A young Brahmachari in India was very high-spirited and tended to be happy-go-lucky in carrying out tasks. The teacher warned him about it, but he found it difficult to change.
One day he said to the teacher: ‘Master, in the sermon the other day on karma, you said that if the karma supporting his present life had exhausted itself, a man would die.’
‘Yes, that is right’.
‘But suppose everyone took very great care of him, surely he could live just a little longer?’
‘No; if his span of life has come to an end, it will come to an end.’
‘And you said, teacher, that it applies not only to man but to everything.’
‘Yes; if a thing’s karma is to perish, it must perish.’
‘Well,’ said the boy, ‘I was dusting in the hall this morning, and that vase of Ganges water which you brought back from your pilgrimage, and which you were keeping on the shelf to use to sprinkle on the people at the New Year ceremony – its karma was to be broken and spilt, and it has been broken and spilt. It had to happen, because that was its karma; the karma that supported its existence had come to an end.’
‘Yes,’ replied the teacher, looking at him, ‘It had to happen because the karma that supported it had come to an end. If you had not been so careless dusting that shelf, it would have fallen over anyway; perhaps a monkey would have got into the hall, or there might have been one of those little earthquakes which we have from time to time. It would have happened, certainly. But it happened through you, so you are responsible. Your carelessness was the agent through which that karma manifested.
‘Now, we are going next week to see those wonderful caves at Ajanta, but as a token of repentance (you are repentant, aren’t you?) you had better not go. You can stay at home and meditate on carefulness.’
The boy’s face fell. They had all heard of the wonders of Ajanta.
‘However,’ continued the master, ‘you can think it over, and if by tomorrow afternoon you can give me one sound reason why you should not pay the penalty for your great carelessness, which will result in disappointment for a number of people, then you can go after all.’
The next day the Brahmachari said, ‘I cannot find any reason. I was at fault, and I have to accept the penalty, as the result of the bad karma I have created. It is right, I should not go.’
The teacher smiled. ‘I will give you a reason. It is true that you have been at fault. And your karma will impose a penalty on you. But there is no reason why I should be the agent through which that karmic result should manifest. You have accepted responsibility, and I can take this opportunity of exercising forgiveness: that will create good karma for both of us. Perhaps the good karma will be, that we shall both see Ajanta.’
© Trevor Leggett – The Vase