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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Life Unstructured

When his ship stopped at a remote island for a day, the bishop determined to use the time as profitably as possible. He strolled along the seashore and came across three fishermen attending to their nets. In pidgin English, they announced to him that centuries before they had been Christianized by missionaries. ''We Christians!'' they said proudly pointing to one another.

The bishop was impressed. Did they know the Lord's Prayer? They had never heard of it. The bishop was shocked. 

" What do you say then, when you pray?"

" We lift eyes in heaven. We pray, '' We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.'' The bishop was appalled at the primitive and downright heretical nature of the prayer. So he spent the whole day teaching them the Lord's Prayer. The fishermen were poor learners, but they gave it all they had and before the bishop sailed away next day, he had the satisfaction of hearing them go through the formula faultlessly.

Months later his ship happened to pass by those islands again and the bishop, as he paced the deck reciting evening prayer, recalled with pleasure the three men on that distant island who were now able to pray, thanks to his patient efforts. 

Suddenly he saw a spot of light in the east that kept approaching the ship and, as he gazed in wonder, he saw three figures walking nonchalantly on the water. The captain stopped the boat and everyone leaned over the rails to see the sight.

They were the bishop's fishermen, of course. " Bishop," they exclaimed, " We hear your boat go past and come hurry hurry meet you."

" What's it you want?" asked the awe-stricken bishop.

" Bishop," they said, " We so, so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say: Our Father in heaven, holy be your name, your kingdom come.......then we forget. Tell us prayer again."

It was a chastened bishop who replied, " Go back to your homes, my friends, and each time you pray, say, '' We are three, you are three, have mercy on us! "

A prayer is unstructured. Not just a prayer, the whole life is and should be naturally unstructured. In fact, ' the essence of life is its spontaneity,' said Rabia Basri. We try to live life and worship by a set pattern, a fixed rule and a definite formula. There's no definite formula, prayer or an unalterable key to living life. The problem with mankind is that we try to guide ourselves with the help of an inexorable regulation and an unnecessary regimentation. 'Jab ji chahe namaaz padhta hoon/ Raqaat ki nahin mujhe fikra/Meri ibadat mein khamoshi hai/ Ismein nahin alfaaz ka zikra' (I offer namaaz, whenever I want (there's no fixed time and hours)/I don't count the prescribed numbers of the verses (raqaat)/My prayers are silent/They are devoid of words and entreaties).
 Urdu poet Saghar Nizami's quatrain defines life and worship. Only with a spontaneous approach, can we enjoy life and our rapport with the Cosmos. We need no pre-determined rules to regulate our lives by. Spontaneity is the quiddity of life. It's the kernel of living life joyfully and remorselessly. Eckhart Tolle says, ' The moment your prayers become scriptural, your whole life gets unnatural.' Be natural. Pray sans a fixed prayer and duration. Live life and its glorious/inglorious moments as they come. Believe in the power of now and the force of stillness, because stillness speaks. Life will soon become celestial. Life is already heavenly and uncomplicated, we make it infernal and deliberately complicated. 
                                                          ---Sumit Paul


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