The Fern and the Bamboo
“I decided to quit. Quit my job, my marriage, my spiritual path. I wanted to quit my life.” This was the desperate cry of a person who became unbearably frustrated with life. The reason? Was it the strain in his marital life, the demand of a heavy work-load, financial issues, or health problems, that was causing him to struggle to hold on to his mental balance? It was hard to say.
But the sentiment is not unfamiliar to us. There have been times in our own lives when we, too, have broken down and cried and contemplated giving up – times when we felt we could not take it anymore.
The rich and the poor, the king and the beggar, man or woman, all are reaping the fruits of their karmas. Wherever the place of one’s birth may be, one goes through a long chain of suffering and misery, pain and difficulties. Separated from the Lord, one has no peace or respite anywhere.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Divine Light
All saints proclaim that there is only one solution – the soul can gain bliss only when it meets the Lord. Thus it is written in the Adi Granth:
In pain, O Nanak, are all created beings …
Happy alone are they who are dyed in Nam.
But here comes our greatest challenge – the practice of regular and punctual meditation. It requires sincerity and discipline to sit for the minimum prescribed meditation period every day in order for a disciple to make progress; and this too while still encumbered by life’s daily routines and situations.
Ironically, when we are at the brink of despair and we are somehow led to the spiritual path and the practice of meditation; when we sit for meditation we are faced with yet another struggle against the mind. Under these circumstances, how does one stay composed and balanced?
The answer was provided to the same person who had given up on life and one day decided to quit. He went to the woods to have one last talk with God and said, “God, can you give me one good reason not to quit?” and God’s reply surprised him.
“Look around,” God said. “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?” “Yes,” he replied. “When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo. In the second year, the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful and again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo. In year three, there was still nothing from the bamboo seed, but I would not quit. In year four, again there was nothing from the bamboo seed and still I would not quit.”
“Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. Compared to the fern, it seemed small and insignificant. But just six months later the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall. It had spent those five years growing its roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive.”
Then God lovingly explained, “I would not give anyone in my creation a challenge they cannot handle. Did you know that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo, and I will never quit on you. Don’t compare yourself to others. The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful. Your time will come, and you will rise high.”
“How high would I rise?” the man asked.
“How high will the bamboo rise?” God asked in return.
“As high as it can?” the man questioned.
“Yes.” God said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can.”
The moral of the story is, never quit, because struggling makes you stronger. Maharaj Charan Singh once wrote to a disciple:
All these trials that come to us in life, if taken in the proper spirit, as a satsangi should take them himself, will develop strength of character and make one throw himself absolutely at the feet of the Satguru within. On the other hand, they may also discourage us and make us unhappy, which reveals to us our own weakness.
I am sorry I do not appreciate your attitude of being fed up with life and having no interest in it. Life was given to us for a definite purpose and that, as a disciple, you know well. It was given to us in order that, by complete surrender to the Satguru and daily spiritual exercises, we might be joined to Shabd and rise above this valley of tears. That is a privilege which nobody can take from you unless you yourself, in a fit of petulance or despondency, give it up or cease to make use of it. Even then, no disciple’s life is hopeless. But the road is much easier for us if we do our bit. You have to take care of your worldly duties and give as much time to simran and bhajan as you possibly can, and then leave the other matters to the Satguru.
Light on Sant Mat
Hazur Maharaj Ji’s powerful message is unmistakable. We must be strong and focus all our effort towards meditation.
We should attend to our meditation so vigorously every day that it actually becomes a part of our life.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Divine Light
Whether it is regarding life or meditation, Maharaj Charan Singh says very firmly that the attitude of quitting is “not appreciated”. As disciples, we are given the technique to achieve salvation, and only our sincere effort is required. Like the bamboo, we should not be disheartened if we see no progress or spiritual growth, for it is during this time that we are growing roots and making our foundation strong. The time and effort that we put in will never go to waste. In the words of the scientist and former president of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam:
Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you, but to help you release your hidden potential and power. Let difficulties know that you too are difficult.
Inspiring Thoughts of Great Educational Thinkers