Philosophers’ Magic Barge
May 19, 2013 Comments Off on Philosophers’ Magic Barge
We are told that hundreds of years ago in the city of Madurai, known as the Athens of India for its cultural pre-eminence, there was constructed at the Meenakshi Somasundareshvara Sivan Koyil, within the vast temple tank, a magic boat called the Philosophers’ Barge. Rishis came from the Himalayas, pandits from all corners of India and humble bhakta siddhas from the South to sit together and discuss life, illumination and release from mortality. This boat’s singular magic was its extraordinary ability to expand to accommodate any number of people who conversed with an attitude of respect and harmony. But, miraculously, it grew smaller when discussion turned rancorous, and those who brought about the contention suddenly found themselves in the water, swimming to shore in embarrassment. In Siva’s temple, it seems, only nonargumentative discussion was allowed.
We have no magic boats today, …or perhaps we do. During a recent pilgrimage to India, I spoke to several large groups of devotees, including hundreds of sadhus of the Swaminarayan Fellowship, about zero tolerance for inharmonious conditions. Everyone found the message pertinent, yet difficult to practice, for there is no group of people on Earth for whom living in harmony is not a challenge at one time or another. But it is true that among my monastics we have zero tolerance for disharmonious conditions of any kind.
Harmony is the first and foremost rule of living in all spheres, but particularly in spiritual work, where it is an absolute must. Striving for harmony begins within the home and radiates out into all dimensions of life, enhancing and making joyous and sublime each relationship for every devotee. Thus, each strives to be considerate and kindly in thought, word and deed, to unfold the beautiful, giving qualities of the soul, to utter only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary. The great Tamil saint, Tiruvalluvar, offers the following sage advice in Tirukural verse 100: “To utter harsh words when sweet ones would serve is like eating unripe fruit when ripe ones are at hand.” Yes, this is the ideal. I was asked by the swamis in Gujarat, time after time, “But what if conflict and contention do arise?” My answer was that in our fellowship all work stops and the problem is attended to at once. It is each one’s responsibility to follow this wisdom. Nothing could be more counterproductive and foolish than to continue work, especially religious work, while conflict prevails, for demonic forces have been unleashed that must be dispelled for any effort to be fruitful and long lasting. Any breach in the angelic force field of the home, monastery or workplace must be sealed off quickly.
Our approach is simple. We are all committed to the shared sadhana that all difficult feelings must be resolved before sleep, lest they give rise to mental argument, go to seed and germinate as unwanted, troublesome vasanas, subconscious impressions, that cannot be totally erased but only softened and neutralized through the mystic processes of atonement. Disharmony is disruption of the harmonious pranic flow: anger, argument, back-biting, walking out of meetings, painful words and hurt feelings. The Vedas pray, “May our minds move in accord. May our thinking be in harmony–common the purpose and common the desire. May our prayers and worship be alike, and may our devotional offerings be one and the same” (Rig Veda 10.191.3. ve, p. 854). One of the principles of harmony is that the commitment to harmony has to be greater than any commitment to any particular issue or problem. Problems change, but the strength of harmony has to be the ultimate priority. This is a conceptual tool to use whenever differences arise. – Sathguru Sivaya Subramuniya Swami,from: Living with siva