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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Personification of Love

Abbot Anastasius had a book of very fine parchment which was worth twenty pence. It contained both the Old and New Testaments in full. Once a certain monk came to visit him and, seeing the book, made off with it. So that day when Anastasius went to his scripture reading, he found that it'd gone and knew at once that the monk had taken it. But he didn't send after him for fear that he might add the sin of perjury to that of theft. Now the monk went into the city to sell the book. He wanted eighteen pence for it. The buyer said, " Give me the book so that I may find out if it's worth that much money," With that, he took the book to the holy Anastasius and said, " Father, take a look at this and tell me if you think it's worth as much as eighteen pence." Anastasius said, " Yes, it's a fine book. And at eighteen pence, it's a bargain." So the buyer went back to the monk and said, " Here's your money. I showed the book to Father Anastasius and he said, it was worth eighteen pence." The monk was stunned. " Was that all he said? Did he say nothing else?" " No, he didn't say a word more than that." " Well, I've changed my mind and I don't want to sell the book after all." Then he went back to Anastasius and begged him with many tears to take the book back but Anastasius said gently, " No, brother, keep it. It's my present to you." But the monk said, " If you don't take it back, I shall have no peace." After that the monk dwelt with Anastasius for the rest of his life.

This is saintliness. I read in Swanton's " Lives of the mystics " that once Sanai, one of the greatest Persian mystics and poets, led a very austere life and lived on the outskirts of Nishapur town in Iran. One day, he'd just one small piece of bread and a little honey to eat it with for the night. While he was engrossed in his evening prayer, a thief came tip-toeing and ran away with that piece of bread. Some people saw him run with a piece of bread. Since the thief was in the vicinity of Sanai's hut, people caught the thief and brought him back to Sanai. Seeing that thief, Sanai began to cry. " What happened, master? Why're you crying? " The people, who caught the thief, asked the great mystic. " These are tears of joy to see that now I can give him honey as well.  I was sad to think how the poor fellow would eat the dry bread? " And he gave away his little bottle of honey to the thief and told the people, " This angel (thief) was unexpectedly sent by Allah!!" This true story has always fascinated me. And even after so many readings, I read it every day and I wonder how can a man be so compassionate and loving?

 But there have been sublime souls who make you wonder because of their all-encompassing love and empathy even for those who harm them. Love embarrasses the most hardcore criminals. A truly saintly person harbours no grudge against anyone. Neither does he embarrass a wrong-doer by any kind of retaliation through words and action. He doesn't even forgive him. Because even forgiving has a subtle ego to it. " I've forgiven my enemy." This too is egoistic. A saint is above all retaliations, responses and reactions. He doesn't have to say that he has forgiven. He's love personified and forgiveness embodied.        

                                                                       Sumit Paul 

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