This is an inspiring story about the power of forgiveness and compassion. It shows that sometimes we can get extraordinary results by going against our instinctive human nature. The story also shows that forgiveness is a sign of real strength and can have tremendous power.
The story is from Illumination-Experiences On Indian Soil, Part 2, by Sri Chinmoy
“In India there was once a Muslim mendicant who had a certain amount of occult power. His name was Bajit Bastami. In Chittagong there is a special place where many Muslims worship him. Even the Hindus have tremendous love for him.
In a pond near his tomb there are fifteen or twenty very large turtles that were actually human beings once upon a time. Bajit Bastami got angry at these people because they were unkind to him, so he turned them into turtles. He gave them all names: Rajali, Majali, Pulali and so on. He said that when the time came, he would turn them into human beings once again – not ordinary human beings, but great human beings. Because they were going through such severe punishment, he said that some time in the future his compassion would help them become great human beings.
There are many stories about Bajit Bastami’s compassion. Once at midnight he was walking along the street praying and meditating when he saw a man playing on a flute. The flutist was heavily drunk, but he was playing extremely well. Since he was playing such melodious, haunting tunes, people had gathered around him. But whenever they appreciated him, he would insult them, using very foul language. Some people cursed him and left, while others, in spite of being scolded and insulted, stayed there. They didn’t take his insults seriously, since he was obviously drunk. Besides, the man was playing very well, and they were enjoying the fun.
As soon as the musician saw Bajit, he started insulting him, and this time he used the filthiest, absolutely the most foul tongue. Bajit was annoyed and said, “You stop using these kinds of words!”
The drunk flutist got furious. He approached Bajit and struck him mercilessly on the forehead with his flute. The drunkard’s flute broke and Bajit went home with his forehead bleeding profusely.
By that time Bajit had many, many disciples and followers, and when they saw their Master’s plight, they wanted to kill this flutist. But Bajit said, “No, no! You must not do that. Tomorrow morning I will do something about it.” The disciples were very happy that their Master was going to punish the man.
The following morning Bajit gave one of his servants some most delicious Indian sweets plus a few rupees to take to this flutist, along with a message. The message was that Bajit was extremely sorry that his head was responsible for breaking the man’s flute, and he was sending money so that the musician could buy a new one. Also, since he had experienced a little bit of the man’s foul tongue the previous day, he was sending some sweets to sweeten his tongue.
When the flutist received the gifts and heard the message, he was deeply moved. Immediately the musician and all his friends and admirers ran to Bajit ‘s cottage and fell at his feet, asking to be illumined by his forgiveness.
In later years they all became Bajit ‘s extremely good disciples. In this way, through his compassion Bajit transformed some undivine drunkards into divine aspirants.”
The story offers a great lesson that if we want to change someone else’s nature we could try to lead by example and bring only their good qualities forward. If we get angry, upset or even judgemental, we can harden the attitude of other people. But, if we act like a saint, we can bring the heart of the other person forward.
Oscar Wilde once said:
“Forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much.”
But, if our forgiveness is out of real sense of oneness, if our forgiveness is motivated by a sense to bring the best nature of our enemy forward, it is an opportunity for them to break a cycle of bad behaviour. Our enemies become grateful to our magnaminity. Abraham Lincoln offered this illumining thought:
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
In this case, the saint destroyed the cycle of anger and judgement. In its place, he gave the drunk the opportunity to bring his better nature to the fore. In this case, we see that real forgiveness brought illumination. Sri Chinmoy offers two significant poems on this theme.
Photo: Menaka, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries