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Too often we tend to be results-oriented, neglecting the actual process of life and impatiently wanting everything to have been completed yesterday. We live in a society that is so fast-paced, that sometimes it feels as if aggression and impatience are actually admirable and perhaps indicative of true “success.” Consequently, even our yogic paths can be influenced by this pushiness.
We meditate and open our eyes to catch a glimpse of the clock, or we do a little yoga and expect to be instantly transformed. However, as yogis we must aspire to the qualities of patience, dedication and faith, knowing that being present with all we do will bring serenity and fulfillment.
The following tale from Indian mythology features the mystic Narada who teaches us the unexpected benefits that may emerge when we focus with diligence on our spiritual paths, right here, right now, finding contentment.
One day, Sage Narada traveled from the heavens to the earth, to see how life was progressing. Walking through a forest he came upon an older yogi who had spent many years meditating and praying. The yogi asked Narada where he was going.
“I am going to the heavens to be with God and am just passing through here.”
The yogi said, “Would you kindly ask the Lord how many more births I must take before I achieve enlightenment? I have been sitting here for a very long time doing my spiritual practices.”
Narada promised he would return with an answer and continued on his way. After a few miles Narada came upon a much younger yogi who was chanting and singing devotional songs to God. The yogi asked, “Narada, where are you going?”
“To the heavens,” Narada replied.
“Narada, please find out for me how my spiritual practice is progressing and how many more bodily incarnations must I take?” Narada agreed.
So Narada journied to the heavens, and after many years returned again to the same forest. There he found the first yogi sitting and meditating. The yogi jumped up.
“Narada, did you learn from God how many more births I need to take?”
Narada said, “Yes, God said that you must take another four births until you reach enlightenment.”
“What?! Four more births!” the yogi exclaimed. “Haven’t I meditated long enough? This is terrible!” He collapsed on the ground and lamented this news.
Narada kept walking and after some time came upon the second man.
“Narada, did you pose my question to God?” the yogi asked.
“Yes, I did. Can you count all the leaves on that tree over there?” The yogi looked at the tree which was quite large, full of many thick branches and leaves.
“Yes, I can count the leaves. It may take me some time but I can count them. Why do you ask?”
“Well,” said Narada, “The Lord told me that you will have to take as many births as the number of leaves that exist on that tree.”
The yogi pondered for a moment, and to Narada’s surprise did not appear distressed. In fact he suddenly exclaimed with joy, “Is that all? I am so relieved to know that there is a definite end! And thankfully the Lord did not say to count all the leaves in all the forests of the world! I feel very happy. Thank you!”
Suddenly there appeared a beautiful carriage, descending from the heavens. A man stepped from the carriage and said to the yogi, “Please come with me. The Lord has just sent for you!”
“What? But why? Narada has told me that I have many, many more births to take until I will be permitted to go to heaven.”
Narada explained, “It seems you were content and willing to go through many more births; you did not resist or display any impatience. Obviously the Lord is pleased with your reaction and has granted you a boon.”
“But what about the other yogi, the one who had only four more births? Surely he is more qualified than I?” said the yogi.
“Why, he is not even willing to wait four more births, a sign of impatience and agitation. Let him spend more time in meditation. Your willingness to accept your circumstances has sped up your progress. Enjoy heaven: you have earned this privilege!”
Narada smiled and walked away as the man alighted the carriage and flew off from the earth into the heavenly spheres.