Mahaprabhuji Goes to School
During the time of British rule in India, not all villages had schools and it was extremely difficult for children to receive proper education. Pandits usually taught the children how to read and write and so at the age of five, Mahaprabhuji's parents entrusted him to a learned scholar.
The pandit took loving care of the boy and began his education by writing the first two letters of Devanagari — a and á — on a slate. After explaining the pronounciation and spelling of both these vowels, he asked Mahaprabhuji to repeat them.
Mahaprabhuji looked attentively at the characters drawn on the slate and then put the following questions to the pandit. "Please tell me, which of these 'a’s' was here first? From what was the first 'a' formed and how did it develop further? What is the form of the sound of 'a' and from where does its spelling come? Why does this character stand at the beginning of the alphabet? Dear Sir, I will ask more questions after these have been answered."
The pandit was astonished to hear such words from the lips of a child.
"According to our grammar the letters are usually arranged, written and pronounced in this way. I can’t say anything more."
"Dear Sir," Mahaprabhuji replied, "will you allow me to give an explanation?"
Then with deep wisdom he revealed the secret of the creation, preservation and destruction of the Cosmos. He explained our attachment to the process of nature, which has its origin in the three godheads (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh or Shiva), the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) and the three chronological dimensions (of past, present and future). He described how the sound of "a" (which is composed of the three matras) contains all of this.
The pandit felt his inner Self filled with an indescribable bliss and tears of joy filled his eyes. He bowed to Mahaprabhuji.
"O Ocean of Mercy, the true knowledge of Brahman has been revealed to me today, by you. You have made me infinitely happy. Lord, please bless me not only in this life, but also in the lives to come. You are the inscrutable Ocean of Knowledge and God Reality. You have come to earth to teach Truth to mankind, you are the redeemer, the benefactor of humanity, unique in all the three worlds. You are the true unparalleled Master before whom all learning of this world is worthless. You have given, in a moment, the richness of this world to your devotee. O Lord, I have studied the Vedas, Vedanta, Sanskrit, Vyakaran, Tarka Shastra and other sciences. I have read numerous religious texts and was superior in discourses of shastra over other great scholars. At your feet I worship you.
"My ego, the fruit of maya and of learning, has melted as a result of the all-illuminating ray of your words, saturated with nectar. Now I have become fearless and have achieved equanimity. Never before have I experienced such bliss. Out of ignorance I considered myself as enlightened, but in reality, I was a slave to ignorance and sensuality. Though I used to treat these as natural to the spirit and senses, I now see myself as the untouched witness of this drama. Ego and pride blinded me and darkened my soul, I considered myself an authority — what a great mistake! For today I have learned the Truth!
"O my Master, the Supreme! The most precious gift in the three worlds is Self-realization, which I have received from you today."
Mahaprabhuji answered, "Nothing belongs to you. Hold onto this Truth and remember the Lord."
The other students present in class were equally surprised at Mahaprabhuji's wisdom.
"Lord, grant this knowledge to us," they entreated. "Relieve us from the burden of ignorance and accept us as your disciples. Make us and all human beings, followers of Truth, O Protector of dharma!"
Mahaprabhuji complied with their sincere wishes.
"My dear fellow students, a disciple leads a life of discipline and severity. Learning is nothing other than asceticism. One who makes the effort moves on, towards an infinitely better future. Students should make it their duty to serve the community, their country and all mankind. The highest dharma is service to all creatures. God Himself weighed the significance of moksha (liberation) and seva (service) and found seva to be more important than moksha. He therefore renounced the absolute bliss of liberation and incarnated 24 times on earth to serve and help the needy. Just as the sun, moon, earth, water, air and fire are in service to others, so too the only aim of my life is to serve the Universe. Service is the purpose of every human life.
"Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and all the Saints were students like you in their childhood. They became great by virtue of their studies. Through true Knowledge, avidya is dispelled. Take the following rules to heart:
- Honour your Master as a symbol of Divine wisdom and source of knowledge. Always obey his instructions.
- Always treat your parents with respect and courtesy.
- Concentrate your mind on your study.
- Always be punctual.
- Follow the teachings attentively and learn something new each day.
- Love and respect your schoolmates.
- Do not offend anybody.
- Always be intent on good behaviour.
- Take the virtues of others as your example.
- Always be kind to everyone.
- Keep good company and avoid bad company.
- Tenaciously remain steadfast on the path of Truth and always
- Steadfastly practise asanas and pranayama.
- "You will gain perfect, absolute harmony of body, mind and intellect if you follow these principles. The body is an indispensable tool for the fulfilment of the four purushartha — dharma, artha, kama and moksha. This is the reason why you should always take care of your health.
- "Serve your country and honour your mother tongue. May you spread the light of peace and Divine knowledge for the benefit of all mankind."
The students listened atttentively to Mahaprabhuji's words. Gratefully accepting his teachings, they promised to follow the path he had revealed to them.
Mahaprabhuji then respectfully bowed to the pandit. "You say there is nothing for me to learn here, therefore I will return to my home and keep watch over the cows of the village. It is a great honour to be the servant of the cows - they yield to us their milk, just as our mothers do."
With this, Mahaprabhuji bid them farewell and returned to his parents in Hari Vasani.
Every day he drove the cows to pasture and he had a unique method for watching over them.
At the break of dawn, Mahaprabhuji would walk to the outer limits of the village, sit down in lotus posture and chant OM in a loud, melodious voice. Attracted by this beautiful sound, all cows of the village would soon gather around him and what an incredible sight followed! The cows lovingly licked his feet and Mahaprabhuji would stroke them and shower them with an all-embracing love.
He would then leave the village and the cows would follow. On their way to pasture the cows never touched the village crops, they obediently grazed only in those fields indicated by Mahaprabhuji. At times it did happen that a few strays remained behind in the field and some tender stalks would fall victim to their hunger.
The farmers of those fields would complain to Mahaprabhuji about the loss of their crops, but with a gentle smile Mahaprabhuji would only ask the farmers of the estimated damage. On hearing their replies, Mahaprabhuji would laugh and assure them that despite the apparent damage, they could expect a greater yield than anticipated. If not, then he Mahaprabhuji, would make up for that loss. But the yield in such fields was always better than expected and the farmers marvelled at such incidents. They would say that Mahaprabhuji was Narayan, Lord Vishnu himself.
Thereafter, each farmer hoped that Mahaprabhuji might choose their field as pasture for the cows. But Mahaprabhuji acted according to his own Divine will and only entered those fields that he chose for the cows.
Devanagari = the Hindi alphabet
matra = measurement, unit of time, duration of speaking a vowel. A short vowel needs one matra, a long vowel requires two matras and a stretched vowel requires three matras.
Vyakaran = Sanskrit grammar
Tarka Shastra = teaching of logic
shastra = philosophy
avidya = ignorance
asanas = physical exercises, pranayama = control of the breath or yogic breathing exercises
The four purushartha are the four fundamental tasks and goals of human life: dharma = the fulfilment of duty, artha = the earning of wealth, kama = the doing of actions, moksha = the attainment of liberation.
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