There’s a story about a guru who made a strange request of three of his disciples. “I will give each of you a banana. I want you to find a place where no one is watching, and then eat your banana. Come back to me as soon as you have completed your task.”
The first man quickly left the ashram by the back door. Going behind the surrounding wall, he glanced furtively over his shoulder and saw no one. “I’m alone here and safe from all observing eyes,” he thought. He hurriedly ate his banana and made his way back to his guru in a very short period of time.
“I’ve done as you asked, Master,” he happily reported.
“Very good, my child,” the guru replied. “Now, let’s wait for the others to return.
The next person was a little more cautious. He thought, “There’s always someone watching you around the ashram. I’m going to the outskirts of the nearby jungle where I’m sure I’ll be alone. Then I’ll eat my banana.”
It took him much longer than the first man to reach his destination, but as he entered the jungle, he was sure he was unobserved. He quickly ate his banana, and returned triumphantly to the ashram several hours later.
The guru greeted him warmly, saying, “You have done well, my son. Now let’s wait for the third disciple to return.”
They waited and waited. The hours slipped by, and day eventually turned to night. The night also passed, and finally at dawn the third disciple returned looking defeated and weary.
“I’m sorry, Guruji, I have failed you,” he said. “First I stayed near the ashram, but I couldn’t eat my banana because I felt that someone was always watching me. Then I walked to the outskirts of the jungle thinking no one would see me there, but still I felt that I was being observed. Finally, I went deep into the heart of the jungle where the growth was so thick that it was almost impenetrable. I felt that surely I was alone there and started to eat my banana, but stopped, because l felt there was some presence viewing me.”
“Will you forgive me, Master?” he said sorrowfully. “Here is your banana back. I have failed your test.”
The guru smiled lovingly at his disciple. “My child,” he said, “you are the only one who passed the test. You alone realized that there is ever a Watchful Presence with us: it is our beloved Lord.” He blessed the disciple, who was granted a vision of the Divine Omnipresence.
So often we feel alone, unsupported, or unloved by an indifferent universe. We need reminders to show us that we are never alone, but are ever embraced by a loving, benevolent God. Recently I received two letters that helped me remember this reassuring reality.
First, a friend shared a story about the British explorer and mystic, Sir Francis Younghusband. At one point during his explorations in colonial India, he and a small party made their way into Tibet. One evening, Younghusband left camp and went alone into the mountains. He later wrote: “I was free to let my soul relax. I let it open itself out without restraint . . . in its sensitive state it was receptive of the finest impressions . . . And my experience was this — I had a curious sense of being literally in love with the world. I felt as if I could hardly contain myself for the love which was bursting within me. It seemed to me as if the world itself were nothing but love . . . I seemed in tune with all the world, and all the world seemed in tune with me.”
Blessed with reminders such as these, let us never forget that, even in the darkest moments, we are never alone.
With a grateful heart,
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