ACK-004: The Learned Pandit and other tales

Sri Ramakrishna (18 February,1836 - 16 August, 1886), the Guru of Swami Vivekananda, great mystic saint of India, is regarded by millions the world over as a divine incarnation. His early life was devoted to the practice and testing of a variety of spiritual disciplines, including those of Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. After realizing God in each of those religions, he declared that all faith paths, if followed with earnestness, lead to the same God-realization. Ramakrishna’s life therefore embodies all spiritual ideals and represents the harmony of the world’s great religious traditions. Five of his disciples spread the message of Vedanta in the United States and Europe.

His teachings were as simple as his life and were often illustrated with stories. He stirs our hearts with his tales about faith even as he makes us laugh gently at the weaknesses and follies of men. Many noted writers and philosophers-Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, Thomas Merton, Arnold Toynbee, Joseph Campbell-have been deeply impressed and influenced by him.

Here are his some little tales, about the true nature of God:

***The baby in the family is learning to talk. Mother tries to teach him or her to call father "Papa" or "Daddy". But baby is only a year old and says only "Pa" or "Da" every time! Now does this make the father angry, that his little one cannot yet perfectly pronounce the name? Likewise, God understands our mistakes where he is concerned. And he patiently waits for the unfolding of our understanding.

***You've all played hide and seek; are there children anywhere that haven't? In some countries the one who hides is called "Granny". This person blindfolds the eyes of the others and then hides. The players are to find her, one by one. Whoever can find and touch "Granny" has the blindfold removed and is "free". So it is with the Divine Mother! She has covered our eyes with ignorance and hidden herself here. Find her, touch her, and you are freed.

***There are said to be 500,000 villages in India. In olden days, the Indian village hired a night-watchman to keep down crime and accidents. He would go around the streets and lanes with a square metal lantern, open only at the front. The watchman could see, wherever the lantern cast its light. No rays of light fell on him, who carried the lantern. If you wanted to see who the watchman was, you had to ask him to turn the lamp back on his own face. We are like that! Our eyes (ears, tongue, etc.) are all facing outward, looking at and feeling the things of the world. God says, "if you want to see me, turn the lamp around; look within and find the Source of all the light."

***And here is some simple arithmetic that all of us will know. If I have "one," and go on adding zeros in front of it, like this: 0 + 0 + 0 + 001, does it become more than one? It does not. But if I put the "one" first and the zeros after it: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0, the number goes on expanding to infinity. In the same way, the universe is like the first "1"; there is something there, and you keep adding "things", but you don't get much; while God is like the second "1": put him first and only then will all the rest have value.

***One of the common trades in village India is dyeing. You buy your white cloth an then take it to this person who has many vats of dye, each a different color. Do you want your cloth yellow? He soaks it in the vat of yellow dye; purple, in the purple dye, etc. One day there came to a village a traveling dyer, who had only one vat! (How could he make a living?) But you see, it was a magic tub: whatever color you asked for, that was the color the cloth came out. People marveled to see such a thing. The same vat gave blue, red, etc. A clever villager was watching all this at a little distance. Finally he brought his cloth to the dyer and said, "Please make my cloth the color of the dye in your tub." Why is God like the magic dye? Because, though he is One, he gives everyone different things, according to their preference; if you want to know what he is in himself, be like the clever villager.

***In a certain village of India there was a little park where people came to sit and chat. The path to it lay alongside the forest. On the edge of the path there was a large, well-known tree. One day a city-dweller came to the village, passed the tree, and saw a peculiar lizard climbing on the trunk. When he reached the park he told the others sitting there, "I just saw a cream-colored lizard on that old tree!"

"Oh," said one man, "I know that lizard. I've seen it there several times -- but it's not cream-colored, it's green."

"No, no, not green," said another, "it is yellow." Then others chimed in: "We have seen it - it is lavender (gray, etc.). Everyone had a different picture of the lizard.

They decided to go to the tree to find the animal and settle the argument. What they found was a hermit from the forest, sitting in meditation under the tree. The people questioned him. "I know all about that creature, who lives on this tree," he answered. (Have you guessed it? Yes. It was a chameleon.) "It is sometimes lavender, sometimes gray, sometimes green, yellow, cream, and sometimes it has really no color at all."

God is like that chameleon, taking on different qualities and appearances, and then again. He has none.

***There are some temples where God is worshipped as Mother. In one of these, in the state of Bengal, She is represented by a large stone image. The sculptor has carved in stone his idea of the Mother of the Universe, and many pious people, finding it attractive and inspiring, go there to pay their respects or make offerings.

One day an old monk who used a cane came into the temple. Approaching the altar he said, speaking aloud to God, "Mother, you are said to be God; tell me the truth: are you solid like stone - this image? Or are you formless, indescribable and impossible to touch?"

"Take your cane," the monk heard a soft voice saying, "and strike my body on the left side." He did, and the cane hit the stone with a clack. "Now strike me from the other side," She said. When the cane reached the sculpture it passed right through it as if it were air. Then the monk understood that God can be both - tangible and intangible - at the same time.
Many many thanks to “Ajnaabi” for providing ACK scan.

ACK-003: Nachiketa and other tales from the Upanishads

The Upanishads are teachings from the four Vedas of Hinduism. The word in Sanskrit when translated into English means "to sit near". In the ancient times the teacher used to sit on a raised platform and the students used to sit on the ground. Originally it was passed on orally till writing Sanskrit took effect. There are major and minor Upanishads.

The three stories are from the Upanishads (or Vedanta or "the end of the Veda").

The first story is that of young Nachiketa, who struggles to comprehend the truth of life and death. He approaches Yama, the God of Death, and is tested by the Lord before found worthy of divine instruction.

The second story is about Satyakama's search for the ultimate reality or "Brahman". Here, nature is the best teacher as Satyakama experiences Brahman directly rather than through verbal instruction by his guru, Gautama.

the story of Satyakama

Long ago, in the Chandogya Upanisad, sage Gautama accepted Satyakama (a lad with lowly social status and son of a sudra prostitute) as his student for becoming a brahmin based on certain important qualities, which still remain valid today and can be used for selecting and training present-day non-brahmin priests and temple worshippers.

One day the boy Satyakama came to his mother and said, “Mother, I want to be a religious student. What is my family name?”

“My son,” replied his mother, “ I do not know. In my youth I was a servant and worked in many places. I do not know who was your father. I am Jabala, and you are Satyakama. Call yourself Satyakama Jabala.”

Thereupon the boy went to Gautama and asked to be accepted as a student. “Of what family are you, my lad?” inquired the sage.

Satyakama replied, “ I asked my mother what my family name was, and she answered: ‘I do not know. In my youth I was a servant and worked in many places. I do not know who was your father. I am Jabala, and you are Satyakama. Call yourself Satyakama Jabala!’ I am therefore Satyakama Jabala, Sir.”

Then said the sage, “None but a true brahmin would have spoken thus. Go and fetch fuel, I will teach you. You have not swerved from the truth.”

Satyakama did not hide facts about his family, nor did he try to give any wrong or misleading information. This thing impressed Gautama a great deal. In addition, Gautama (a brahmin himself) was not judgmental towards Satyakama or his mother, and he showed a lot of compassion and consideration towards them by not discriminating against Satyakama.

In the third story, Prajapati (Sanskrit: “Lord of Creatures” or Brahma) - the father, the guru and the guide - utters a single syllable "DA" as instruction to the dissatisfied gods, humans and demons who are seeking contentment and peace. "DA" was understood and interpreted differently by the pupils in light of their own experiences.

These three stories are, in essence, about the guru and the pupil, where one who embarks on the path of true knowledge surely achieves it.

Many many thanks to “Ajnaabi” for providing ACK.

ACK-002: Harischandra

The Sun Dynasty or Solar Dynasty or Suryavansha is one of the most prominent dynasties in the history of Hinduism, along with the "Chandravansha" or Lunar Dynasty.

Harischandra, in Hindu religious texts is the 28th king of the Solar Dynasty. His legend is very popular and often told as a benchmark for an ideal life. He was renowned for his piety and justice. His name is Sanskrit for "having golden splendour". Harischandra had two unique qualities. The first being, he kept his word and never went back on what he uttered as a promise. The other being, he never uttered a lie in his life. These twin qualities were tested heavily in his life by various circumstances that led him to penury and separation from his family. But he stood to his principles in the face of all ordeals and persevered to become a symbol of courage. He ruled over Ayodhya long before Dasaratha the father of Lord Rama.

The story as it has come down to us has many variations from the original narration in the Markandeya Purana (Books VII and VIII) (download original text).

Many many thanks to “Ajnaabi” for this ACK.


Updated: Text revised. Many many thanks to "Anonymous" visitor.

Ashoka (304 BC-232 BC) was the grandson of Changragupta Maurya and the son of Bindusar. His conversion to and support of Buddhism is often likened to the impact of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great's acceptance of Christianity in 313 A.D. His name "aśoka" means "without sorrow" in Sanskrit.

He ruled (273 BC to 232 BC) over an empire that covered major part of the Indian subcontinent. At its greatest extent, the Empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it reached beyond modern Pakistan and significant portions of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat and Kandahar provinces and Sistan and Baluchestan Province in Iran.

The capital of the empire was in the city of Pataliputra (modern day Patna).

Emperor Ashoka was very courageous and a good administrator. When Bindusara became gravely ill, Ashoka succeeded him, although one hundred of his other brothers were mysteriously murdered. Many historians believe Ashoka had his own brothers eliminated so that he could succeed his father.In 273 B.C., Ashoka was crowned the king of Magadha.

8 Years after being crowned the king, Ashoka decided to annex Kalinga(Orissa) into his kingdom. This was last battle that Ashoka ever fought. Though Ashoka won the battle he was horrified by the loss of life and death of so many soldiers.

This experience changed him and he swore that he would never wage war again. He took-up Buddhism, and he vowed to practice only virtuous actions in the future. After instructions by members of the Buddhist community, Ashoka began to resemble the ideal leader, promoting prosperity and peace within society. He religiously followed the principles of Buddhism - that of truth, charity, kindness, purity and goodness.

Ashoka also asked his followers to take the path of virtuous action. He believed in non-violence and banned the sacrifice of animals. Besides this he opened clinics for birds and animals too. His good works earned him the name of Devanamapriya Priyadarshi.

He also propagated Buddhism by engraving it's principles on pillars throughout his kingdom. The Ashoka pillars, as they are now called, were over 40 feet high and extremely heavy. He also attempted to spread this religion to Syria, Egypt and Macedonia, and sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sangamitra to Sri Lanka for this purpose.

Ashoka died in 232 BC and is amongst the greatest rulers in the history of the Indian Subcontinent and he is respected for being the 'Ideal' ruler. In 1992, Ashoka was ranked #53 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential figures in history.

Map of Ashokan Empire

  • The national emblem of India has been taken from the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. In the National emblem only three lions are visible and the fourth one is hidden from the view. All the lions are mounted on an abacus. At the centre of the Abacus, there is a Chakra (wheel) which symbolizes the Dharma Chakra (Eternal wheel of law). There is a bull, a galloping horse, an elephant and a lion, separated by intervening wheels over a bell shaped lotus. The word Satyameva Jayate (truth alone triumphs) have been inscribed in Devanagari script.
  • The wheel, which represents kingship and earthly rule, is featured on the Indian flag.
When India's National flag was adopted in the Constituent Assembly, the then Vice President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan explained the meaning of the spoked wheel that featured in the centre of the flag as follows:

"The Ashoka Wheel in the center of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change; it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change."

Many many thanks to “Ajnaabi” for providing Amar Chitra Katha. Without his help I could not be able to post details with Amar Chitra Katha cover.

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