A Rose in the Garden
One day, while travelling back home, a woman had to wait several hours at an airport for her flight. She was hungry so she decided to buy a bag of cookies and settle down somewhere and read a book. Engrossed in her book while enjoying the taste of the cookies, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a man sitting beside her. She continued reading but was caught by surprise when she saw him helping himself to the bag of cookies lying between them. At first she thought, “let it go, why create a scene over a handful of cookies?”
However, that noble thought did not last long. She felt a surge of anger as she watched the man slowly consuming her stock of delicious cookies. With every cookie she took, he took one too. Finally, when it came down to the last cookie, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh, he broke the cookie in half and offered it to her. Throwing him a look of disgust, she snatched the cookie and headed towards the boarding gate. In her entire life, she had never come across such audacity.
When she boarded the plane, she reached for her backpack and froze when she opened it. Inside was the bag of cookies she had purchased – untouched. She groaned in despair – all this time it was she who had been eating the other man’s cookies while he was just being nice and sharing them with her! Unfortunately, it was too late to apologize. With a heavy heart and deep regret, she realized how rudely she behaved towards the kind and ‘gentle’ man.
How often have we fallen prey to a similar pattern of negative thinking? It is human tendency to see what is wrong instead of what is right – we easily jump to conclusions or pass judgment instead of focusing on the positive.
It is said that we all live in glass houses and no one has clean windows. Sadly, we seem to be more concerned with the stains and smudges on our neighbour’s windows than our own. Sant Mat teaches us to adopt a loving, humble and helpful attitude with everyone, even to those who seemingly ‘steal’ our cookies!
But being loving to everyone is not always easy – especially during times when we have been mistreated or wronged. Our attitude towards others usually depends on how they behave towards us.
But saints and mystics advise us to love everyone who crosses our path, whether they come to us as roses or thorns.
If someone puts a thorn in your path and you put a thorn in his, there are thorns everywhere! It is like this among men, that you are straight with those who are straight with you, and crooked to those who are crooked. But among dervishes, it is like this, that you are straight with those who are straight with you, and with the crooked, you are also straight.
Sheikh Farid, The Great Sufi Mystic
It is very easy to extend our love to those who love us. This may be why our love is restricted to our family, spouses, children and friends. Because attachment is always at the root of this love, we are only able to channel it towards a select few. However it is when we learn to love everyone without judgment that we understand the true meaning of love.
What does it mean to love everybody? Maharaj Charan Singh describes a ‘loving person’ as follows:
They are loving toward everybody. Their love does not run in a narrow channel to one person. To love somebody is different from being loving toward everybody. Actually, when you love everybody, you don’t love the individuals, you love the Lord who is in everybody. Love is something different when there is attachment in it. In a loving and sweet nature, there is no attachment at all.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
By their own example, the saints teach us to widen our circle of compassion and love all. And as we open our hearts towards others, we become more receptive to the Master’s love for us. In the Bible, when Christ gives his disciples a new commandment, to love one another, he ends by saying: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” If for no other reason than to uphold the teachings and pay tribute to our Master, it is our duty, as disciples, to strive towards achieving this ideal.
Ultimately, the saints are the perfect embodiment of the teachings. And by observing them, we see what it truly means to love everyone. A rose with its immaculate beauty and fragrance is often described as a symbol of true love. So perhaps the Master’s love for his disciples is best compared to a rose. Known for its indiscriminate character, a rose offers its fragrance to everyone and withholds it from no one. It has the beautiful quality of giving all that it has, with no expectations.
The Master also does not discriminate, nor does he favour a few. He showers his boundless love to all alike – just like the sun that radiates warmth to every living being on earth. Even though he sees the blemishes and stains on our glass windows, in his generosity and kindness, he accepts us as we are.
Slowly and gradually, through the practice of meditation, we begin to acknowledge our own faults and shortcomings. And just as the Master loves us despite our imperfections, we understand that we too should love others the same way.
So we should strive to be like the rose that gives its fragrance even to the hand that crushes it. We should show love to everyone without judgment. For it is only when we have learned to love like this that we will have earned the honour and privilege of being a rose in our Master’s garden.
Well, you know Hazur loved roses. You are all his roses and he gave me the seva of head gardener to look after the garden and his roses.
Baba Gurinder Singh, as quoted in Equilibrium of Love