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vAmana hindu kathA: Brief Hindu Stories

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001. Asking God...

A guru was telling his shiShya: "It is better to let God give you what he would rather than ask him what you want."

"Why is it so?" asked the shiShya.

"If a child takes snacks from a vessel, the amount of food will just be of the child's handful. If some elder gave him a handful from the vessel, wouldn't it be much more?"


002. Everyone can have it!

A grocer was doing good business in a village, and was happy. Some years later, another man set up a shop in that same street. The first grocer was worried that his business might come down.

He sought a mahAn--sage, and spoke about his apprehension. The mahAn said laughing, "A horse that goes to drink water from a pond would see its reflection and think that another horse is competing with it for drinking water. So, it would try to drive this other horse by kicking the water with a foreleg. You are in the same situation..."


003. bhagavAn and his gItA

A shiShya asked his guru: "gurUjI! I find no time to read the bhagavad gItA in full. Kindly suggest me that portion of it which can give me the satisfaction of reading the entire gItA."

guru: Read the last adhyAya--chapter. It will give you the satisfaction you seek.

shiShya: Kindly suggest me something even smaller than a full chapter.

guru: Alright, read the last shloka--verse, of the last adhyAya.

shiShya: Suggest me at least one word of it that can stick to my mind, gurUjI!

guru (without getting vexed): Read about that one word, vismaya--be without pride/doubt/worry that occurs towards the end of the chapter.

shiShya (feeling very happy): This seems to be very easy. But then how to be vismaya, gurUji?

guru: If you conduct yourself as bhagavAn teaches you, you can be vismaya.

shiShya: What does bhagavAn teach, gurUjI?

guru: To know that you have read the bhagavad gItA from the beginning.


004. Which one is limitless?

A king who was hunting became tired and sought the Ashramam of a muni--sage. The munipungava--eminent sage, welcomed him.

king: svAmI! Which is the longest in this world? And the farthest? And the limitless?

muni: For one who is awake, the night is the longest. For a traveller who is tired, the distant yet to cover is the farthest. And for the mUDha--fools, who know nothing about dharma, the cycle of birth and death is endless.


005. Which one is mine?

Four shiShyas came to a muni for their education. The muni asked them to only bring their copper water pot from home, since they could use the other articles in the Ashramam. Some years later, the muni became very old and wanted to entrust the management of the Ashramam to one of the four shiShyas. So he asked them to bring from the Ashramam the water pot they brought when they were admitted. Three of the four shiShyas promptly went inside and brought back their water pots.

The fourth shiShya said, "gurUjI! After studying under you all these years, all thoughts of 'I' and 'mine' have left me! So what to call my house and what to bring?" The guru promptly entrusted him with the management of the Ashramam.


006. Respect and honour

"What kind of man will get the highest respect and honour in life?" A shiShya asked his guru.

guru: Suppose a stage show is going on. One man acts in the drama in the role of a king. Another man has the role of a beggar. A third one is a mad man and a fourth a servant. Which one of them would get the reward?"

shiShya: The one gives out the best performance.

guru: You said it well! Even such is this human life. Everyone of us is given a role to play. The role is not important. How we perform it, under the guidance of dharma, in a way that does not harm another person is what is important. If we do it, we would certainly get due respects and honour in life.


007. mauna vratam--vow of silence!

Four shiShyas decided to meditate silently for ten days, undertaking a vow of silence. As night set in on the first day, the lamp's flame was extinguished in the wind.

"Alas, the lamp is extinguished!" said the first shiShya.

"Did we not decide to observe a vow of silence?" asked the second shiShya.

"You both have broken our mauna vrata", said the third one.

Listening to them, the fourth shiShya said quietly, "I am the one who has not said anything."


008. All by God's grace!

A servant in a palace was always murmuring to himself, "All by God's grace" with every bit of work he did. This irritated the king. Still, the servant did not stop uttering those words.

One day, after going to his native place on leave, the servant came back for work. He brought some of fruits from the royal gardens to offer to the king, and gave them to the king.

Without eating those fruits, the king threw them one by one on the servant. The servant stood motionless with each blow he received. The king asked him with a laugh, throwing the last fruit, "You used to say that everything was by God's grace. Where did that grace go now?"

The servant replied, "O King! Even now only by God's grace it has ended smoothly."

To the king who looked at him with surprise, the servant confirmed, "O King! I saw some woodapple trees too in the garden. What would have happened to me had I brought the woodapple fruits!"

The king appreciated his servant's intelligence and presence of mind.


009. The best jnAnam--knowledge!

A man asked a jnAni--sage/wise man: "What is the best in jnAnam--knowledge?"

"The jnAnam of not feeling delighted in pleasure and disheartened in distress", said the jnAni.

The man could not understand the words. So the jnAni pointed out to a donkey that was browsing there and said, "Look at this donkey in the morning and evening. You will then understand."

The man did as told and still could not understand. So he came back to the jnAni.

The jnAni explained: "This donkey is has no sorrow for carrying the bundle of dirty clothes in the morning. Nor does it have the happiness of carrying the bundle of clean, washed clothes in the evening. So to have jnAnam is to be like this donkey."


010. Who is to praise whom?

A man who became suddenly rich, told a poor man he came across, "I have won a lottery of 10 lakh rupees. I shall give you one lakh rupees, if you would praise me and spread my fame."

The poor man said, "You thought I would do it for one lakh?"

Rich man: Alright, I shall give you five lakhs, half the bumper. Will you then do it?

Poor man: In that case, you and I will have the same amount of money, so why should I praise you and spread your fame?

Rich man: Alright, I shall give you all the lot.

Poor man: If you give me the entire lot, then why should I praise you, only you should praise me?


011. When would be happiness obtained?

The shiShya asked his guru: "gurUjI, what should I do to get happiness in life?"

The guru took him to a garden full of flowers, with different kinds of butterflies fluttering their gossamer wings over them. He asked the shiShya to catch and bring a butterfly.

Howevermuch he tried, the shiShya could not catch a butterfly. He came back empty-handed.

The guru said, "It's alright. Let us now move on to the center of the garden." Both of them were happy and peaceful just looking at the picture of beauty all around them.

In a short while, butterflies started flying around them. The butterfly that the shiShya chased now came and sat on his hands. The guru laughed.

"This is life", he said. "Chase the butterfly of happiness and you will never get it. Enjoy your life in the peace of silence, and then the happiness will come to you on its own accord."


012. guru vaNakkam

A king had two sons who were to rule the country after him. He wanted them to be eminent in kalvi--education and kELvi--shravaNa--listening, so he sent them both to a gurukulam. One day to verify in person how they fared, the king himself went to the gurukulam.

The guru was just then starting to go out. Unmindful of the arrival of their father, both the sons vied with each other and brought one sandal each of the guru. The king was happy witnessing this.

He returned with the strong belief that his sons would become good kings in future.

Sources for the stories 1-12: kumudam bhakti Tamil magazine issues.

013. bhakti rahasyam--secret of devotion

A poor farmer bought a painted clay doll of shrI KRShNa. Keeping it on the lower shelf of his puja cupboard, he sat before the doll and prayed for removal of his poverty. Days passed but his poverty did not subside. He got angry with KRShNa.

Then he bought a painted clay doll of shrI Muruga. He kept KRShNa on the top shelf and Muruga on the lower shelf and started his simple puja, lighting an incense stick. Shortly he noticed that the fumes of the incense slowly wafted up to KRShNa...

He was furious: "KRShNA! Even after doing puja to you for these many days you did not open your eyes. Now, should you enjoy the fragrant fumes of the incense stick I have lit for Muruga?" With these words, he stuck a piece of cotton on each nostril of KRShNa.

Instantly shrI KRShNa appeared before him! He said, "bhakta, I appreciate your considering me as real and not as a doll made of clay. Now ask me now what you want..."

That is the secret of bhakti!


014. Who would earn life in the heaven?

A paurANika--one who lectures about the purANas, died and went to Yama's world. He thought the Yama-dhUtas would take him to the heaven, but instead they sent him to the hell.

Angered, he asked Chitragupta, "Listening to the purANika stories I narrated countless evil men have become good people. Don't I deserve svargam--heaven, for having made many take the right path? What sort of justice is this?"

Chitragupta told him, "For your paurANika lectures you got the compensation in money then and there. Whereas, the people who heard the stories, without expecting any wages, gave up their evil acts, changed their lives and have reached here."


015. Ties with God

A shiShya got a saMdeham--doubt. He asked his guru about it: "svAmI, you say that if we have strong ties with God, that would loosen our other, worldly ties. How can this be?"

The guru smiled and asked him to bring a bundle of firewood logs. When he brought it, the guru asked him to tie the bundle with another rope, more tightly.

When the shiShya did as told, he saw that the first tie loosen and understood.


016. svargam and narakam: heaven and hell

Some sages wanted to have a look at the svargam and narakam. They first went to the narakam. The inhabitants of the place were all bony and puny although lots of food were in place on the dining table before them. Then the sages noticed that the people there had straight hands with no elbows, so they could not bend their hands to bring the food to their mouth. Everyone was intent on spoiling the other's efforts of eating, and the place was filled with the sound of brawl.

Then the sages went to the svargam. There the inhabitants were healthy, although their hands too were straight and had no elbows. The reason for their health was instantly evident to the sages: each one was reaching for the food with his straight hand and was feeding an other person he could reach.


017. God's avatar

RAjA MAn Singh, a trusted General of the Mughal King Akbar, was one day chatting with his King, who asked him, "A question to you who is a religious person. Why do your gods take avatar themselves to save the people, instead of sending the devas or dhUtas--messengers?"

MAn Singh obtained a month's time to reply to the question. Some days passed. One New Moon day, it was arranged that the King and the General would enjoy a boat trip under the light of the full moon.

The King had reached the beach, but MAn Singh was yet to come. Shortly he came, carrying a child on his shoulder, fully wrapped in cloth.

The King asked him with anger, "Why should I wait for you?"

"I went to the palace with the intention of accompanying you. There they said that you had already left, but your son cried adamantly to come with me, so I have brought him. He fell asleep on the way."

The King's anger subsided. He knew that his affectionate son was an adamant boy. After the boat sailed some distance, MAN Singh screamed, "O King, your son slipped and fell down in the waters!"

The very next moment, the King jumped into the water. After a frantic search, all that he got was a cloth doll. As he ascended the boat, the King was furious: "What for is this drama?"

MAn Singh told him calmly: "Some days back you asked me as to why God takes avatar himself in human form instead of sending his messengers. This is the answer for that question.

"Although there were so many guards surrounding you in the boat, you jumped into the water yourself because of your affection for your son, forgetting that you were a king. God too does the same thing to save his devotees. Only to prove it I dropped a cloth doll resembling your son in the water."

The King regained his composure and appreciated the devotion and intelligence of MAn Singh.


018. The way to take on misery

Some bhaktas asked shrI Satya Sai Baba about what they can do to take on misery in life. Baba said, "Alright. You now move towards this morning sun and then come back."

They did as told and then Baba asked them, "Did you notice anything when you went and came back?"

When they said no, Baba explained: "When you moved towards the sun, your shadow fell back behind you and you did not notice it. When you moved away from the sun, your shadow led you, making you see it prominently. Move towards God and your misery will fall back behind you, and you won't feel it inseparable from you."


019. vidyA should realize God

shrI ParAshara bhaTTar, a 12th century vaiShNava guru, was sitting at the threshold of his house along with his shiShyas. They used to see a mahA-vidvAn--great pandit, pass through their street daily, with his shiShya ghoShTi--group of disciples. BhaTTar would seem to read a book as the vidvAn passed through. A short while later, a man who was doing unCha-vRddhi--gathering grains from people as alms, used to pass by. This mendicant was not well read, but would nevertheless recite the sholaks he knew incompletely, as he stood before each house. When his vessel was filled with rice, he would return to his home.

Stopping that unCha-vRddha, ParAshara bhaTTa would do-kushala-prashna--make inquiries of welfare, and chat with him for a half hour. But he would not even talk to the paNDita.

Surpised at this, his shiShyas one day sought him an answer for it. They asked him, "You chat with a man who knows nothing but ignore a vidvAn, why is this svAmI?"

"I shall explain it tomorrow", said BhaTTar. When the mahA-vidvAn came the next morning, BhaTTa welcomed him inside with pUrNa-kumbham. Then he asked the paNDit, "I have a saMdeham--doubt. Can I ask you about it?"

"You can ask me very well!"

"What is meant by para-tattvam--Supreme Truth?"

"I have my own doubt with that same concept. You have asked me a question about which I have my doubt, and this I did not expect."

Next, BhaTTa asked the same question to the unCha-vRddha when he came. That mendicant was angered by the question. "You mean to say that you are teaching your students all these days without knowing anything about the para-tattvam?"

"Would you know what para-tattvam is?"

"Why not? RanganAtha who is lying inside the sanctum is the para-tattvam."

ParAshara BhaTTa fell at the feet of the unCha-vRddha. His disciples understood that vidyA--education, that does not make one realize God is only a burden.


020. A touch of avarice

A bhakta who was a merchant was in intensive prayer: "Hey bhagavAn! I took up selling salt, but it rained. Then I took up selling flour, but windstorm swept it away! Only you should arrange for my daily living. I promise you that whatever business I take up, I shall give you daily, half the share of the profit earned."

On the first day, he got a profit of one rupee, and gladly dropped a half rupee coin in the huNDi--receptacle for money kept in temples. Then as the days passed, he was happy contributing five, ten, twenty, fifty and a hundred rupees to God.

Then he prayed, "God! I shall drop your half-share once a week henceforth. Please bear with me."

The bhakta started dropping a thousand, and then five thousand rupees in the huNDi. But these days dropping money in the huNDi did not give him happiness. Thereafter, he came to a decision to contribute once in a month, and promptly sent the contribution of thousands of rupees through his trusted servants, although he was not happy about it.

As time moved on, the circle of his kith and kin widened. His family grew into a wife and many children. The bhakta became a full-time merchant and rose to the level of going overseas for his business.

Selling abroad whatever commodities he took with him and then buying things from there, he returned home by a long voyage. When he calculated, he found out that he had earned a sum of fifty lakh rupees, and was shocked that he should give half of it to God. Not only that he was unhappy, but felt distressed at his plight.

God, for the first time, laughed at his bhakta. The ship he travelled next time was caught in a storm and the captain ordered a jettison...

Sources for the stories 13-20: kumudam bhakti Tamil magazine issues.
021. Desires forecast coming events
From 'Parables of Rama' by svAmi RAma TIrtha

A lady went to a photographer to have her picture taken. The professional photographer took her picture on a sensitive film with his expensive camara. When he developed the negative he found indication of smallpox on her face. Her face had appeared clean as she sat for the photograph, and yet there were unmistakable indications of the dreaded disease. Astonished, he rang up the lady and said that the picture did not come alright and that they might need another try.

What the photographer did not know was that the lady developed smallpox within a few hours after she reached home. The reason was that her sister had smallpox and had sealed with her lips a letter she sent to the lady. Although there were no indications to the eye, the highly sensitive film found it out.

Such are our desires, index of events which are sure to come to pass.


022. Spontaneous diffusion of good
From 'Parables of Rama' a Sufi story told by svAmi RAma TIrtha

Long ago there lived a saint who was so godly that the angels were surprised and came down to investigate. They found that the saint simply went about his daily life, diffusing virtue, even as a flower wafts its fragrance.

They found that two words summed up his day: he gave, he forgave. Yet those words never fell from his lips but were expressed in his ready smile, kindness, forbearance, and charity.

The angels asked God to give the man the gift of miracles. God consented, and the angels asked the man what sort of miraculous capability did he wish.

Would he prefer to heal the sick with the touch of hand?
No, he would rather like God to do it.

Would he prefer to convert guilty souls and wandering hearts to the right path?
No, it was the mission of the angels; he does not convert people.

Would he like to become a model of patience and virtue so people might adore him?
No, if he liked it, people would be attracted to him--not to God.

Finally, the angels said, "No way, you must ask for a gift of miracle or else one will be forced on you."

"Very well", said the saint, "that I may do a great deal of good without ever knowing it."

The perplexed angels contemplated it and finally resolved that whenever the saint's shadow fell behind him or sideways in a way that he couldn't see it, the shadow would have the power to heal, comfort, and nourish. This meant that the shadow would effectively cause the sick to heal, withered plants to grow, give clear water to dried up brooks, fresh colour of health to pale children, and joy to unhappy mothers.

But the saint simply went about his daily life, diffusing virtue as the star diffuses light and the flower perfume, without even being aware of it. And the people respecting his humility, followed him silently, never speaking to him about his miracles. Little by little, they came even to forget his name, and called him only "The Holy Shadow".


023. Why We Shout When In Anger

A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled and asked.

"Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?"

Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, "Because we lose our calm, we shout."

"But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner." asked the saint.

Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples. Finally the saint explained, .

"When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.

"What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small..."

The saint continued, "When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are when they love each other."

He looked at his disciples and said.

"So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant; do not say words that distance each other more; or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return. They may end up in divorce courts, for instance."

Thanks to Malladi Venkata Krishna Murthy for sharing this story!

Source: Spiritual Stories And Parables - The Most Comprehensive Collection Anywhere


024. Parable of the koshakAra bird
From 'Parables of Sivananda' by svAmi SivAnanda

The koshakAra bird lives inside the trunk of the tree. It bores a hole along the branch and builds its strong nest close to the bark. In order not to leave any room for invasion by any other creature, the bird goes on strengthening the nest on all sides, and leaves absolutely not a pin-hole in it! If it had left a hole it would get air to breathe. But since it is all blocked, for safety, the bird perishes inside.

Similarly, the gRhastha--householder, in his anxiety to shut out misery and pain, builds his nest of home and family, of his internal attitude to life, in such a way as to leave no room for any vRtti--practice, other than those of sense-indulgence (the material with which his cage is made), to enter his mind. If he had left one small hole of vairAgya--dispassion, in this shell, he would breathe and be enabled to obtain food for the soul in due time. But since he does not allow even this, he perishes miserably within this hard and strong nest.

O man, even if you choose to enter the nest of gRhasthAshrama, leave a little hole of vairAgya in it, through which you can escape into the Wide World of God-realisation, when the time comes.


025. Freedom Parrot
by Osho

A man, a great man, a fighter for freedom was traveling in the mountains. He stayed in a caravanserai for the night. He was amazed that in the caravanserai there was a beautiful parrot in a golden cage, continually repeating "Freedom! Freedom!" And it was such a place that when the parrot repeated the word "Freedom!" it would go on echoing in the valleys, in the mountains.

The man thought: "I have seen many parrots, and I have thought they must want to be free from those cages... but I have never seen such a parrot whose whole day, from the morning to the evening when he goes to sleep, is spent in calling out for freedom." He had an idea. In the middle of the night, when the owner was fast asleep, he got up and opened the door of the cage. He whispered to the parrot, "Now get out."

But he was very surprised that the parrot was clinging to the bars of the cage. He said to him again and again, "Have you forgotten about freedom? Just get out! The door is open and the owner is fast asleep; nobody will ever know. You just fly into the sky; the whole sky is yours."

But the parrot was clinging so deeply, so hard, that the man said, "What is the matter? Are you mad?" He tried to take the parrot out with his own hands, but the parrot started pecking at him, and at the same time he was shouting "Freedom! Freedom!" The valleys in the night echoed and re-echoed, but the man was also stubborn; he was a freedom fighter.

He pulled the parrot out and threw him into the sky; and he was very satisfied, although his hand was hurt. The parrot had attacked him as forcefully as he could, but the man was immensely satisfied that he had made a soul free. He went to sleep.

In the morning, as the man was waking up, he heart the parrot shouting, "Freedom! Freedom!" He thought perhaps the parrot must be sitting on a tree or on a rock. But when he came out, the parrot was sitting in the cage. The door was open.

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