Bucket-List to God: The wish-fulfilling tree
Get your bucket-list ready
Imagine that the greatest force in the universe, God as some choose to call it, appears before you and tells you that all your wishes will be granted without an exception. Basically, you are being told to submit your personal bucket list - things that you want and wish to do before you kick the bucket - to God! Isn't that a wonderful opportunity? In a world where every offer arrives with an unseen fine-print, such a generous and nothing-to-lose-everything-to-gain offer is indeed a rarity. It is a blessing from the highest heavens. But then, this offer too has a condition.
And the condition is that, you would have to prioritize the list - first priority, second priority, third priority... billionth priority... trillionth priority... gazillionth priority. After all, we have never-ending desires right? :)
Furthermore, the condition states that if any desires clash in their goals the higher priority desire gains importance and overrules the lower priority one.
That is not much of an illogical condition is it? If my First priority desire is for peace and fifth priority desire is to witness a nuclear bomb in action, it is natural that granting of the primary desire will overrule the granting of the secondary one. And so, the condition translates into this -
Whatever is the first priority on the bucket-list will be fulfilled without fail. Anything else that you ask or seek will be considered secondary to this primary desire and therefore will be tailored in such a manner that the primary goal is achieved without fail.
Now that you are clear about the offer, please proceed. If you are not, please re-read the offer above! :)
What would be that ‘priority-one’ thing that you would wish for?
Pause here for a moment and think about it.
No really! Pause right now and think about it because the short story and a few thoughts being shared after that will make you revisit this thought of yours over and over again.
Oka Chinna Katha
Most Masters who have graced this earth make use of parables, stories and analogies to explain an apparently complex or complicated subject. Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) too often conveys great truths through stories which He begins narrating with an introductory,
“Oka Chinna Katha...”
“One small story (to illustrate the point)...”
Here is one such story that has been modified to help us understand an important Truth.
There was once a man who was expecting some guests to visit his house. He told his wife that everything had to be in order for the day. The wife told him that she would take care of the kitchen and all the preparations needed for the day if only he would be ready to do all the necessary shopping. The deal was agreed upon and, once the husband finished shopping, the wife started preparing the necessary dishes.
The man gets a phone call intimating him that the guests would be arriving in a few minutes. Exactly at that time, the wife rushes to him, telling him that there is no coffee or tea powder at home! In India, coffee/tea is the bare minimum that one offers to the guests. No coffee or tea is almost equivalent to not having water at home!
The husband is upset at this lapse. But he is equally to blame for was it not his duty to get the provisions? He sets out to fetch coffee powder but to his great disappointment, a strike has been called and all shops have downed shutters. He panics. What is he to do? Where can he get coffee powder from?
After going great distances to find some coffee powder, he is on the verge of depression because he simply is unable to find any place that is open and selling coffee powder. Tired and frustrated, he kicks a rock on the road which flies and hits a nearby tree. Suddenly, a voice surprises him,
“What is it that you want my child?”
“Who is that?”, asks the puzzled man.
“Right by your side, I am the tamarind tree speaking.”
The man turns to his side and is shocked by what is happening.
“Do not be shocked. I am the Kalpavriksha, the wish-fulfilling tree. I respond to anyone who calls or nudges me. The stone you threw to attract my attention has served its purpose. Now seek something that you desire and rest assured that I shall grant it to you, whatever it may be. Be sure that it is something that you need a lot for it is not easy to come across a Kalpavriksha.”
Relief sweeps across the face of the troubled man. With a smile, he requests,
“Please give me a few packets of coffee powder.”
Seeking coffee powder from a Kalpavriksha
Hearing the story, one cannot imagine how could the man be so foolish. Guess when he got home and told his wife what had happened, she too must have scolded him.
“You could have asked for a coffee estate my foolish husband! Instead, you sought a few measly packets of coffee powder?!”
When we laugh at ‘foolish’ desires that people entertain, we do not realize that our desires too appear ‘foolish’ to some other! The wife wanted a coffee estate when she could have easily asked for the world. But is the world the best thing to ask for? Someone might be laughing at my ‘foolishness’ at seeking the world instead of a coffee estate.
My journey with Sri Sathya Sai
Looking back at my decade and a half under my Master and best-friend, Sri Sathya Sai, my Swami, I realize how foolish I have been. Before I joined the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, my goal was to obtain what the Hindus call Mukti and the Buddhists call Nirvana which English loosely translates into ‘liberation’ and ‘enlightenment’. But once I became a student, the only thing I sought from Swami was a ring. I had seen Him materialize rings, chains, pendants, watches and other things miraculously from thin air and I was gripped with a strong desire to own one such creation. That desire never materialized the way I wanted. But when I least expected it, Swami materialized a gold chain for me. He repeated the surprise of materializing another chain a second time, again when I least expected it!
The moment I realized that getting a gold ring from Swami was no big deal, I was given two materializations! I felt that I had been foolish in seeking a ring from him. Then came the strong desire to win a gold medal for overall excellence - the Sathya Sai All-Rounder Gold Medal - presented by Swami annually to the student who excels in academics, sports, cultural activities and spiritual pursuits with consistency and persistence. Though I put in my best efforts and came close to winning it on two occasions, I never actually won it. Without pursuing it further, I realized that the gold medal was also no big deal and I was being foolish.
I thought that the best thing to seek from Swami was Him and Him alone. I knew I had got it right this time, for wasn’t I seeking the most magnificent and invaluable gift in the Universe - a Master, my Lord? However, though I was right theoretically, I did not get it right in practice because I mistook Swami’s physical frame to be my Swami and, on April 24th, 2011, when it was gone, I felt at a complete loss.
Today, I realize how foolish I had been in seeking His physical frame, mistaking it alone to be Him.
But there is one point that must be highlighted. Though I sought different things - a ring, the gold medal, His physical proximity and a hundred other things in between those three - I sought all of them with the aim of achieving the ultimate in my life - Mukti or Nirvana or Liberation or Enlightenment.
Looking at my journey with Sri Sathya Sai, I realize that unconsciously, my different desires were fulfilled, delayed or denied according to the higher priority desire in my ‘bucket-list’ that I wasn't even aware existed! Which brings me to another beautiful point that, whether we are aware or not, we all have the Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling tree) waiting to fulfill our wishlists! And that is because, whether we believe it or not, we are all an embodiment of the same Divinity!
That is what Swami always says,
“I am God and you are God too. The only difference is that I know it while you don’t.”
Back to the bucket lists
Now the question arises, “Do I know what it is that I am seeking? How do I know that what I am seeking is the best?”
Simple answer from Swami -
“Seek that, seeking which, you will never have to seek again.”
So, irrespective of the priorities from 2 to infinity, priority #1 better be THAT gift. And what exactly is THAT gift if for each one of us to figure out.
With this knowledge, let us set out making our bucketlists. The most powerful force in the Universe which some call as Consciousness and others call as God is also a very loving force. It/He/She will guide us in a manner that our bucketlists evolve so that none of the lower priorities clash with #1.
We slowly learn that wealth, fame, name, influence, relations, friends and everything of this world is transient (because none last forever) but what we seek is something permanent. As this learning dawns on us, let us revise the #1 priority of our bucket lists and keep revising it till we seek the ultimate.
And on the journey of revisions, let us not laugh at #1 in others’ lists. It would be like us students who laughed at a primary school child only to realize that we too were making the same mistakes. Instead, let us constantly keep revising #2, #3, #4, #5 so that they are in sync with #1. This way, there is no chance of a clash in desires and thus no chance of disappointments. The modern world calls this as focus. We see many examples of focused people becoming millionaires, champion sportspeople, world leaders and idols. We get what we focus on. A sportsman sacrifices all other desires to keep #1, #2 ... #100 focused on his sport right?
That should start us off on focusing and prioritizing our desires. This prioritization of desires is not for helping out God. Instead, it helps us to understand what we really want. And what we ‘really’ want too keeps changing till the day we seek what we ‘REALLY’ want.
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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya