A young Brahmin, in search of knowledge, became the disciple of a learned sage. It so happened that the sage was away when the sage’s wife was in labour. The loyal disciple took guard outside the door and prayed that all would go well with the delivery. Just then a beautiful being appeared near the door and tried to open it, but was stopped by the disciple. “How dare you,” he said angrily. “My guru’s wife is in labour in there”. The being responded that he was none other than Brahma, whose job it was to write their fates on the forehead of babies as they entered the world. The disciple let him in on condition that he would let him know what the fate of the newborn would be. On his return Brahma told him that the baby would lead a life of poverty and hard labour and his only possessions would be a sack of rice and a buffalo.
The disciple was aghast but there was nothing Brahma could do either – for the fate was the outcome of past karma.
A few years later, the scenario replayed itself. Again the sage was away while his wife was in labour; again, the disciple stood watch outside the door; again Brahma appeared and was opportuned by the disciple to be told the newborn’s fate. This time the news was even worse. The beautiful little newborn girl would be a common prostitute. The disciple reeled back in shock. The daughter of the holiest of gurus to be meted this fate! The thought hurt him unbearably.
A few years later, the disciple respectfully took leave of the guru and his family to wander among the Himalayas and to increase his sadhana.
Twenty years passed. The disciple had often thought of the guru and dwelt sadly on the fate that Brahma’s stylus had imprinted on the forehead of his children. He made his way back to the guru’s place. To his grief, both the guru and his wife were dead. And the local villagers told him that the predicted fate had indeed visited both the children.
He went first to the son who was a coolie living in wretched conditions. He said, “I am your father’s disciple and I only have your welfare at heart. Do what I tell you and your problems will come to an end.” The disciple told the coolie to sell his sack of rice and the buffalo and to use the money on a splendid feast for his family. He was to spend the rest of the money on feeding the poor and sadhus. He was not to leave even one morsel of rice or one paisa for the next day. The coolie trembled with fear but the disciple’s wise and compassionate face convinced him that he had his interests at heart. He did what he was told and treated his family and all the poor people in the village to a delicious feast morning and night. Fearfully, he went to sleep and what was his delight when he saw a sack of rice and a buffalo outside his door the next day!
The disciple told him to follow this routine and never to keep any money for the next day or his good fortune would come to an end. Joyously, the coolie agreed.
Then he went in search of the daughter who indeed had become a prostitute. She readily agreed to do what the disciple told her for she was deeply ashamed of her life and wanted to be free of it. “Don’t let anyone in unless he brings a string of the finest pearls.” It was a poor village, so naturally all her suitors turned away indignantly when she stated her terms. Around midnight, a luminous man came to her with the pearls. It was Brahma himself, for her fate had to be realised so if no one else came then he himself had to go. Joyously, she went to the disciple with the news. Smiling happily, he admonished her, “Henceforth consider him to be your husband. No one else must touch you. Sell the pearls, use the money for your food and clothing and give the rest to the poor and sadhus”. Nothing must be kept for the next day, she was told. The girl kept to her side of the bargain and day after day her divine suitor brought her a string of pearls.
One night as the disciple was dwelling gladly on the change in the lives of his beloved guru’s children, Brahma accosted him. “You clever fellow. Your tricks are causing me to go every night with a buffalo and a sack of rice to that coolie’s house and then to his sister’s house with a string of pearls. I am worn out.” “There is a way out,” the disciple said, “Give the children a decent life and you are free.” Outwitted, Brahma gave in and changed the destiny of the guru’s children.
Source: Tamil folklore
This story entrances me for several reasons. The first is the touching loyalty and love that the disciple had for his guru and by transference for his children. It warms the cockles of my heart when I think of it. The second is the amazing wisdom the story contains. What is destined for you will come to you. Never worry. Live in the moment. I love the fact that the entire success of the strategy revolved around the fact that they were not to save for the next day. It challenges the whole concept of security. Live for the day, give generously to those less privileged and to renunciates and you will be provided for as per the dictates of your fate. How many of us have the courage to do this?
Thirdly, if we do penance for our karma we can change our destiny. By giving to the poor and to the sadhus, and in the case of the girl by practising chastity and fidelity, the children worked out their karma and that is why Brahma rewrote their destiny. This reinforces my deepest conviction. We can rewrite our fates if we take corrective action, and have faith.
Extract from More Teaching stories : Small stories, big truthsSelected and interpreted by Jamuna Rangachari, Illustrations by Pankuj Parashar