On a dangerous road in Kenya, two buses were approaching the same narrow bridge from opposite sides, neither yields and they crash. Many people were killed. A man was spotted taking the mobile phones from the dead passengers. A Maasai man tells him to leave the phones as they are not his to take. The man says, “the people do not need them.” The Massai man again says to stop taking the phones of the dead. The man ignores the Massai warrior and continues collecting the phones. With a swift action of his knife, the Massai kills the man. Others around him heard him mutter, “Now you are dead, you do not need those phones.”
A woman is driving down the freeway in California, and a man appears in the empty seat next to her. She was obviously startled and caused her to swerve in and out of her driving lane. The man says there will be an earthquake in the next few days and to be prepared. He then vanishes as quick as he appeared. A police car observed the erratic driving and pulled over the car. He notices the driver is not drunk or high on any drugs. He then asks her why she was weaving between lanes in such an erratic manner. The woman thought about what to say, the true or another story. She decides to tell the truth. The police officer listens and when she finishes her story he says, “ I will not give you a ticket today since I have heard the same story from 5 other drivers.” They both look at each other, no words could capture the feelings and shock of such an improbable event.
At a conference of spiritual teachers and leaders, one speaker decided to ask the group for a moment of silence and a prayer for a little girl who committed suicide a few days before. It was reported she was part of a family joined by other families who were attempting to escape Viet Nam by boat. It was so common at this time, they were known as the ‘Vietnamese Boat People’, Their boat was attacked by pirates who took whatever money and valuables they could find. They also took this young girl and one after another, the pirates raped her. A short time after the pirates left, the little girl jumped over the side of the boat to end her life. The custom of these people strongly held the belief that if a daughter lost her virginity before marriage, she would be rejected from the family and the community, and would never be welcomed. The little girl decided death was preferred. The gathered group, was silent and prayed for the little girl. Later in the program, a speaker standing at the podium stood looking out at the group and informed them of their hypocritical beliefs. He challenged them to consider a true spiritual person would not only pray for the little girl but also say a prayer for the rapist. He went on to say prayer for the little girl was easy. To pray for the rapist was the act of a truly spiritual person. Consider what kind of childhood those men, pirates, and rapists, must have experienced to have acted with such cruelty. What happens to a human being that they could be so unfeeling about the fate of another person? In the end, it is not our right to judge another as a way of masking our true feelings of despair, helplessness, and anger. Our judgment does not make the situation better. Accepting our feelings is what makes us human, not our reaction. A true spiritual being acts, not reacts.
Baba Ram Das, the spiritual teacher who wrote the classic, Be Here Now, was riding a bus in Mexico. The bus was late, dirty, smelly, noisy, filled with chickens, pigs, and screaming kids. He had some trouble, was stranded for many hours and longed to get back to town to wash and feel human again. Finally on the bus for the long trip back to town, he was grateful for the seat he could have to himself. But before he could fully relax, the bus came to the next stop and a large sweaty, hairy, dirty, wild-looking man got on and before Ram Das could prepare himself, this bulk of a man came over and sat next to him, practically squishing him into the side of the bus. Ram Das felt anger at this annoying smelly man invading his space who seemed more animal than human. As Ram Das’s anger was building, he felt he must fight for his space and confront this man with the full force of his discomfort. As he turned to face the man, for the first time he looked into the man’s eyes and he melted in shame for his harsh feelings, as all he could see was the eyes of his spiritual teacher – laughing at his emotional feelings. This moment melted all his anger and realized, yet again, it was he who was acting more animal than human.
My friend Reshad Feild tells the story of his experience learning how to breathe. He was staying at the newly built Tibetan center in Scotland called Samyeling. This was exciting since it was the first Tibetan center ever outside of Tibet. He committed himself to understand how the breath works and which meditations using the breath would be most effective. After a few days, he was instructed in a simple breathing technique and told to practice two hours a day. After a month of this daily practice, he did not feel any effect from the meditation. He asked to speak with the director. A meeting was arranged. He waited a long time before he could go in. He told the master of his daily effort and he has not noticed anything. The master simply said, “Then, practice four hours a day.” Reshad went back to his room and following the guidance of this great teacher, and began practicing four hours a day. Another month or two go by and still, Reshad does not notice any effect at all. He is concerned and a little disappointed. He requests a meeting again with the teacher. Some days later he again goes to explain his effort and the lack of any results. The teacher, simply says “Oh, then practice eight hours a day.” Reshad was in shock but obeyed. He began his daily breathing practice for eight hours a day. Each time Reshad tells the story it is a little different, but the ending is nearly the same. Although he did not notice any effect from practicing eight hours a day for months, he decided to not go back and tell the master. I have learned all stories from Reshad must be understood on more than one level. This is certainly one of those stories. I would add that expectation often gets in the way of reality.