One day Emperor Krishna Deva Raya (of Vijayanagar empire, 1509-29), aggrieved by a recent loss of a dear relative, fell into a spell of serious introspection: ‘What is the most important lesson in life to be learned?’
He knew there would be many answers to his question. So he decided to hold a sadas – like today’s conferences, it’s a forum, practiced even today, for enriching discussion and debate, not necessarily competitive – of learned pundits from near and far.
On the appointed day, the Royal Court quickly filled up.
Tenali Raman was also present…
Hey, wait a minute, a mere court jester, he’s no way a pundit qualified to be part of this assembly.
…bringing along a guest of his, a guru, not widely known outside his circle.
Sadas commenced with a brief introduction from Raya, followed by the Raja Guru (chief guru of the Royal Court) explaining the protocols and rules. The floor was thrown open to the participants.
The learned pundits from the assembly presented a variety of thoughts and theories drawing heavily from the veda’s, upanishad’s, purana’s and epic’s. Probing questions were raised and answered. Theories dissected and interpretations offered. A parade of knowledge and a veritable feast for the intellect.
A couple of hours passed thus and finally it seemed all who came to speak had been heard and the sadas ready for closure.
That’s when the Raja Guru requested Tenali’s guest to also contribute to the proceedings. Tenali too entreated him to share his views on the subject.
The guru obliged.
At the podium, he requested for and got a bunch of samit’s (short sticks of wood usually from peepal tree offered to agni, the fire-god in homam’s and three chords of adequate length.
The audience was intrigued.
A volunteer from the audience was asked to come up. He had to take a bunch of samit’s and tie them tightly up into a bundle at two places near the center, a few inches apart, using the two chords. The free ends of the chords were nipped close to the knots, offering no grip at all and the knots themselves not easy to undo. Now the bundle was ready.
He invited anyone from the audience to step up. He had to pull a couple of samit’s free from the bundle without tampering the two chords in any manner or breaking any samit. It meant the samit’s had to come out, if at all, through the edges of the bundle.
When one of them tried with all his might, the samit would not slide out. Reasons: the bundle tied tight held the samit in its place, no good grip available on the samit to pull it out and the small protrusions on the samit snagged on one chord or the other preventing its sliding out.
More tried…without success.
Clearly now it was left to the guru to come up and show…
He did. He took the third chord and right at the center between the other two chords he wound it around the bundle more than once, making it a wee bit tighter than others. A knot was not even needed. The chord crunched the samit’s together a little more than before, of course without breaking. This had the effect of loosening a little bit the other two chords riding either side on the bundle…allowing them to slipped out free over the edges. With them out of the way the third chord was simply unwound to free up the entire bunch!!
Jaws dropped in the audience.
“It is actually very simple like this bundle of samit’s. For lasting peace of mind and meaningful happiness, there must be, for everyone, a philosophy of life, ideally structured around a single higher purpose or objective worth striving for – could be based on dhaana, (charity), ahimsa (non-violence towards all sentient), bhakti (devotion), community service or anything else one (or the group) chooses, usually dictated by one’s dharma (simply, the ‘done’ thing for one’s group), guru followed, family tradition, law of the land or learned wisdom. Regard this chord tightly wound at the center as representing the same. All activities and sub-goals in one’s life must be touched by, subordinated to, strongly held together by this single objective like the chord does to the samit’s. Faced with it, all other bonds in life slip off like it happened to the chords on the sides. The entire energy of life is focused on just that one purpose, none wasted. No duvidha (confusion of choice or priorities). That’s all there to it.”
“This, I submit, is the most important lesson in life to be learnt.”
He returned to his seat.
It took a little while for the awe-struck audience to collect their wits and give him the ovation due to him.
They were quite impressed at his cleverness in using very dramatically a mere bundle of samit’s as a model for putting forth, on a complex question, his views which seemed to make good sense at first glance. Also they were at once both unhappy and happy; unhappy because a specific philosophy, school of thought or a higher objective not being prescribed as the solution – it meant they had to exercise their grey cells, find and fashion it all by themselves; and, paradoxically, happy because it was entirely left to an individual’s choice or a collective volition. They agreed the profundity of what was said needed to be followed up with much more serious contemplation.
The sadas was declared closed.
With a lot on his plate to sift, select and digest, Raya sought a follow-up meeting with the guru.
Source: Inspired by a post in some aanmeega forum (cannot recall)
Images from Pinterest, amazon.in