Opportunities to help us grow in life are everywhere and the yogic precept of svadhyaya or self enquiry helps us find them. Through our practice of yoga and meditation, we can develop an affinity for reflection and contemplation. To use a current example, while the worldwide financial crisis has been difficult for most of us, how many of us recognise the opportunity we have to simplify our lives? If your life is overrun with mortgages, repayments, X boxes, playstations and more fancy gadgets than you know what to do with, this could be your chance to stop trying to keep up with the Packers and discover a simpler more harmonious life. I recently came across this amusing tale from yoga about life’s complications.
Once a saintly teacher presented his student with the copy of the holy Bhagavad Gita, advising him to begin a very dedicated study of the book. The renounced student began his study of the Gita sitting inside a cave on the Vindhya Hills, however, a small mouse in the cave started nibbling the pages of the Gita every day. Being extremely perturbed with the mischief caused by the mouse, the student brought a kitten from a nearby village. Then milk was required for the maintenance of the kitten. Considering all the related problems of acquiring milk every day, the need for keeping a cow was very strongly felt by the student. A kind-hearted person gifted one cow, but now an anxiety for maintaining the cow loomed large in the heart of the student. So that the cow might be safe and comfortable, the renounced student built a barn with much labour and effort.
Thereafter came the anxiety for the day-to-day care and maintenance of the cow, providing her with regular fodder and water. Over and above this, the renounced student was very anxious about spoiling his study of the Gita while caring for the cow, and as such he decided to appoint a cowherd. The cowherd took charge of maintaining the cow. But then, who was going to feed the cowherd, and supervise his duties regularly?
Finally, after much deliberation, the anxious renunciate got married. Gradually, his family swelled. He acquired vast property, servants and a palatial house. The student thus became a dedicated family man, leaving aside his study of the Gita.
After a long lapse of time, the teacher, trying to find his student, happened to come to the front of the student’s residence. Looking at the opulence and the host of family members, he asked his student, “What is all this?” Then the student submitted with folded hands, “O master, this is the family I had to build up for the sake of your Gita, you remember?”
Of course, this tale is not meant to be a criticism of marriage and family, it’s simply an illustration of how complicated our lives can become, almost without us realizing it. What often begins as something so simple and straightforward, along the way can turn into a maze of complexity. The practice of svadhyaya is a chance to regularly contemplate our selves and our lives and decide whether we are heading in a direction that is healthy, helpful and wholesome. It is a chance to rediscover the beauty of a simple life. Namaste!