The following post is based on a story I had heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.
A Buddhist Monk came to New York as a visitor. He was excited to teach Buddhism to New Yorkers. Whomsoever he met, he started talking to them about the Buddhist philosophy and its applicability.
Walking around in New York, he was hungry. He saw a vendor selling bagels. There was a line of five to six people waiting to buy bagels. He waited also at the end of the line and started talking to the guy in front of him about the teachings of Buddha. He told the guy that a transformation in life has to come just like that which happened in the life of Buddha. The guy was getting a little annoyed, but he did not want to be rude. He continued listening to the Buddhist until his turn came to buy the bagel.
When the guy left, the Buddhist started talking about Buddhism to the vendor who was selling the bagels. The vendor cut off the conversation and asked, “What kind of bagel do you want and what do you want on it?” The Buddhist started telling the vendor that he was not a narrow minded person and he respected all religions. He learns and gathers good thoughts from all. Again, the vendor ignored this sidetrack of conversation and asked, “What kind of bagel do you want and what do you want on it?”
The Buddhist gave a $20 bill to the vendor and told him, “I don’t want to be a narrow minded person. So, give me an ‘everything bagel’ and put everything on it.”
The vendor gave him an ‘everything bagel with butter, cream cheese and mustard’ on it. Then he went to take care of the other customers. The Buddhist waited for a while and soon realized that the vendor was taking care of the other customers one by one.
The Buddhist finally asked him, “What about my change?”
The vendor continued to prepare a bagel for the next customer and said, “Change comes from within!” 🙂
What I learned:
Not to talk about spirituality to everyone:
After giving him the profound message of Practical Vedanta, the essence of the Upanishads, and the science of four yogas, Shri Krishna at the end of Bhagavad Gita told Arjuna, “Do not tell this teaching to anyone who is (1) not austere, (2) without devotion, (3) not interested in listening to this message, and (4) he who speaks ill of Me.” (Gita 18.67)
Shri Krishna is teaching us not to talk about spirituality or God to the above mentioned people. It is futile to talk to them. A beginner in the path of spirituality may lose faith by talking to such people. Their negative influence may wipe out the developing beginner’s faith.
Sri Ramakrishna said that occasionally out of two friends, while one was enjoying listening to his talks about God and spiritual practices, the other friend would became restless after a while. The other friend would whisper into the ears of his friend and ask, “How long are you going to be here?” The interested friend would get annoyed of this distraction. Then, Sri Ramakrishan used to tell the restless friend to go out and visit the temple and the garden.
The great Sanskrit Poet Kalidas prayed to God that he would accept any punishment for his ill-performed actions, but not a punishment where he would have to recite poetry in front of people who are not interested in poetry. He actually said it three times: “Maa likha, maa likha, maa likha.” “Please do not write, please do not write, and please do not write in my destity.”
The same is with talking about spirituality and God to the people who are not interested.
On the other hand, Shri Krishna said, “One who is endowed with supreme love for Me (God or Brahman) shares this profound teachings (of Bhagavad Gita) to My devotees will definitely without any doubt becomes one with Me.” (Gita 18.68)
Sharing uplifting and positive thoughts is good, but it should be only with the people who understand and appreciate them.
Swami Vivekananda’s Thoughts on Changing the World:
The following are Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts on the world and the idea of changing it. These thoughts reflect deep insights of the world and our responsibilities to the world. We can learn great lessons from these thoughts.
“This world is like a dog’s curly tail, and people have been striving to straighten it out for hundreds of years; but when they let it go, it curls up again. How could it be otherwise? When we know that this world is like a dog’s curly tail and will never be straightening, we shall not become fanatic (to change it).”
“There is God in this universe. It is not true that this universe is drifting and stands in need of help from you and me. God is ever present therein; He is undying and eternally active and infinitely watchful. When the whole universe sleeps He sleeps not; He is working incessantly; all the changes in the world are caused by Him.”
“We have to bear in mind that we are all debtors to the world and that the world does not owe us anything. It is a great privilege for all of us to be allowed to do anything for the world. In helping the world we really help ourselves.”
“The world is a grand moral gymnasium wherein we all have to take exercises so that we become stronger and stronger spiritually.”
Swami Vivekananda’s Thoughts on the Characteristics of a Reformer:
“If you want to be a true reformer, you must possess three things:
(1) The first is to feel. Do you really feel for your brothers? Do you really feel that there is so much misery in the world, so much ignorance and superstition? Do you really feel that all men are your brothers? Does this idea permeate your whole being? Does it run in your blood? Does it tingle in your veins? Does it course through every nerve and filament of your body? Are you full of that idea of sympathy? If you are, that is only the first step.
(2) Next, you must ask yourself if you have found any remedy. The old ideas may be all superstitions, but in and around these masses of superstition are nuggets of truth. Have you discovered means by which to keep that truth alone, without any of the dross? If you have done that, that is only the second step; one thing more is necessary.
(3) What is your motive? Are you sure that you are not actuated by greed for gold, by thirst for fame or power? Are you really sure that you can stand up for your ideals and work on, even if the whole world wants to crush you down? Are you sure that you know what you want and will perform your duty, and your duty alone, even if your life is at stake? Are you sure that you will persevere so long as life endures, so long as one pulsation is left in the heart?
Then you are a real reformer, you are a teacher, a master, a blessing to mankind.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s Thoughts on Change:
Henri Edberg is a writer who lives on the east coast of Sweden. He is passionate about happiness and personal development. He writes about it in his “The Positive Blog.” He has written an article “Gandhi’s 10 Rules for Changing the World.” He wrote on the following 10 quotations of Mahatma Gandhi (Henry Edberg gave the titles):
(1) Change yourself:
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
(2) You are in control:
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
(3) Forgive and let it go:
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
“The eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”
(4) Without actions you aren’t going anywhere:
“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
(5) Take care of this moment:
“I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.”
(6) Everyone is human:
“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess and retrack my steps.”
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
(8) See the good in people and help them:
“I look only to good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”
“Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.”
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
(9) Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self:
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
(10) Continue to grow and evolve:
“Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”
(Thanks to Abhishek Senjalia for editing the post and Viraj Khetani for the illustration.)