Alexander’s last words

Sometimes, we get teachings from the most unlikely source. Recently, my uncle, whom I would have never thought of bring philosophical shared this known but rarely applied story with me when having a cup of tea

He told me about the time Emperor Alexander lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. He called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.” With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes.

“My first desire is that,” said Alexander, “My physicians alone must carry my coffin.” After a pause, he continued, “Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury.

“The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute’s rest and continued. “My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.”The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strange wishes. Alexander’s general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. “O king, we assure you that your wishes will all be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?”

At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: “I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt. I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.

The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the way to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world.”

His last words were,Bury my body, do not build any monument, keep my hands outside so that the world knows the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying“.

We all know this and it has been told in various ways by many traditions but still fail to know that material wealth is of no use while working on our own inner selves that is our eternal wealth.

My uncle works hard but said he always remembers this story to remind him not to take any success or failure too seriously. This is why I feel apart from an apple a day, we all need a story a day to remain healthy.

 

 

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Club of the 99

bagofcoins

Stories always have a lot to teach us. We may be familiar with the story of a king who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was neither happy nor content. One day, the King came upon a servant who was singing happily while he worked.

This fascinated the King; why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly servant had so much joy. The King asked the servant, “Why are you so happy?”

The man replied, “Your Majesty, I am a mere servant, but my family and I don’t require much – just a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummies. We’re content with that.”

The king was not satisfied with that reply. Later in the day, he sought the advice of his most trusted advisor. After hearing the King’s woes and the servant’s story, the advisor said, “Your Majesty, I believe that the servant has not been made part of the 99 Club.”

“The 99 Club? And what exactly is that?” the King inquired.

The advisor replied, “Your Majesty, you shall see if you place 99 Gold coins in a bag and leave it at this servant’s doorstep.”

The curious king had it done. When the servant saw the bag lying at the door, he took it into his house. When he opened the bag, he let out a great shout of joy… So many gold coins!

He began to count them. After several counts, he was at last convinced that there were 99 coins. He wondered, “What could’ve happened to that last gold coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 coins!”

He looked everywhere he could, but that final coin was elusive. Finally, exhausted, he decided that he was going to have to work harder than ever to earn that gold coin and complete his collection.

From that day, the servant’s life changed. He became overworked, horribly grumpy, and castigated his family for not helping him make that 100th gold coin. He stopped singing while he worked.

Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King became more curious. He summoned his advisor who explained: “Your Majesty, the servant has now officially joined The 99 Club.”

He continued, “There are those people who have enough to be happy but are never contented, because they’re always yearning and striving for that extra coin. They keep telling themselves: “Let me get that one final thing and then I will be happy for life. And this goes on and on..”

We can be happy, even with very little in our lives, but the minute we’re given something bigger and better, we want even more! We lose sleep, happiness and we hurt the people around us who care; all these as a price for our growing needs and desires. Then we’ve joined the 99 club!

Author Unknown

 

This story is familiar. We hear such stories but forget the lessons it has to teach us. The fact is we never learn to count our blessings but look at what we don’t have be it in the area of wealth, relationships or even health.  This kind of discontentment does make us dissatisfied with life itself which is why ‘our’ world and by extension ‘the’ world seems a horrible place to be in. On the other hand, if we count our blessings, our perspective changes and the world correspondingly seems an amazing place to be in.

No justifications, only harmony

One of my favourite stories is that of a Zen master who had a beautiful young lady as his pupil. She became pregnant and falsely named her teacher as the father of her child. When the child was born, her family indignantly brought the child to the Zen master and accused him of taking advantage of his beautiful young pupil. His only reply was, “Is that so?” They left the child with the Zen master, who enjoyed caring for it and had many beautiful hours playing with the child. After about a year the young lady was very ill, and not wanting to die with this false accusation on her conscience, she told her family that the real father was a young man who lived in a nearby town. Her mother and father immediately went to the teacher and profoundly bowed and apologized and asked for the baby back. The Zen master gave them the baby back with grace.

When they first accused him, the rational mind of the Zen master did not get caught up in a big chain of ego based arguments indignantly denying that he was the father, protesting that he was unjustly accused, threatening to tell people about the lie that was being perpetrated upon him, etc. He realized
that a mother and father are not likely to believe the word of a man against the word of their pregnant daughter. He simply saw that they were not open and did not want to hear his side of it. They did not ask him whether he had done it , they accusingly told him he had done it. So the Zen master simply flowed with the drama being enacted and did not agree or disagree.

He stayed in a peaceful state and simply enjoyed what was going on and  was able to have the fun of living with the child for a while. When they came back and apologized for their false accusations, his rational mind did not say, “I could have told you, but you wouldn’t have listened.” He simply peacefully saw that they now understood and there was nothing to be said. He could continue to enjoy the new act in the drama.

This story does not tell us that we must never give our side of things in any situation. It simply says that when you are conscious, you have a choice as to whether to get in a discussion when you know in advance whether the argument will bring you and the other person into a closer state of love and oneness or whether it will separate you. Under the circumstances, the Zen Master’s reply, “Is that so?” was the best reply to produce the closest harmony that could be obtained in that situation. Later he willingly and lovingly gavethe child up without recriminations.

We think we do not face such situations in our life but the fact is, most of us do. Most of our lives are spent in justifying ourselves who are anyhow not be ready to listen. Whatever our response may be, let us know that we can create harmony only by remaining at inner peace ourselves.

 

A Thousand Rupees

 

There is enough in this world to meet every man’s need

But not even one man’s greed – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

‘Could you give me a letter allowing a friend to stay for a month’, my maid, Heera, asked.  She looked uncharacteristically anxious.

thousandrupeesWe lived in a defence colony which had strict security guidelines for allowing outsiders to stay.  Heera was a verified member and lived in a small room close to our home.  She had worked with us from the time we had arrived in Mumbai, and I knew we would miss her a great deal when we moved to another city, something that could happen anytime.  Transfers were a part and parcel of an Indian defence officer’s family after all.

This was the first time Heera had asked us to give her this kind of letter.  It must be important to her, I thought, and completed the necessary formalities.

Her friend, Sona Bai, arrived soon after. I realized in a couple of days that she was partially blind.  Yet, I could see her doing her best to be helpful by cleaning Heera’s room.  The month passed and Heera asked for Sona Bai’s stay to be extended.  This was a little difficult, but we managed to get the required permission.

It was then that I found out more about her.  Sona Bai’s eyesight had gradually failed and she had been supported by her daughter, her only living relative, for a few years.  A few months back, her daughter had developed high fever and suddenly died.  Sona Bai now had no one to call her own.

It was then that Heera had met her.  Even with her limited means, Heera had not hesitated to immediately bring her home, though she was just a casual acquaintance.

Would I have been so large hearted ? I wondered.  So called ‘educated’ people like us tend to think too much about long term implications:  ‘How long can I keep her’, ‘What will I do later ?’ and so on, and stop ourselves from a natural, human response; simple folk like Heera have much stronger values and courage.

Soon after getting Sona Bai’s permission extended, I realized we needed to try and help Sona Bai settle down in a more permanent manner because of the colony’s restrictions, and also because, once we moved, Heera might not be able to ask her next employer for permission.

However, this was easier said than done.  Options were limited as blind homes in Mumbai could not take her in; they were already fully occupied and, besides, her case was weak as she was only partially blind.  She was not old enough for an old age home.  And her blindness did not allow her to take on the kind of job she could do earlier.

As I was pondering on what could be done, I got a call from one of the blind homes that I had approached in Mumbai. ‘We understand the difficulty of the lady and have just got information that there is an ashram for the blind in Surendranagar in Gujarat, which has room for Sona Bai.  Would you like to send her there ? the director asked.

This seemed suitable, but I wondered whether Sona Bai would want to move so far from her friends, and to a place where she did not understand the language.  I spoke to her hesitantly and was amazed at her equanimity. ‘God has opened yet another door for me’, she said calmly, ‘yes, I shall go’.

We completed the formalities.  Just before the social worker from the blind home came to take Sona Bai to Surendranagar, I gave Sona Bai a thousand rupees – a small amount, but enough to see her through for a couple of months at least.

When we got a call after three days from Sona Bai saying she had reached and was comfortable, I felt at ease and was happy that I could play a small role in making it possible for her to have a home.

There was one more surprise in store for me.  The social worked called me in a few days saying she wished to meet me.  Wondering what the matter could be, I went to meet her and was handed an envelope with a thousand rupees.

‘Sona Bai asked me to give this to you’, the social worker said. ‘And she asked me to write a letter to you on her behalf’. She opened up a sheet of paper, and read out:

‘I am very happy here.  We spend our time weaving and knitting.  Thank you for finding this place for me.  Please don’t feel bad that I have returned your money.  I took it thinking I might need it for travel or for some expense I might have in the ashram.  But I spent nothing on travel.  The social worker told me you had already paid for my ticket.  When I reached here, I found I am given food and two sarees every year.  What more do I need ? The money is probably more useful to you.  So, please take it back’.

The sheer courage of the woman and her perception of ‘need’ astounded me.

This remains the most precious thousand rupees I have ever received.

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This was one of the first stories I wrote and it got published in Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul. It remains one of my favourite stories and  I feel truly proud to have shared it.

Partitions, Anthems and Stories

The songs, stories and writings of Rabindranath Tagore have always inspired me immensely. Even the national anthem of Bangladesh composed by Tagore is one of my favourite songs.

tagoreWhile the Indian national anthem, also by Tagore, is more of reverence for the mother land, the one of Bangladesh is more lyrical and full of love for the motherland.This is what makes it, according to me, more “Indian” in its approach as we, as a subcontinent respond more to emotions.

The English translation of “Amar Sonar Bangla” by Syed Ali Ahsan is as given below

My golden Bengal
My Bengal of gold, I love you
Forever your skies, your air set my heart in tune
as if it were a flute.
In Spring, Oh mother mine, the fragrance from
your mango-groves makes me wild with joy,
Ah, what a thrill!
In Autumn, Oh mother mine,
in the full-blossomed paddy fields,
I have seen spread all over sweet smiles!
Ah, what a beauty, what shades, what affection
And what tenderness!
What a quiet have you spread at the feet of
banyan trees and along the banks of rivers!
Oh mother mine, words from your lips are like
Nectar to my ears!
Ah, what a thrill!
If sadness, Oh mother mine, casts a gloom on your face
my eyes are filled with tears!

Here it would help if we know the story behind this song too. This song was written in 1905 during the first partition of Bengal, when the ruling British Empire had an undivided India’s province of Bengal split into two parts. This divide of Bengal, being along communal lines–East Bengal having a majority of Muslims and West Bengal having a majority of Hindus–is claimed to have undermined India’s national movement against British imperialism and to have been politically motivated. Along with a host of others, songs such as this were meant to rekindle the unified spirit of Bengal, to raise public consciousness against the communal political divide.

Now, we are two nations. Has this really helped either nation, rather the people, in any way?  Forget the economics and power dynamics, we should know this is an artificial divide that has severed a naturally  bound region into two for political reasons.

Let us know all divides begin in the mind. Let us not succumb to more such divides to keep alive our nationhood alive.

Stories and their inner meanings

One of the stories that I heard since childhood and never understood properly is the story of Ahalya, the wife of a sage, who was cursed to be a stone for what seemed to be no fault of hers.

It was recently that I heard a proper narrative and interpretation

ahalyaThe story is that the king of the celestial beings, Indra approached Ahalya, the wife of the Sage Gautama,  taking the form of Gautama. Thinking it was her husband, they had a physical relationship. On returning, without ascertaining the truth, Gautama cursed her to become a stone. Angered Ahalya said, “Even though you are a sage, you seem to be a fool.  Without enquiring into the truth, you have cursed me and have not even stated when I shall be free from the curse”. A little ashamed, Gautama told her that she would be released from the curse at the time of Rama avatar when the dust from Rama’s feet fell on her. Immediately after this, Ahalya became a stone. 


Gautama left that place and tried to get into his daily rituals but he could not, for he had no peace of mind. He tried his level best but could not control his mind and became more and more troubled.


He therefore decided to seek the help of Iswara (God), by seeing his “Nataraja Dance”, in order to get some relief for his troubled mind.  He went to a place far from his home and lived under a tree.  After a lot of prayer, Iswara was pleased and gave him the glimpse of his “Nataraja Dance”.  After seeing the dance of Iswara, Gautama worshipped Iswara, and did get some relief for his troubled mind.


Later on Ahalya became purified by the dust of the feet of Sri Rama and regained her normal form. 

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Like all stories, the names, dates and actual facts are not as important as the metaphor. The statement that Ahalya turned into a stone applies only to her mind and not to her body. It means that the mind lost its awareness of the Self, and unable to think of anything at a higher level, she became dull like a stone. That dullness got relieved by the thought and focus on the divine, which in this story is Lord Rama. The inner meaning is that the moment Rama entered mind of Ahalya, it was restored to its original state, like the blossoming of a flower. Similarly, her husband too got relief by the glimpse of God Ishwara, who showed him, through his dance that life itself is a dance of emotions, that he had not mastered.

Let us seek to understand stories with their inner meaning.

Budding Writers, hop in

budtobloom2I have published many books for children, the latest being Elixir for Zylake.

Children are imaginative, creative and all of them do wish to create a better world that is more humane, compassionate and caring.

Some of my friends tell me they are children after all, and do not have any problems or pressures in life. To this, I beg to disagree.  They have pressures or challenges too, sometimes more than adults. Pressures of competition, pressures of proving oneself, pressures of pleasing everybody, pressures of forming an identity, pressures of the growing body with new needs all the time, to name just a few.

As adults, we owe it to them to at least allow them to dream, to imagine, remain idealistic and believe they can indeed change the world if and when they wish to.

We only need to let them follow what is already there in them.

Now, to work with children and help them discover their talents, I have recently started teaching creative writing to the children of my colony and have helped many of them hone their talent.

I am now beginning an online creative writing course for children and other budding writers who wish to explore the child in them. The system of this would be

  1. Sending one article/ piece every week  (of 100-300 words).  This will be sent as a Document in MS Word. There would be four pieces per session.
  2. A feedback and reason for the changes will be given by email within a week.
  3. One positive story from the media will be shared ever week by email that you could read and give a feedback.
  4. I shall also share two words a week to keep the process of writing active. This would be shared on whatsapp once the number is shared.
  5. The charges for the above shall be INR Two Thousand a Month.
  6. For some reason, if a week is missed, it can be carried forward within three months.
  7. For more details, please email me your name, age and interests at  jamuna.rangachari@gmail.com with subject “Budding Writers (Budding Writers)”

 

Dancing with Life : Living with multiple sclerosis

bookcoverMy latest book, Dancing with Life,  is about affirming the power of life, the power of hope, and the power of strong determination to live life with a purpose. It attempts to give hope and power to everyone, whether or not one has a health challenge.

Most of all, it is a book that aims to convey that one can lead a complete and wholesome life, that MS or any other problem is just a comma in the story of our lives, and not the full stop.

I have learnt a lot of lessons in leading a complete life through my battle with MS (multiple sclerosis). These lessons are relevant to all, ailment or no ailment. Those who wish to buy this can do so at <http://www.flipkart.com/dancing-life-living-multiple-sclerosis-english/p/itme9bdjmhmjbynn?pid=9789381398814&ref=L%3A-2962529945395445276&srno=b_70

Or

http://www.amazon.in/Dancing-Life-Living-Multiple-Sclerosis/dp/938139881X/ref=sr_1_1/279-7583332-8041567?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442035925&sr=1-1

Users outside India can buy the book at

http://www.uread.com/book/dancing-life-jamuna-rangachari/9789381398814

The eBook versions are available at

Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.in/Dancing-Life-Living-Multiple-Sclerosis-ebook/dp/B01HB9KRDM

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dancing-with-life-jamuna-rangachari/1123950921?ean=9789381398753

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/dancing-with-life-2

 

 

More Teaching Stories – A collection of stories of wisdom

Teaching stories (17x22inch corved fileSelected and interpreted by Jamuna Rangachari, Illustrations by Pankaj Parashar

Emboldened by the success of our first volume of Teaching Stories which is currently in its third edition, we at Life Positive Publications have brought out a second volume:More Teaching Stories

Stories are eternally popular. They remain the best way to convey a teaching. As the mind opens up to let in the story, the teaching slips in too. Working its way insidiously into the contents of our consciousness, it eventually contrives an understanding. The truths that lie at the heart of these stories help us understand ourselves, life and God. They give us tools to negotiate our way through life and to come to terms with its many challenges. Our collection of Teaching stories called from the wisdom traditions of the world include Sufi, Zen, Hindu, Folklore and other sources. Of special interest to the seeker, the trainer and the teacher, this collection will appeal to the child in all of us.

Testimonials


There are great truths and values to be gained from these stories.

– DADA VASWANI,
Head of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, In his foreword
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Life Positive chooses and interprets stories to demonstrate the oneness of wisdom in all Traditions.

– SWAMI AGNIVESH,
Activist and President, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha
(World Council of Arya Samaj)
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A story means giving light doses where heavy doses will not work. A story makes a subject easily readable as well as easily understandable.

– MAULANA WAHIDUDIN KHAN ,
Founder Of The Centre For Peace And Spirituality
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More Teaching Stories is the Stairway to reach Deep into the Mystic Mysteries of our Own Self

– SHRI SHRI NIMISHANANDA,
Founder, Shree public Charitable Trust

Teaching Stories – Small stories, big truths

Teaching-Story_1
Selected and interpreted by Jamuna Rangachari, Illustrations by Faraaz Tanveer
With its different layers, a teaching story gives us new insights every time we read it ..and we begin to see the world, and even ourselves, differently. At its heart a teaching story encapsulates the wisdom and truth of life and transmits it to the reader in the most pleasurable, palatable way. This collection of timeless tales will offer you hours of entertainment, but more importantly, it may well change your perception of life. The gurus and seekers who have contributed to this volume have sieved through many wisdom traditions, Sufi, Zen, Hindu, folklore and others to carefully pick and choose those that inspire and transform all those who read them, irrespective of age, gender, creed or race.

Testimonials


Through the use of stories and parables people are able to grasp and internalise deep, profound messages for their lives. May these stories and messages teach, touch and transform all who read them.

– SWAMI CHIDANANDA SARASWATI,
Spiritual Head, Parmarth Niketan
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These stories remind me of the wisdom of teaching through parables. They have so much to say to all of us whatever our age.

– MARK TULLY,
author of No Full Stops In India
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The collection in the story book is marvellous and the short comment by Jamuna Rangachari after each story is fabulous.

– SWAMI AGNIVESH,
activist and President, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha
(World Council of Arya Samaj)
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Storytelling was once the best form of entertainment for young and growing children. This collection brings the forgotten art to life again.

– ANOURADHA BAKSHI,
social activist, story-teller, and author of Dear Popples.
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To open the eyes of the intolerant, the impatient, the greedy and the arrogant, in a light humorous way, the deeper insight of these fables can be very powerful.

– DEEPA KODIKAL,
author of Teachings of the Inner Light and A Journey within the Self
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All our tales and legends, whether from the Ramayana or Mahabharatha or the Jataka tales, have a meaningful message on how to live in peace and happiness.

– DR. (MRS.) Y G PARTHASARATHY
Dean and Director, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Group of Schools, Chennai
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Stories with an in-built learning message such as those in this book make fascinating reading for young and not-so-young alike.

– PETER MUKERJEA,
Chief Strategy Officer & Exec Chairman, INX Media
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