Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Spiritual Kindness

Years ago, a student wrote to his professor of Theology, Dr Sir Edmund Blunden, at Oxford, ' What's spirituality?' The taciturn professor replied back, ' When you talk less about it and do more to humanity, that's spirituality.' Professor Blunden was right. We are all too engrossed in talking about spirituality without knowing even an iota of what's it all about. When saint Eknath of Maharashtra gave away the holy water from Ganga to a thirsty donkey, that was an act of spirituality. When Tukaram chased the dog requesting it to stop and take the ghee to eat with, that's spirituality. We all meditate, go to temples and shrines and call ourselves spiritual. This is not spirituality. First of all, to be spiritual you need no divine connexion or platform. Kahlil Gibran narrated a true story in his Arabic autobiography Al-Sarguzisht. Gibran was 7-year-old. He was living near a town in Lebanon. On a hot summer day, he heard a sound outside his house. He saw a young man was being led for public beheading. In those days, the condemned prisoners used to be paraded before execution.
The condemned man saw a butterfly on the path. He bent and picked up the butterfly and very softly placed it on a stone slab slightly off the road. The sight left an indelible impression on the very young Gibran. He wrote, ' Knowing that soon he would be executed in public and his head would roll in the dust, yet that man had the overflowing compassion to lift a seemingly insignificant butterfly from the path and place it where it didn't get trampled.' Gibran cried and called it the most poignant sight of spirituality he had ever seen.' Most of us are religious and spiritual, but we remain unperturbed by the sufferings of not only the human beings but of every creature. We're impervious to the pains and sufferings of others. Fariduddin Attar, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, once saved two wounded piglets.
 When someone said that even touching a pig was haraam (forbidden) in Islam, Attar said, 'Excommunicate me from Islam. Because I know what I did have nothing to do with my scriptural faith. I can again and again save the same piglets and for that I'm ready to face Allah's wrath. To me, a simple act of kindness is the greatest step of spirituality and humanity.' St. Augustine would look for poor, hungry and homeless people and only after feeding them, would he break his fast in the Lent, Christian month of fasting and penance. For the devout Augustine, it was the ultimate gesture of spirituality. This is comparable to the Indian sage and mystic Ramkrishna Parmhans' 'Naro Narayanam Asti' (Man is the living god). Isn't it the most practical manifestation of spirituality? The sooner we understand this, the better will it be for the entire mankind.

  
   A Spanish professor friend of mine, mailed me an English rendition of Pablo Neruda's very rare sensuous quatrain, which he never sent to any publisher. But the girl he wrote the following quatrain for, gave the brief poem to Madrid University's Spanish department after getting married to a renowned pianist. Her liberal husband wanted the world to know that the great Neruda wrote a sensuous quatrain for his wife when she was 22-year-old and madly in love with the future Nobel laureate. 
                  
                                   ---Sumit Paul



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