I embarked on a spiritual journey last spring and headed towards an ashram in search of self enquiry. My destination was India, a country known for its vast spiritual heritage. I carried in my luggage the minimal personal effects including a pair of old thongs. This search for the Truth of Oneself will, in my mind, be restrictive on personal wants and needs.
Two days after I had rambled around in my old thongs, I noticed that part of the right sole was coming off; I brought it closer to my eyes to have a microscopic view of the damage; I then perceived that there was another problem; the strap which run from between the big toe and the second toe to the right side of the sandal was threading off and thinning. I sadly told myself that the thongs had expired due to old age, wear and tear. It was essential for me to look for new thongs before the expired ones left me half-way. Opportunity knocked when the next morning I walked into a store to buy fruit juice. An array of attractive and colorful thongs was displayed on a self. I tried a few pairs until I fell on one which fitted perfectly.
I settled my bill, removed the new thongs from the box, glided my feet into them and placed the expired ones into the carton, to throw away. Strangely, I could not find a dustbin and the expired thongs slept in the box, under my bed, almost forgotten.
Time passed by. For the festival of Mahashivaratri, innumerable pilgrims arrived at the ashram from all over the world. One night, I misplaced my new thongs. I immediately run for the rescue of the expired ones. I had been advised by a physician to walk barefoot which was supposedly a good exercise for different types of inflammation and beneficial for my sore knees, but accustomed to the western way of life, I found it hard to hop around like a grasshopper without footwear.
Eventually, the expired thongs silently resumed their job of transporting me. Every time I came out of a hall or canteen where footwear was not allowed, my eyes fell on them, waiting for me, tattered yet so warm. They were serving submissively and devotedly like old wives. I left them here and there, under the nose of everyone but nobody touched them. They were too old to draw attention or to be stolen. Expired they were, in the eyes of all except in mine. What a startling spiritual lesson to learn! Respect and hold on to the old; in times of need, they are the most helpful.
Further, nothing ever happens accidently or mysteriously, spiritual life shows us. For every happening, there is a proper reason. Moreover we are taught that inanimate objects too have feelings and emotions. For instance, it is told in the sacred Hindu book ‘The Ramayana’ that when Lord Rama, The Avatar of the Treta Yuga went to rescue his wife Sita from the demon King Ravana, an army of monkeys came to his help. They built a bridge by plucking mountains from the Himalayas and throwing them into the seas to allow Rama to walk from his land to the realm of Ravana. When the bridge was done, one mountain cried because it was plucked from its original place but not used. Lord Rama then promised the mountain that in his next incarnation, it will receive his blessings. This very mountain was the Govardhana Peak which Rama as the Avatar Krishna in the Dwarpa Yuga lifted on his finger and held aloft for seven days in order to save the inhabitants of Gokul from the devastation of torrential rain.
Illustrating the words of wisdom of my Guru, ‘there is nothing in this world which has no heart, which is incapable of feeing of joy and grief; only, you must have the eye to see, the ear to listen and the heart to respond’, here is another example of emotion expressed by inanimate objects is the more recent case of ‘the weeping saris’. At Anantapur, the Kaliyuga Avatar, Sri Sathya Sai Baba asked that a box of new saris be brought to his room; they were to be distributed to women workers who were helping in the construction of the Sathya Sai College. He chose 96 saris out of one hundred and disregarded four, which were returned to the box. After he distributed the saris, his attention was drawn to a trickle of water flowing from the bottom of the box. Baba later explained to a gathering at Dharmakshera that the saris had feelings just like humans and similar to the mountain that was set aside by him in the Treta Yuga, the saris were aggrieved; they were weeping because they had been set aside by him. He immediately removed the saddened saris from the box and distributed them.
To cut a long story short, I returned home with the expired thongs, having learnt that self enquiry leads one to detach from people, mundane life and worldly affairs by opening one’s eyes to the deficiencies in them.