Man’s Attachment to Samsara
Narad the wandering Rishi was visiting baikunth (one of the heavens open to humans). He and Hanuman together watched them going about their business on the surface of the earth. They focused their gaze on a middle-aged couple in a small town.
The man’s name was Ghasi Ram and his wife’s Lakshmi. He had a small grocery shop that he kept open from dawn to dusk. He sold mainly dry grains, i.e. cereals, pulses, spices and hard candy. Early afternoons with the help of his wife he made and sold deep fried batter coated vegetables. Both husband and wife were busy all day earning money. With it they bought gold and furniture that they served by wiping and polishing daily. They had no children but hoped for some even though it was getting a bit late. Because of his sedentary routine Ghasi’s health was far from satisfactory; and Lakshmi too, had her aches and discomforts.
On watching Ghasi’s life Narad commented, “What miserable lives these foolish humans live. If I could, I would bring them all to Baikunth where life is much freer and happier.”
Like a spring, Hanuman retorted, “How little you know about these humans, Narad. They are so rooted in their culture that they are actually attached to their sufferings. I bet you, if you go and offer Baikunth to Ghasi Ram and Lakshmi on a platter, they would refuse it.”
“Incredible,’ said Narad. “But I would like to find out to be sure.” So he descended on earth and appeared before Ghasi Ram as a celestial being. He said, “Your life on earth is truly miserable. You are already in your forties, and it will become worse as you get older. I offer you Baikunth for quick release. You should not pass up the opportunity.”
Ghasi Ram pondered and said, “I am not ready. Look, who will mind my shop and who will care for my furniture? I still hope to have some children even though Lakshmi is getting old. Baikunth can wait. You can go where you came from; I am okay as I am. Good bye. “
Narad recounted his interview but Hanuman was not satisfied. He wanted the investigation to proceed further to be more convincing.
A few years later when Narad returned, to Ghasi’s shop a young boy was minding it. Ghasi had died and his son had succeeded him. With his special powers Narad found out that Ghasi’s soul had been reborn as a calf and was now a full grown bullock serving his own son.
Narad went up to the bullock and said, “Look at you, pulling heavy cart and beaten with a whip. What kind of a life is this? My offer of Baikunth is still open.”
“Go away,” answered Ghasi. “I am serving my son by making sure of prompt transport of supplies and deliveries. All my life as a human I waited for this son. He is young and needs assistance. Now let me enjoy serving him.”
Narad was amazed. He went back and reported his observations. But Hanuman advised that to know the strength of human attachments the experiment must continue.
After about five years Narad again returned to visit Ghasi. The bullock had died and reborn as a dog. Narad found him sitting in a little wet hole in the mud, for it was dead of summer. He served the family of his human son who, of course, did not know any of this.
Narad was full of compassion and pleaded, “Think Ghasi, had your son been an American, and you were living with him as his dog, I would have considered that you were already enjoying Baikunth. But here, your life is rotten. You are not even allowed inside the house. Rain or shine, you have no shelter. No special food is prepared for you. They give you stale crumbs to eat. No one ever gives you a proper bath. If you happen to be in their way, they kick or beat you with a stick. Yet they expect you to faithfully guard the house day and night. Are you now ready for Baikunth? Remember life there is superior to anything you have ever had on earth. My offer is still open; you just have to say yes. What do you say?”
“No, Narad. No. I don’t want your Baikunth yet. You see, my daughter-in-law is young and carefree. She wears a lot of gold and diamonds, and leaves them carelessly here and there and the thieves living all around here know this. They are looking for an opportunity to steal our property. I keep watch and make sure they do not enter the house. How can I think of going to Baikunth? Please come back in a few years.”
Hanuman heard Narad’s description and was still not satisfied. He insisted that Narad should visit again after a few years.
So after about ten years Narad went again to visit Ghasi Ram’s house. The dog had died. Ghasi’s soul had been reborn as a little worm that wriggled and crawled in filthy muck of the drain outside the house. Dirty water from the houses on the street flowed into the drain. One can only imagine what life would be like in such a place. Narad thought, ‘Now, surely, Ghasi will agree to come to Baikunth with me.’
But Ghasi said, “Life as a crawler is hard, but I am sorry, I am still not ready to leave it. I see my grandchildren playing happily and feel content. All this is familiar, but the freedom and comforts of Baikunth you offer are vague. To tell you the truth I feel scared of the unknown. How will I cope with the freedom you offer? Please leave me alone and go away.”
Narad returned to Baikunth, recounted everything to Hanuman and said, “What you said is true. What a wonderful glue of attachment our God has created? It holds all earth’s creatures, especially the humans, stuck tight to the samsara (web of life) into which they are born. Only one in a million becomes curious, works hard, and breaks loose. Then they taste freedom and know what bliss it is. But they can never fully describe the experience to the others because it is beyond words!”
February 26, 2005