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What Matters Is A Pure Mind – Story

A blind sage who used to sit outside the cotton store near a sacred place. He was reputed to have special spiritual powers. He was in his early middle age and used to squat by the roadside under the eaves of the local cotton store. He had a black coat on and a begging bowl in front of him. He was constantly swaying back and forth, and would occasionally murmur to himself, but refused to be drawn into conversation, however much hard people tried.

He obviously disliked inquisitive crowds intruding into his privacy. So I (a monk) decided to visit him alone another day. That day, he was in a more forthcoming mood, and we soon built up a rapport. He was born blind, he said in reply to my query. As soon as he was old enough, his father — who used to eke out a living by stitching used gunny bags — decided to have him beg to augment the family income. Every day he would bring him over to this place outside the cotton shop and leave him there till evening, when he would again take him back home.

‘One day,’ the blind sage continued, ‘my father just didn’t come to take me back, and I have been here ever since.’

Did he never try to find a better shelter, I inquired. ‘Yes, I did,’ he replied. ‘Some people asked me why I didn’t move over to the nearby sacred place at night and sleep in the courtyard there as many other poor people did. Hearing their advice, I crawled up to the sacred place one night and found my way in. Unfortunately, someone picked me up with his hands and threw me out of the sacred place. The throw was so violent that I landed in the nearby cemetery, badly bruised. After recovering from the shock of the fall, I managed to summon some courage and crawled back to the sacred place, only to meet with the same fate again. This time I was quite badly hurt, and I cried out in pain, “I don’t know who you are, but you are obviously a powerful person. But I have never harmed anyone. I survive on whatever alms I get, and I pray to God; why then should you ill-treat me like this?”A voice replied, “Why do you come to my place with an impure mind? Purify yourself first, and then come to sleep in my place.” “Are you then God? How else could you know about the state of my mind? You obviously have the power to see into my mind. Then why do you not remove the dirt from my mind and purify me? But please do not make me suffer like this.” “Alright,” the voice replied, “Every day, after you have finished begging, take a bath, come to the sacred place, say your prayers, and then go to sleep.” I have followed these instructions ever since.’

The disarming simplicity of his narrative and the uncommon charm that he exuded attracted me profoundly, and I used to visit him off and on till I left home and became a monk.

Adopted from a story published in Prabuddha Bharata Magazine December 2006.