by Acarya Gunamuktananda Avadhuta
Pomegranates were just in season where I live. The other day I went to the supermarket to purchase some. When I couldn’t see them on the shelves, I enquired whether they had any, and the friendly guy in the fruit and vegetables section told me, “No, we’re not stocking them, but if you go down the road (he explained the exact location) you can find some trees there. He assured me that they were available for the public. Not knowing quite what to think of this, I followed his directions and sure enough I came across three large trees full of beautiful ripe pomegranates! Well, not being one to look a gift horse (or tree, as the case was) in the mouth, I started to pick some. I’d picked about half a dozen or so when all of a sudden a young guy came out of an apartment building nearby and told me in no uncertain terms that those trees belonged to the residents of the apartments. I knew there was something strange about this whole thing! Not wanting to make a big deal of it (or deprive the residents of their pomegranates) I gave them to him. As I was walking away pondering the whole bizarre event, I suddenly remembered something I had read that very morning.
I try to read something inspiring and uplifting every day – something to do with the philosophy of life and how to live it. Well, that morning I had just read a passage entitled “You have the right to the action, but not to the fruits of the action”! Actually, this is one of the central tenets of yoga (originally from the Bhagavad Giita) – something that I’m very familiar with by now, but I suppose it must have been cosmic providence that I got such a graphic reminder of it that day! In fact, I often find what I read being almost immediately illustrated in some way or another in my daily life experiences, kind of like a multimedia presentation from above!
“You have the right to the action, but not to the fruits of the action”: to act but not to be attached to the result (fruit) of the action. Why is this such profound advice? Because you can feel a great amount of mental freedom in this way. It frees the mind from attachments. That’s because by doing it you keep aware of the Cosmic drama behind all actions. It frees the mind from the feeling of “doership” and the subsequent reaction that it brings about. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton stated this as one of his laws of physics, but it is equally true in all aspects of life. Everything in our universe is interconnected. There is a saying, “When a blade of grass moves, the whole universe quivers.” Nothing exists on its own. Nothing can happen without being caused by something before it, or without causing something after it. Everything is incidental; nothing is accidental. We usually refer to something as an “accident” because we can’t see what caused it, but certainly it was caused by something! We’re just starting to realize the importance of this in our society today: that we can’t go on living as though our own existence is separate to the existence of others; that our own fortunes are not linked to the welfare (or lack of welfare, as the case may be) of others.
Newton’s law also applies on the personal level. You may be familiar with it as the “Law of Karma,” or the biblical “As you sow, so you reap.” Whatever we do or think we store in our mind until it can be expressed as a reaction. Take the analogy of a rubber ball: you press into it with your fingers (that’s the action); the dent stays there for some time (that’s the potential reaction); then the dent comes out again (the reaction).
If we experience a bad reaction, we tend to say that something bad happened. But it was only the reaction of a previous action, because everything is stored in the mind waiting for the chance to express itself. The more chances of expression, the more pure the mind will become, and the more free and at ease we will feel mentally.
So everything happens for the best. Whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, we should always view it as something positive, because it’s freeing the mind of it’s past actions.
I’m reminded of a story here. There was a very popular emperor called Akbar who ruled in India in the 16th century. His favorite minister was Birbal, a very wise and witty man. One day the two of them went hunting. Akbar was cutting his arrow out of an animal he had just killed. His knife slipped and he cut his finger off. Birbal told him:
“Don’t worry, everything happens for the best.”
Akbar was enraged at the seemingly uncompassionate Birbal. He told him to get out of his sight and never to return. Akbar was then captured by a local forest tribe. On that day, according to their custom, they were supposed to sacrifice a man to the “gods.” So they decided to sacrifice Akbar. But the chief noticed he had a finger missing, and let him go because he wasn’t worthy enough. Akbar realized that Birbal had been right: if he hadn’t cut his finger off he would be dead by now! When he got back to the palace, he ordered his men to find Birbal and bring him back. But it took them a whole month to find him: he’d had a bit of a rough time, living in the forest on berries and roots. When he was finally brought before the emperor, Akbar saw his sorry condition and asked his friend and minister for forgiveness. Birbal replied, “No, it’s okay, everything happens for the best.”
“But how can you say that, after all you suffered?!” Akbar exclaimed.
Then Birbal replied, “Because if you hadn’t sent me away when you did, they would also have captured me, and since I hadn’t cut my finger off I would have been killed!”
So losing a few pomegranates wasn’t so bad after all! We have to keep the right perspective on all the events in our life. Take the determination to do what you think is right, but don’t be too concerned about the result. Throw yourself into each task as if it were for the last time. Don’t worry about success or failure. Whatever is meant to happen will happen, as long as you make the right effort. There is a reason for everything – everything happens for the best. These are the teachings of our wise ancestors. I’ll certainly remember them from now on, especially whenever I see another pomegranate!