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Ten Tales about Religious Life (with kind permission Himalayan Academy)

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pdf Ten Tales about Religious Life
pdf Ten Tales about Self Control

 

Ten Tales about Religious Life by Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami (with kind permission Himalayan Academy)

1. Introduction

The collection of stories in Books One and Two of Hindu Childrens’ Modern Stories was written and illustrated at my request to convey Hinduism’s ethical and moral values and basic religious observances, the traditional yamas and niyamas, to a new generation. The stories, set in India and America, are intended for children ages ten to twelve, when it is natural to learn about being good. Each story speaks to the wisdom and practical application of a single religious observance, such as remorse, contentment, faith or austerity. For example, in “Be Satisfied with What You Have,” Yogesh, a Hindu boy born in America, is distraught with having to visit his grandparent’s computer-less home in Chennai. His grandfather, sensing Yogesh is out of touch with the real world, sends him to their ancestral village to visit his great uncle. There he befriends the local boys, shares their rich life and realizes how content he can be without e-mail, Facebook or even a local mall.

Several stories focus on practical application of religion, showing how if children sincerely appeal to God and the Gods for help, help will be forthcoming. Hinduism is portrayed as a “do-it-yourself” religion, one that works if you make it work. For example, in “Praying for Ganesha’s Help,” Vasuki, whose father has lost his job, does not sit by idly and wait for him to find one. Instead, she takes a personal vow to daily worship Lord Ganesha in their shrine on Dad’s behalf with a garland she makes herself. Inspired by his daughter’s devotion, Dad never gives up, and after weeks of hunting does indeed find a good job, better even than the one he lost.

The stories follow the nonviolent child-raising principles of Positive Discipline: avoidance of corporal punishment, seeing mistakes as opportunities for teaching and letting children learn by fully facing the consequences of their own actions.

Unfortunately, ethics and morals are ignored subjects in most of the world’s schools today. I hope that this small set of stories will provide Hindu and non-Hindu parents alike one means to convey these allimportant character-building values to their children.

1. The Bicycle Thieves

Summer vacation was starting to seem long and boring. On the outskirts of Pondicherry in South India Rohit kicked a pebble down the street a few miles from his home. “There are too many rules. Don’t do this, don’t do that! And when I ask my parents the reason, they say I’m too young to understand! Bah! I’m not young! I’ll be twelve this September!”

Nilakantha watched his friend’s face. “What’s Rohit up to?” A slight feeling of fear tingled up his spine. Nilakantha liked Rohit a lot, though he didn’t always approve of his ways. But then that was what made him exciting to be with! There was nothing boring about him.

Walking down the street, they noticed a shiny blue bicycle leaning against a building. Rohit’s eyes lit up. “Wow! What a beauty! I need to take that for a ride!”

Nilakantha looked with disbelief at Rohit, “Hey! We have our own bikes. Why do you need to ride this one?” “Silly! Stolen food tastes better! Don’t you know? Come on! Or are you chicken?” Stung by the words, Nilakantha objected, “I’m not chicken!” “Come on then! What are we waiting for?” Matching his words with his actions, Rohit ran to the bike, “What luck! It’s not even locked.” Wheeling it to the road, he climbed on the seat and whispered, “Jump on the back!” Against his better judgment, Nilakantha climbed aboard, and off they rode. Nilakantha was too scared to turn around and see if anyone was watching them. They rode along merrily till they reached Shanti Grove. Its pine trees were tall and strong, casting a soft shadow on the ground. The two rode in the woods for a long time. Finally they stopped to rest, and Nilakantha said, “Rohit, we have been playing with this bike for over an hour. When are we returning it? The owner must be pretty worried and upset that it is missing!”

Rohit laughed loudly and said, “Who said we were going to return it? Do you think they’ll find it funny and just let us go if we give it back to them now? No way! They’ll hand us over to the cops, that’s what they’ll do.”

Nilakantha felt his lunch rising up to his throat. He swallowed hard and stood still for a moment. His head felt light and dizzy. Police! What would his parents think? His father would lower his head in shame and his mother would cry. Oh, why had he listened to Rohit?

“Don’t worry, pal, I have a plan.” Saying that, Rohit jumped back on the bike and rode fast to the lake at the center of the grove. Nilakantha ran panting behind him. Suddenly he heard a loud splash. When he caught up with Rohit, he saw the bicycle slowly sinking into the muddy lakebed, a few yards offshore. “What have you done?” he screamed.

“Stop it! Don’t shout! We can’t do anything else. Come on, let’s go back home.” Back in town, Arumugam, the owner of the bike, came out of the office. The boss’s assistant had just told him, “This letter must be delivered to the bank within 30 minutes.” Arumugam wasn’t worried. He knew he could get there much faster than that on his new bicycle. The thought of his bike brought a smile to his face. He had wanted a bike all his life, but because of all the other expenses, including looking after his two little daughters, his wife, his sisters and his parents, there never seemed to be enough money. Somehow, with God’s blessings, he had finally bought the bicycle, a big accomplishment for a man who had never gone to school. As he stepped out the door, he suddenly knew the bike was gone. Instinctively, he felt the loss even before he saw the empty space where he had parked it.

He had a second to make up his mind. He could stand there and raise a noise about his missing bike, or he could get the letter to the bank. Duty came first, so he dashed off, with tears dimming his sight. Arumugam was a simple man who did not even own a watch. He calculated the time of day by looking at the sun. A half an hour had little meaning to him. He walked with quick strides to the bank. The road was long, and the distance seemed even longer. When he finally reached the bank, he was upset to see the sign, “Closed for the day.” He hurriedly asked a passerby, “What is the time?”

“Ten past one.”

Arumugam realized that he had walked for more than an hour! “When will the bank be open?” he asked the watchman. “Today’s Friday. Won’t be open till Monday. Sorry.” Stunned and helpless, feeling a loss greater than the loss of the bike, Arumugam walked back to the office, hanging his head. “What! You didn’t deliver the package?” Mahadevan, Arumugam’s boss, cried out.

As poor Arumugam told the sad story, Mahadevan shook his head, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry. He felt his plans crash around him. The parcel had contained his bid for a government construction project. The deadline for submissions was the end of Friday. Because of Arumugam’s failure, the bid would never even be considered. This was an important project, and the company had to have it to keep ahead of the hard economic times. “You may have cost me my company, Arumugam! I cannot employ you any longer. You are fired.” With slumped shoulders, Mahadevan turned, walked into his office and closed the door. Arumugam left the building in shock. What would he say to his wife? What would he do? The job was so important to his family. The next day, at lunchtime, Nilakantha just picked at his food. His father, Srinatha, was explaining yesterday’s incident. He had heard about it from his friend who worked for Mahadevan. “Why did the bicycle thieves have to steal that poor man’s bike? He saved money for years to buy it.” A few tears rolled onto his plate, and Nilakantha did not try to wipe them. Suddenly he blurted out, “Appa, I, I stole the bike.” Later he wondered what had made him confess; but as he did so a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders. Srinatha stared at his son as though he was seeing him for the first time. “You don’t mean that!” Seeing the intense pain Nilakantha was in, he softened his tone, “Why, son? Why did you do it?” Nilakantha remembered Rohit’s face, but what would be achieved by telling his father about Rohit? Sobbing quietly, he confessed, “Appa, it was just for fun. I’m so sorry.” That afternoon, father and son walked up to Mahadevan’s office.

Arumugam was sitting outside on the step, looking lost, sipping a cup of tea. “My son took your cycle.” The very words seemed to age his father. Arumugam bowed his head, “It is okay, sir. Boys love to ride bicycles. Your son is, after all, like my son!” Srinatha pulled some bills from his pocket and pressed them into Arumugam’s hands. “We are very sorry. Please buy yourself a new bike.” As Srinatha turned to walk away, Arumugam asked, “Sir, can you help get me a new job?” “Why? What happened?” Arumugam explained that he had been fired for failing to deliver the package. “Oh, no!” Nilakantha thought, “Not only did I steal his bike, I cost him his job, too!” His mind wandered to the scene of the bike sinking into the lake. “Ok. Let’s go,” he heard his father order sternly.

The rest of the weekend was a storm of tears and remorse for Nilakantha. But with the remorse, there arose a new strength of character, which his father did not miss. On Sunday evening, father and son sat outside the house watching the sunset. Srinatha spoke, “Son, I know you too well. You could not have done this on your own. Who was with you? Was it Rohit?” Nilakantha kept quiet, and his father knew he was right. “I thought so. I will speak with Rohit’s father. And son, I know you had to go through this incident to realize your strength. You will never again be weak enough to fall into wrongdoing. I see how much you have regretted stealing, and I know you will never do such a thing again. I am proud of how you have benefitted from the experience.” Srinatha hugged his boy tightly. Monday was a busy day. Srinatha took Nilakantha with him to be present as he talked to the bank manager and then with Mahadevan.

Like most stories where “all’s well that ends well,” this story, too, saw everything being cleared up. Due to Srinatha’s influence, the bank accepted Mahadevan’s late proposal. Arumugam not only got his job back, he was given a raise for his selfless attitude which had made him walk to the bank instead of going to the police to report the theft of his bicycle.

Nilakantha knew that while his father and Arumugam had forgiven him for the incident, and he had made amends by helping to get Arumugam’s job back, he still needed to do penance for his crime. He had always been taught that life’s actions, good or bad, come back to us. That Friday he gathered 108 flowers in a basket and went to the temple. As he had seen his father do, he prostrated before Lord Murugan and offered a flower. He did 108 prostrations, one for each flower. It took almost two hours. As he got up from the 108th prostration, he saw a white light enter his heart and felt a great rush of kindness and forgiveness. It seemed to come from the silver Vel in the hand of Lord Murugan. He knew then that he was free from the ill effects of his action.

Srinatha talked to Rohit’s father, and the two of them shared the cost of the bike. Rohit had to confess to stealing the bike, but he felt no remorse; he only regretted getting caught. The idea of doing penance never occurred to him. He would just be more careful next time, and surely not choose Nilakantha as a partner! Vacation ended and school was back in session. Nilakantha was worried about how Rohit would behave toward him. They were not really friends anymore. They had not been together since the day they took the bike. He was surprised one day when Rohit showed up late for school.

The next morning, while riding to school, Nilakantha saw Rohit walking along the pathway. “Rohit, where’s your bike?” he asked as he stopped to give him a ride.

Rohit scowled, “Someone stole it. I left it outside the game parlor, and when I came out, it was gone. Cursed luck!”

Yes, it seems two boys had taken his bike for a joyride and then thrown it in a ditch in hopes of not being discovered.

Download full text below……..

pdf Ten Tales about Religious Life
pdf Ten Tales about Self Control