There was a spiritual Master visiting a village. He spoke to the assembled crowds on living a spiritual life. Many were moved by his words on love and forgiveness. However, at the end of the meeting a young child came up to the Master and tearfully asked him if he would come to visit his house and touch the heart of his father.
The young child told how his father was making life miserable for his wife and children through his uncontrollable drinking. When his father wasn’t drinking he was a very kind and loving father. But, when he was drunk he made life unbearable for all around.
The Master took the child by the hand and visited the wretched home. He spoke kindly to his mother and her children and then he saw the father lying wretchedly upon a bed of straw. He took the man by his hand and with great kindness said:
“Your neighbours on the other side of the town are in sore distress. Their house has been gutted by fire. Will you come and aid me in rebuilding their shattered lives?”
The father shrugged off his headache and feeling of worthlessness and nervously followed the Master to the other side of town. There they found a family facing great hardship due to their loss. Without saying any words, the Master and father began re-building the house. After a short while, the drunkard threw himself into the project forgetting his own addictions. After a while the Master thanked the alcoholic for his efforts, but, now he had to leave to travel to another town – could he leave him in charge? The father readily agreed and over the next weeks organised the complete rebuilding of the house.
In the process, the father gave up drinking completely. Nobody had even mentioned drink, but, he had gained a renewed sense of purpose and responsibility. He remained grateful for the opportunity to serve others and overcome his addiction.
By lecturing people do we ever change their nature? It is easy to judge others, but how can we encourage people to overcome their weaknesses? It would be tempting to scold an alcoholic for neglecting his family. But, here the Master tried a different approach. He sought to rebuild his sense of self-worth and sense of responsibility. Often addictions are symptoms of inner insecurites and we need to deal with these rather than the outer manifestations of them.
By gaining a sense of service to others we can most easily overcome our personal problems.
It also reminds me of the story of Sri Ramakrishna and his disciple Girish Chandra Ghose. Sri Ramakrishna was a very strict Spiritual Master who expected the highest standards. But, in the case of Girish Chandra Ghose, he never said anything when Girish turned up with a wine bottle in his hand. Sri Ramakrishna knew in this particular case, he need not say anything, but, overtime by appealing to the good heart of Girish Chandra Ghose, he would eventually make the necessary change in habit himself. This Girish did, becoming a devotee of the highest order.
(Drink, Drink In Front of Me at Sri Chinmoy Library
Photo by: Pavitrata, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries