Arun Uses His Imagination

Sometimes old Arundada* the gardener would sit back after his meal and tell us children stories. I always listened avidly, as he seemed to have had an interesting life, very different from our world of home, temple and market.

When he was a young man he worked on ships. He had a lot of physical work to do and not much to eat at the end of the day. He would be sent up on the rigging and down into the hold. He would survive on little more than a bowl of rice each day. It was very surprising to us that he did what he did and stayed healthy and alive. He said that he used to pray a lot and ask for God’s help when he was feeling tired and hungry. He used to make his meagre bowl of rice last as long as possible and would imagine while he was eating it that it was actually a delicious stew of meat and vegetables. He would chew it over and over until he could not feel any texture in it at all before he swallowed it. He would keep his eyes shut while he ate and imagine he was in a beautiful place by the sea, sitting under a palm tree and enjoying a feast in the warm sun. He would allow the goodness of the food to permeate his skinny body and feel the warmth emanating from it. He would always try to sit in the sun in the cool of the evening while he ate. He wanted to absorb the warmth of the sun's rays. He said he was always thankful for his food, although it was very meagre, because he realised that many people had less than he had to eat.

Once, after a particularly hard day’s work, he was there sitting under his imaginary palm tree, munching away at his rice. He told himself that it was a beautiful salad of fruit and nuts on this occasion, when a large heavy object came falling towards him. He jumped out of his reverie. The object had been thrown by one of his companions who had always envied Arun his tranquility. He had himself constantly railed against all the restrictions of the life that had been imposed on him, as he saw it. He would far rather not be working on a ship. He would rather be travelling the land on horseback, meeting new people and seeing new sights. But this was not to be, he had lost his horse and most of his possessions and had been obliged to join the ship. He had found himself growing thinner and thinner until the bones in his body seemed to press through the flesh, while Arun still glowed with health. Arun looked up. “What is it, Vijay? What is troubling you this time?”

“You! There you sit with your eyes closed peacefully eating and getting fat while the rest of us starve. I hate you, you smug idiot!”

“Why do you let your hate and fear spoil your life, my friend?” Arun asked. “Why not adjust your viewpoint? Take another look at your life. You will survive much better if you let go of your anger. It is burning you up. Thank God for what you do have. Do not be angry about what you don’t have. You are always angry when the captain and the first mate tell you what to do. Why? That is their place on this ship. They are doing what they are supposed to do. If you obey the orders that they rightfully give you without question, you will be happier and so will they. You will be at peace, so will they. The atmosphere between you will change. You may discover that they are only human beings like yourself. Let go of your resentment and your bitterness my friend, and life will go more smoothly for you.”

Arundada told me that eventually this man became his friend and wanted to know all about his palm tree. He learned to meditate and began to grow healthy again. He was a changed man when at last the ship returned to land.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What have you learned to endure?
  • How has that helped you?
  • Does anyone show forbearance towards you? In other words what do they put up with willingly?
  • What would it be like in school if there were no rules, or if nobody obeyed the rules?
  • What are the dangers of blind obedience – obeying without thought about the consequences?

Guidance on Endurance