This evening Mridula Di found the group to be in their more than usual jovial and fun mood. As they all chatted animatedly while enjoying the hibiscus sharbat and murukku served for the evening snack before the class, Mridula Di quickly in her mind changed her plan for the session. Leaving the group to their snacking and chatting, she went up to the library looking for some books she may use this evening.
After a few minutes when the group settled down in their usual place in the garden and the opening concentration was over, Mridula Di announced that instead of their regular discussion today they will do something different.
M: It seems to me that you all are in a kind of holiday mood today, maybe it is because of the festive season and all.
Gul: Yes, some of us were talking about organising a little road trip, maybe visit some places around here.
Colin: Especially me and Hari and Avi, we were thinking since this is our first visit to Tamil Nadu, maybe we should see a bit of the state.
M: That’s great! I am sure you all are quite creative and resourceful. It should be fun.
Colin: Yeah, that’s what we were discussing earlier. Which type of places to see, how many days, who all can drive etc?
Hari (turning around to look at the group): We need lots of planning, guys, if we need to do this.
(Some yes’s and giggling in the group).
Hari: No, I am serious. We can’t just rent a car and go!
Binoy: And why not?
M: Okay, okay. I am sure you all have a lot of planning to do. But since we are here for this evening, before we take our holiday break for the next couple of weeks, we might as well make the best use of the time, shall we?
Falguni: You are right, Di. We should. But can we talk about something easier today?
M (smiling): Easier? What do you mean? All the stuff we have been discussing, is that really that hard? No way, it can’t be!
Falguni (giggling): Oh you know, I didn’t mean it that way!
M (smiling): Yes, I know what you meant. And I also agree, we should keep things light today, so that you can keep up the holiday mood that you are in today.
Avi: That will be great! Thank you!
M (smiling): No need to thank me. I wouldn’t want to impose anything. And of course, it is important to take breaks from heavy discussions, helps keep our minds fresh and re-energised.
Hari: So what shall we do today?
M: Well, I was thinking we’ll read a story, what do you say?
Hari: Oh that would be great! I like stories.
Falguni: Me too.
Binoy (giggling): I think we all do.
M: Good. So let’s read some stories. I have one story right here, from the Mother. She wrote some stories for the children, as some of you might know. These were published under the title Tales of All Times. It is actually a highly inspiring read for people of all ages, because the truth in these tales is timeless. Anyway, let’s take up this one story here. Anyone willing to read this for us?
(Some shifting around, some looking at one another to see if anyone would volunteer.)
M: Well, anyone?
Binoy: Ok, I will read.
(A few cheering sounds for Binoy. Binoy gets up from his seat and walks to the front of the group).
M: Here, take this book and start reading from here….till this point*. (Points to the passage in the book.)
(Binoy stands facing the group, smilingly looks around and clears his throat. Some in the group giggle.)
Dia (smilingly): Now go on, Mr. Binoy. We know you look good up there, we want to hear the story!
Binoy (smiles back): Okay then! Here I go….
(He begins to read, slowly and carefully, adding all the necessary expression and inflection.)
All human sciences—philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, physics—are seekings for truth. But in the smallest things as in the greatest, truth is necessary.
Little children, do not wait to be grown up before you learn to be truthful: that cannot be done too early; and to remain truthful, it is never too soon to acquire the habit.
Sometimes it is so difﬁcult for men to speak the truth even if they want to, for to do so, it must ﬁrst of all be known and sought out, and that is not always so easy.
There were four young princes of Benares who were brothers. Each one of them said to their father’s charioteer:
“I want to see a Kimsuka tree.”
“I will show you,” said the charioteer, and he invited the eldest to go for a ride.
In the jungle he showed the prince a Kimsuka. It was the time of year when there are neither buds, nor leaves, nor ﬂowers. So the prince saw only a trunk of dark wood.
A few weeks later, the second prince was taken for a drive in the chariot and he also saw the Kimsuka tree. He found it covered with leaves.
A little later in the season, the third brother saw it in his turn; it was all pink with ﬂowers.
At last the fourth saw it; its fruits were ripe.
One day when the four brothers were together, someone asked: “What does the Kimsuka tree look like?”
The eldest said: “Like a bare trunk.”
The second: “Like a ﬂourishing banana-tree.”
The third: “Like a pink and red bouquet.”
And the fourth: “Like an acacia laden with fruit.”
Being unable to agree, they went together to their father the king for him to decide between them. When he heard how one after the other the young princes had seen the Kimsuka tree, the king smiled and said:
“All four of you are right, but all four of you forget that the tree is not the same in all seasons.”
Each one was describing what he had seen and each one was ignorant of what the others knew.
In this way, most often, men know only a fraction of the truth, and their error comes precisely from the fact that they think they know it all.
How much less this error would be if they had learnt at an early age to love truth so much that they would always seek it more and more.
(Binoy stops, and looks up from the book.)
(An expectant silence all around).
M: Well, what do you all think?
Avi: He read the whole thing very nicely!
(Some giggling sounds).
Hari: Yeah, man, you were quite good.
Colin: Awesome, dude!
Binoy (cheerfully): Thanks, guys!
M: Certainly, Binoy, very well done! You will definitely be doing more of this type of storytelling for us in the days to come. Let’s have a round of applause for Binoy, everyone.
(Applause and cheers.)
Binoy (smiling): Thanks Di. I would love to.
(As Binoy walks back happily to his place in the group, there is more cheering and giggling).
M: So what do we think about the story? It is an old story from the famous Jataka Tales, as retold by the Mother.
Dia: I loved it, it is so simple and so profound at the same time.
Colin: Yes I also liked it, very much. (Turning around to look at Binoy) And he read the whole thing so well — even the part where it says – “Little children”, that it became so enjoyable.
Gul: There are some obvious lessons here, about truth and its nature etc, aren’t they?
M: Yes, there are. But then maybe there are some not-so-obvious lessons too. Let’s see what others think.
Falguni: I like the part about each son knowing only a fraction of the truth, and taking it as the whole truth.
M: Good. Very good.
Eesh: I like the part about the tree changing the form in different seasons. And yet it is still the same tree.
M: Yes, that’s another great point.
Gul: And, it is also about our inability to know the truth, isn’t it?
M: Yes, absolutely. That’s perhaps the crux. Can we ever know the complete truth?
Avi: I am thinking that you would also like us to also connect this story with our discussions on what is a nation and all that.
M (smiling): Well, it would be doubly nice if you can! Why not?
Avi: Ha-ha, I knew it. I knew it! You wouldn’t just tell a story like that!
M (smiling): No, I would. I like stories! Don’t we all?
M: Well then, Avi, what do you say? How would you connect this with what we have been discussing about nation and its different sheaths etc.? Anyone may share, it is not only a question for Avi.
Eesh: You know, I was thinking the same thing too as I was listening.
M: Yeah? Tell us what you were thinking.
* Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 2, pp. 223-224
To be continued….