By Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj
Life is filled with many challenges and sometimes, under pressure, people crack. They feel they can no longer stand all the problems facing them. Sometimes people feel they have the worst job in the world. Others feel they have the worst health problems; they feel no one could be plagued with as many physical problems as they have. At some time in our lives, we feel that no one could have things as bad as we have.
There is a folk tale about a wise man who lived in a forest. People would travel far and wide to seek him out for answers to their problems. One day, a woman came to him for advice.
He said, “My dear, what can I do for you?”
She said, “Things are terrible at home. I live in a small hut with my husband and two children. The hut is barely large enough for the four of us. I wanted a bigger house but my husband is not doing well at work and cannot afford anything larger. As times are bad, my husband’s father lost his job, so his parents had to move in with us. We were already crowded before but now with six of us living together in that small space, it is unbearable. I cannot take it anymore. I feel like screaming!”
The wise man thought for a moment and asked, “Do you have a cow?”
The woman said, “Yes, we do.”
He said, “I advise you to bring the cow into the hut to live with you for a week and then come back to see me.”
The woman was puzzled. She thought that since he was a wise man, there must be some magic in bringing the cow into the house, so she did what he said.
The next week was horrible. It was so crowded in the house that every time the cow turned around, all the six family members had to change their seats. When they tried to sleep, the smell was intolerable and it would moo throughout the night, waking them all up.
After the week passed, the woman returned to the wise man and began shouting at him, “What have you done? I came to you to make things better and now I am more miserable than before. Your advice did not work.”
He thought for a moment and asked, “Do you have any chickens?”
“Yes,” she said.
He told her, “Take them into the hut with you for a week.” She did not understand how this would help, but since he was a wise man, and everybody in her village found his advice helpful, she thought she would give this a try.
When she returned home, she collected all the chickens from the backyard and moved them into the house. For the next week, the chickens were flying around the hut, landing on everything and making a mess of the place.
After a week, she returned and cried, in tears, “You must be crazy. Your advice is terrible. It is impossible to live in the hut now. The cow turns around and knocks into us. The chickens fly all around the hut. My in-laws are always choking from the smell and complaining about how bad it is living with us. The children find chicken feathers falling into their food. My husband is constantly fighting with me over the living conditions in our home and says, “It is all your fault!”
The wise man thought for a moment and said, “My dear, go home and try one more thing. Take the cow and the chickens out of your hut. Then, come back to me in a week.”
The woman was fed up with his advice but thought she would give it one last chance. She returned home and pulled the cow out of the house. She took the chickens out and returned them to the backyard.
A week later, the woman returned to the wise man.
“How are things now?” he asked.
“Thank you so much! You are truly wise. Since I removed the cow and chickens from the hut I feel so much happier. Things have become so peaceful.”
The wise man smiled. The woman returned home and lived happily with her husband, her children, and her in-laws.
This story illustrates that we are often unhappy with our situation until we find that things could always be worse. We think our job is horrible, until we lose it and find that life is harder without an income. We think our health is bad until we spend time in a hospital and find people in worse condition than we are. We think our family members are bad until we find ourselves alone and realize how difficult life is without them. We always feel the grass is greener on the other side.
The woman learned that what she thought was bad was actually not so bad when she saw how much worse things could be. It is human nature to think that everybody else has it so good and it is only we who are suffering.
We think we know what is best for us. How many times have we tried to intervene with our two cents to find that when we tried to change our situation, we made things worse? Then, we regret what we have done and wish we could make things go back to the way they were.
On the spiritual path, one of the lessons we need to learn is accepting the will of the Lord. Life would be so much easier if we accept that God knows what is best for us. If we examined the times in our lives that we interfered with God’s will, we may have discovered that we messed things up terribly on our own and prayed to God to return things to the way they were.
Next time we think things are going badly and that God is not properly listening to us, we should sit back, take a deep breath, and relax. We should give God a chance to let things happen and observe patiently. We will find when all is said and done that God worked things out for the best in the end. If we reflect, we would find that if God had listened to our complaints and let us do things our own way, things may not have been in our best interest at all.
Happiness is a state of mind. If we think that God is not doing what is best for us, we will always be unhappy. If we would realize that we are living according to what God wishes for us and that God is giving us what is best for us, we would always be happy and content.