Almost all countries around the world organize marathons. Nowadays, big corporates, small sized companies, NGOs, schools and colleges are also into organizing marathons. We often see marathons organized in Mumbai. A marathon is a long run of 42 kilometers. Many participants run 21 kilometers in what is called a half marathon. Many run even half of that. Many run just a small distance. However, all the participants are given a certificate of participation as a token of appreciation for running in the marathon. Not just when you win, but the fact that you participated in the race is also highly valued by the organizers. The same goes for climbing Mount Everest. Every year many people try to scale Mount Everest. Even if you have managed to climb a little, it is considered a lot by many. There are only three winners in all tough competitions or games or other events in the world. However, in certain events the participants are also given due acknowledgement. Their efforts are applauded by people. Similarly walking on the path of spirituality, the desire to attain God and the aspiration for salvation is indeed a very commendable virtue in a person. Because to tread that path is very difficult. It is said in the Kathopanishad that:
उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत।
क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया दुर्गं पथस्तत्कवयो वदन्ति॥
The path of God is the path of the Soul
And it is very hard to follow the religious precepts.
Walking that path is more difficult than climbing Mount Everest or winning a marathon. But just as one who participates in mountain climbing and running a marathon gets a certificate of appreciation even after putting in a little effort, walking on the path of God and following the religious precepts brings many benefits.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan has explained this elucidately in the Vachanamrit Granth, where he mentions that a person, even though he may be poor, but if he offers water, leaves, fruits, flowers to God with sincere faith, then God gets satisfied even with that; Because God is magnanimous, and is immediately pleased like a king, who rewards an entire village to someone who just composes a single verse in his honour. Moreover, if any person follows even the smallest of precepts laid down by God, then he is greatly benefited. Not only is God pleased, but the person who follows His precepts also stands to gain a lot.
Once upon a time some saints arrived at a small village. The devotees of the village and many other well intentioned folks also came to listen to their discourse every night. Finally, on the last day, a new aspirant, tired at the Mahatma's continued insistence, took a strange rule that he would eat only after having darshan of one potter devotee. The saints said nothing but told him to observe this rule with dedication. This aspirant was also pretty headstrong. He would unfailingly go for the darshan of the potter devotee every day. Once this potter went away from the village to dig for clay. As the new aspirant was hungry, he searched untiringly and finally reached the place where the potter was digging. On seeing the potter from a little distance, he said, 'I have seen.' At that time, while digging the soil, the potter unearthed a pot filled with 62000 gold coins. Hearing the new devotee say 'I have seen..', the potter felt frightful and thought that if he discloses this to the king, then the king will surely confiscate it. So the potter called the aspirant nearer and said, 'Hey bro! These coins belong to both of us equally, so take half of these and don't inform anyone.' The aspirant was pleasantly surprised. He took half of it and as he was walking towards his home, he thought that if following one simple rule is so beneficial then following more rules would be indeed very rewarding. And so, thinking thus, he became a staunch devotee of God.
Likewise, some saints were singing kirtans on the outskirts of a village. Hearing the melodious voice of the saints, four thieves came and sat in the assembly to listen to them. After the kirtan, the saints gave a discourse. Finally they insisted four thieves to take a vow. One of the thieves, who was a prankster took a vow that he will not eat any cart. After a few months, the four thieves were on the run after looting the king's treasure. On their way, they saw the temple of lord Shiva and went there to hide. At that temple, a devotee would offer a small cart of sugar to the Shivlinga everyday to fulfill his wish. Each day, after a few moments, a poisonous snake would come and take a bite from this cart. Hence the cart would be rendered poisonous. Unaware of this, the thieves who were hungry saw the sugar cart and decided to eat it. But the thief who had taken a vow, remembered his vow of not eating any cart and refused to eat. The three other thieves insisted that the vow was for not eating any iron or wooden cart. This is a sugar cart, so there was no harm in eating it. But the fourth thief remained steadfast in his vow. So the three other thieves ate the cart only to succumb instantly to its poison. The fourth thief went home with the money. Then he took the vow of not stealing and became a pious devotee.
In the scriptures, there is an abundance of religious precepts. Reading and listening to them, we feel that this is not something we can observe. Because every now and then it so happens that we land up breaking them. But there is no need to panic. Observe as much of it as possible. By following one small precept, we get the strength to follow many other, our confidence increases. It is a very exalted virtue to have an affinity to follow the religious precepts. Shri Krishna Bhagwan has said in the Gita that:
Swalpampyasya Dharmasya Trayate Mahato Mahat.
Even a little observance of the rules of Dharma protects us from great danger.
This article is written and submitted to The E Today by Sadhu Amrutvadandas. We thank swamiji for his research and analysis and hope to see the awareness about life and peace being spread ahead to larger mass of our citizens.