The Laughing Buddha

Swami Suryamani Saraswati

In every ashram there is a place where no one disturbs you, and a time when you are totally free from karma yoga. I can see several brother and sister disciples shaking their heads in disbelief and muttering, “Are you referring to heaven?”

In this ashram there were several boisterous youngsters. Each one hoped he would wake up one fine morning and find himself turned into a Milarepa! Hoping to fulfil their spiritual dreams, they met regularly in the secret place and exchanged ideas on how they could accelerate their evolution. One day, the talk turned to self-criticism and the way they generally ate their meals was the main topic.

“Look at the way we slurp, slurp, slurp through our meals. Why don't we eat in a more dignified way? Why don't we try to eat like the Buddha would?” asked one monk.

“Or like Jesus would?” wondered another.

“Or like our guru?” asked another.

“I've got an idea!' shouted one. “On each day of the week, we shall try to eat like one great soul, never mind what fare or how meagre the food may be.”

“On Mondays we could eat like the Buddha...”

“On Tuesdays we could eat like Jesus...”

“On Wednesdays we could eat like Guruji...”

And so they decided who they would eat like on which day of the week.

The next day was a Monday. And at lunch, the ashram inmates witnessed a miracle! Instead of a boisterous troupe of young monkeys dashing in to take their places in the queue for food, an orderly line of young monks slowly made its way. The faces were serene as if each one had just achieved enlightenment, and the steps dignified. The monks serving the food couldn't believe their eyes. They gazed at the young monks open mouthed.

With the same grace and dignity, the young monks made their way to the appointed eating place, sat down silently, without plonking their plates down...and began to eat, dainty manageable mouthfuls with the same grace and dignity, with the slow deliberation of a Buddha.

Pass the salt, please!

What could be a more severe place than an ashram where it is total mouna around the clock, all year round? However, the inmates went about their business of being monks so seriously that they did not feel the need to talk to each other. Not even a Hari Om in the morning. The only time anyone spoke was during Guru Poornima just before eating. Even on this day someone would reluctantly stand up to speak!

One Guru Poornima, Swami Mounananda stood up to the surprise of everyone. He had never spoken in living memory, what would he want to speak about now?

“Too less salt in food!” he said and sat down to the business of eating.

Now a year passed in total silence. Three hundred and sixty-five days with not a sneeze! It was Guru Poornima again. All the monks assembled with their plates in front of them on the ground and waited for someone to speak. To the surprise of everyone, it was Swami Mounananda again! Now, what would he want to speak about wondered everyone.

“Too much salt in food!” he said and sat down again to eat his food.

The down-to-earth Buddha

Wait a minute! One monk was happily slurping his food as they normally did. His companions watched him out of the corners of their eyes but couldn't admonish him as they were all maintaining mouna while eating! They painfully bore this insult to the Buddha and waited till the meal was over so they could upbraid him. What cheek! At the Ganga tank, where they washed their plates, they pounced on him as one.

“What monkey business is this?”

“Eating like a dog!”

“Slurping like a pig!”

“Don't you remember today is Monday?”

“Aren't we supposed to eat like the Buddha today?”

Calmly washing his plate, the young monk answered, “I was eating like the fasting Buddha who had not eaten for three days!”

At this all the monks burst out laughing and their facade dropped. One of the young monks said, “Instead of being serious Buddhas, why can't we all be laughing Buddhas?”

60% + 100% = cloud nine

If you have been to Ganga Darshan recently you may have heard this one. It was during a yoga therapy course and the most prominent student was a fifty year-old man, as tall and as heavy as a freestyle wrestler. He was looking for a non-surgical cure for his heart problem which had been diagnozed by the medical world as 60% leakage through a damaged mitral valve.

When the ashram doctor swami also advised surgery as the only cure, the patient did not lose heart. He had great faith in yoga and believed it could cure every health problem. On his own, he started practising meditation every day.

A few days later, he had a dream. He was in the Sabha of Indra and he could see all the gods, goddesses and saints present there. Lord Indra himself guided the patient through the huge assembly of great souls and permitted the patient to seek the advice of any one present.

The patient recognized Lord Rama. He went up to the throne on which Lord Rama and Sita were sitting and prostrated before them. Raising himself, he asked Lord Rama what would cure him. Without even asking what the problem was, Lord Rama said, “Surgery.” Every one of the great souls he approached uttered just that one word: “Surgery”, when he asked for a cure for his problem. Disappointed, the patient turned round to leave, when his eye caught a very unlikely kind of soul in the august assembly. He was neither god nor saint and looked as mortal as one's neighbour.

Just out of curiosity, the patient went to him and asked what the cure was for his heart problem. “Surgery,” replied the man.

“Tell me, how did you manage to become part of this august assembly?” asked the patient.

“60% + 100%,” replied the mortal in heaven.

“What do you mean 60% + 100%?” asked the patient.

“I had a heart problem when I was on earth – 60% leakage through a damaged mitral valve. Everyone advised surgery, but I was afraid to undergo surgery. So I developed great faith in yoga. I started meditating for hours. After a month I died because of the 60% leakage through the mitral valve. But my faith had developed to 100% so I came straight here to heaven!” replied the man.