The Story of the Pencil by Paulo Coelho helps us realize how much we can learn about having a positive approach towards life – by simply observing the use and functions of a pencil. A writing instrument that we take for granted on a daily basis, the pencil can bring us back down to earth and shows us the basics of life.
For a pencil to be of some use, in its primary function as a writing instrument, it has to be held in the hand of the writer. No matter how beautiful the draft looks or how meaningful the words on a piece of paper end up being, the credit always goes to the writer and not to the pencil. Therefore, this reminds us that we are capable of great things, but we must not forget that there is a hand guiding our steps. That hand is none other than God’s hand, and he always guides us according to his will.
In My Submission, Maharaj Sawan Singh explains that a realistic person tries to achieve his objectives and at the same time understands that God is the prime mover and the cause behind all causes. Hence he is able to do his best and leaves the results in God’s hands, as he knows that there are so many things beyond his capabilities.
Every now and then, we have to stop writing and use a sharpener. This makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards it is much sharper and is able to continue to perform its function once again. We, too, must learn to bear certain difficulties in life. Lord Krishna explained to Udho in Bhagvat:
I make three rare gifts to my most beloved devotees.
They are: poverty, illness and dishonour.
The pain and suffering we go through turn us away from the world and lead us inward towards the Lord.
Another quality of the pencil is that it always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that we should correct whatever mistakes we have made, as this helps to keep us on the road to liberation. The Masters explain that true repentance is to be deeply sorry for what we have committed and to ask for sincere forgiveness. Maharaj Charan Singh explains in Thus Saith the Master:
In the spiritual sense, repentance is meditation. Meditation makes you really repent for what you have done in the past and helps you not to repeat those mistakes again. That in turn, helps you to obtain forgiveness from the Father. His grace helps you not to repeat those mistakes again which might pull us back to this world.
What really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. This point should urge us to pay attention to what goes on inside ourselves instead of giving thought to everything else in the world. In The Science of the Soul Maharaj Jagat Singh describes exactly what we should be wary of when observing ourselves:
Our body is the temple of the living God. It must not be polluted with the intake of meat, eggs, alcoholic drinks, etc. Nor must falsehood, lust, anger, avarice, hatred, pride, vanity, egotism and worldly attachments be allowed to have their sway. They must be swept clear to make fit for his residence.
The fifth quality is that it always leaves a mark. We should always keep in mind that everything we do in life leaves an impression.
Maharaj Jagat Singh continues to state that:
One does not become a satsangi simply by being initiated. One must mould his life in accordance with the principles of satsang. Every thought, speech and action must conform to them. A satsangi’s daily conduct must bear the hallmark of excellence and must reveal that he is a follower of a true Master.
In other words, we should always leave a pleasant and lasting impression of ourselves on others, the way the Master leaves a beautiful and positive impression on us. We have to be vigilant and conscious of our every thought, speech and action. We should make our Master proud by conducting ourselves in accordance to the teachings and live in his will.
So the next time we pick up a pencil to scribble down something, we should perhaps spare a moment and remind ourselves of the basic and positive ‘pencil points’ of living a life where we are at peace with the world and with ourselves. This practice of introspection could help us attain a calligraphic legacy of our own.
I am only a pencil in God’s hand. God writes through us, and however imperfect instruments we may be, God writes beautifully.
Mother Teresa, as quoted in A Gentle Spirit