Vedantic Wednesday: Using Intellect?

This is a story of a thief called Ratnakar.

Living in the jungles needing to support his old parents, wife and children, Ratnakar took to stealing from innocent by passers of the jungle. Over some years his very name created tremors in the heart of even the bravest people of the neighbouring villages. One day Ratnakar’s destiny bought him in front of sage Narada. Brandishing the sharp knife at the sage, Ratnakar demanded the sage to part away with any valuables he may have on him. Narada smiled softly at the terrible thief and admonished him sternly for robbing innocent people. He embarked in his characteristic style to enumerate the sins that are associated with an activity like stealing. Ratnakar running out of patience told Narada that it was his duty to take care of his aging parents and family. As the provider of his family it falls upon him to see they are comfortable and hence stealing is not sinful and even if it is, the sins are also apportioned amongst his family members so is reduced in impact. Narada challenged Ratnakar to go and enquire from his parents and family if they would par-take the effects of the sins of thieving and if so how much?

After getting assurance from Narada that he would stay rooted to the spot till he would return, Ratnakar went back to ask his family members the question. Much to the frustration of the master thief, no family member was willing to share a part of the sins. His parents categorically state that as a son it was the duty of Ratnakar to provide for them. Any good or bad accumulated enroute was his concern. Similarly his son and wife also refused to take any part in sharing the sins of the thievery. A dejected Ratnakar approached Narada who then shows him the path of penance, a path to focus on lord Rama and move onto his higher calling. Mythology has it that this thief was not able to pronounce the word “Rama” and could only pronounce “Mara”. On advice of the sage Narada, Ratnakar goes on repeating “Mara-Mara” which over time becomes “Rama-Rama” The thief sets on his penance under a tree for days and years mindless of an Ant-hill that gets built around him in that very place. The Gods pleased with the penance then bless the man as ‘Val-miki’ – one who sits on an ant-hill.

Every time I hear this story it gives me Goosebumps! But today it has given rise to a set of thoughts that I wish to share with you

Every man has been bestowed upon by an intellect. As a human being we are expected to use the intellect and make choices. If we fail to use the intellect or use it make evil choices – both reduce human beings to the level of animals.  The above story elucidates this point aptly. Ratnakar just like any other human being failed to make the right choice and take relevant right action in the course of servicing his parents and family. But through the initiation on understanding by sage Narada – the same Ratnakar was able to take steps to become ‘Valmiki’. This was primarily because of higher level of realization and greater use of the intellect.

In our lives we are often faced with numerous points where choices have to be made. Very often we succumb to our desires, external influencers and selfish needs. All these are a fallout of the lack of using this powerful tool called the intellect, bestowed upon us by the creator. Much of the literature in Vedanta discusses ways and means by which human beings can realise the existence and power of this tool, and thereby understand their oneness with the greater truth.

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