Who Is Saint & Who Is Sinner?
There is a wonderful story told of two monks who had renounced the world and taken vows of celibacy and simplicity and pledged to live, unattached, in the jungles for the rest of their lives. One monk was older and the other was relatively young. They were wandering in the forest one day and they came upon a rushing river. On the edge of the river stood a beautiful and stranded young woman. Her face was marked by anxiety as she explained to the two monks that she needed to get across but it was rushing too fast and she was afraid. She humbly requested the monks if one of them would be good enough to carry her across. The older monk immediately picked her up gallantly and carried her to the other side while the younger monk walked by his side. Upon reaching the other shore, the monk placed the woman safely down on the ground, and bid her farewell.
One week later the two monks were sitting under a tree for their morning meditations when the younger monk suddenly exclaimed, “OK, I’ve been keeping this inside for the last week but I cannot keep it inside anymore. I cannot believe the wawy you picked up that young, beautiful woman and carried her body so close to yours. After taking vows of celibacy before God, after promising to forsake the touch of a woman, how could you wrap your arms around her body and carry her tightly in your arms? I have lost all respect for you!”
The elder monk listened with a faint smile growing across his face. “My brother,” he said when the younger monk had finished his tirade. “I carried that young woman in my arms for approximately 2 minutes and left her by the side of the river, after settling her down safely. She has not been with me since. You, on the other hand, have carried her in your heart for the last week. You have eaten with her, slept with her, breathed with her and even meditated with her because you cannot get her out of your mind. She is living permanently in your mind and heart. It is your own heart you must seek to purify, not the actions of your traveling companions.
How many precious minutes of each day do we waste by judging others? Too many, I think. We barely even realize how much we do it. We analyze and judge each others’ actions, words, and even each others’ articles of clothing or perfume. We assume, naturally, that if we were in their shoes we would do everything better. But, like in the case of the two monks, it is really our own hearts which need to be bettered, not the actions of another.
This constant judging and condemning of others pollutes our own hearts, wastes our precious time, creates boundaries and barriers between us, and steals our peace. We are so busy re-hashing everything other people did during the day that we cannot fall asleep at night.
Our constant judging of others is not only detrimental to our inter-personal relationships but it also wrecks havoc on our own mental health. The more we become focused on others and their percieved faults, the farther we stray from our own path. We value ourselves in comparison to others. Therefore, to put others down makes us feel higher in comparison. However, this is not the way to succeed in any arena of life.
In the West people frequently engage in what they call “Spring Cleaning.” At this time of year, when the cold snow of winter melts, leaving budding flowers in its wake,when the warmth of the summer sun begins to penetrate the darkness of the rain clouds, we engage in an annual cleaning. We clean every room of the house; we dust every corner of the garage, we sweep behind bookshelves, vacuum under beds and empty out cabinets. But, what about our hearts? When was the last time we swept out our hearts; when did we last empty them of all the dirt and garbage that has accumulated over the last year?
That is the real cleaning we must do. That is the real meaning of “Spring Cleaning.” We must sweep out our hearts, ridding them of darkness and bitterness; we must make them clean and sprkling places for God to live. We must be as thorough with ourselves as we are with our homes. Are there any dark corners of our hearts which we have avoided for so long? Are we simply “sweeping all the dirt under the rug”? God sees all and knows all. He knows what is behind every wall of our hearts, what is swept into every corner, and hidden under every rug. So this spring/summer time, let us truly clean out our hearts; let us rid ourselves of the grudges, pain and anger that clutter our ability to love freely, and let us throw it all away. Let us empty out every nook and cranny, so that His divine light can shine throughout.
Let us pledge to live a life of examination – but examination of ourselves, not of others. Let us take our own test each night, not the test of others. Let us rid our hearts and minds of judgement, the insideous thief of time and energy. Let us have a big, beautiful “Spring Cleaning” of our hearts and minds so that we can truly commit ourselves to a spiritual path.
With love and blessings to you all,
In the service of God and humanity,
Swami Chidanand Saraswati