind of pleasure than we normally think of it. It is the pleasure of Ananda, or spiritual bliss, in which one’s desires come to an end and one basks in the “peace that surpasseth all understanding.” There’s nothing wrong with enjoying delicious food, good music, and a night out at the movies. But, I feel that to live for these things alone – as Pranay wanted by seeking to, “enjoy life like the people of America and England” – is to miss the boat on quality living. Personally, I love pleasure – like going to watch a baseball game, having a delicious meal at a nice restaurant, and driving fast cars on back roads. AND, these things find their place of purpose when my life is oriented around that Truth that pervades all things, that truth some call God, which I can’t perceive directly with my lower five senses but with a subtler, sixth sense. And, that experience is ALWAYS pleasurable.
Have I experienced That Mystery today? Have I helped someone else experience It? That’s success to me.
What is it to you?