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18 Dec 2017

There is good in us all, even despite ourselves:

Renuka Narayanan, HT, Dec 17, 2017: As Christmas draws near, tales about the nature of God-love come to mind with renewed joy. There is no dearth of stories with immense spiritual and social value in the Bible. I particularly like the moving episode in the New Testament, Matthew 22:35 – 40, in which a lawyer asks Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’

Jesus tells him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.

These statements, the first of which echoes the Old Testament, are known as the two great commandments of Christianity.

They were uttered during Jesus’s third visit to the Jewish temple, Jesus himself being a Jew. This episode also contains other important points that Jesus made, such as paying taxes ungrudgingly to the state: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” as also the touching instance of the poor widow who offered God all that she had out of love and faith, which was two small copper coins.

I heard a parable recently that upheld the exact same sentiment of being focused on God “with all your mind”. The story goes that a thief in South India happened to pass by a temple where a crowd had gathered to hear a spiritual discourse by a well-known pauranikar or teller of religious stories.

Seeing all those festively turned-out people, the thief hoped to steal something and quietly found himself a place in the throng. As he waited, he heard the pauranikar lovingly describe Krishna’s earrings, armbands and necklace of precious gems, the navaratna mala. The thief, who had grown up neglected and never gone to a temple, was awestruck. He thought Krishna was a person somewhere nearby and yearned to steal his jewellery.

He asked people around him, ‘Where does Krishna live?’ They laughed and told him to ask the pauranikar. The thief waited until the discourse had ended and the old pauranikar emerged.

“Where does Krishna live?” asked the thief. “You can’t see him,” laughed the pauranikar. “You better tell me!” said the thief menacingly.

“Go north to a place called Vrindavan, you’ll find him there if you ask,” parried the pauranikar, looking to escape.

The thief made his way north with great difficulty, obsessed with finding Krishna. He thought of Krishna every step of the way to Vrindavan, where they nodded understandingly and sent him to the woods. And suddenly, he encountered Krishna looking just as the pauranikar had described.

Krishna spoke kindly to him and gave him some jewellery. The delighted thief made his way back and sought out the pauranikar to tell him of his success.

The pauranikar was shocked. “Lord, I’ve spent my life speaking about you,” he wept. “Why have you never favoured me with a glimpse?”

But he knew why. The thief, though intent on thieving, had thought of nothing but God, which had cleansed his heart and blessed him.

The views expressed are personal.

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