On the banks of river Sarayu, in the small village of Chitrakoot, farmer Dhaniram worked hard in the fields to produce a harvest that fulfilled his family needs and also that of some others who came to him for help. In his many years of hardships, he had seen spoiled harvests, sometimes diseases infesting the crops, sometimes pests and hailstorms and sometimes a bountiful harvest. He had been through all the ups and downs of farming and held his skill of farming dear to his heart despite being tired of it.
One day he was passing by the village temple where he saw the temple priest Nakulananda humming a bhajan and moving around joyously in a carefree manner. He stopped and observed him carefully, then went closer and curiously asked, “Hey Nakula, how do you manage to be so joyous and carefree. I have never known such a state; I am either working hard in the fields or worried about my crops. Please share your secret of joy so that I can also benefit.”
The priest cheerfully replied, “It is no secret, I just worship my God and he takes care of all my work. It is so simple!”
Dhaniram was amazed on hearing this, and said: “Ah! You are so lucky. If you don’t mind, can I borrow your God for few days?”
Now this was a strange question for Nakulananda. No one had ever asked him such a question, and he was not prepared for it. None of the scriptures he had read had instructions on how to loan a God! This was such an odd question, how to answer it! Moreover what would a temple without an idol be like? All this thoughts flooded his mind in that instant and his joyous face turned into a worried face that moment. Seeing him worry, Dhaniram was puzzled and asked, “What happened, don’t you want the people in the village to be as joyous as you?”
Nakulananda reverted in defence, “No, you cannot take the God of this temple, but to keep you happy, I will give you a new God.”
The priest was unsure about the results of giving this ‘God’ to Dhaniram so he added, “But only if you worship Him properly will he take care of you.”
Dhaniram was happy at the prospect of getting God at last, and said, “Don’t you worry I shall worship to the best of my ability.”
Nakulananda went inside and picked up a stone that he used as a paper-weight and gave it to Dhaniram saying, “See here is your God, now it’s all between you and Him.”
Dhaniram was overjoyed, he thanked the priest for his gift and hurried back home. He called on his wife, and exclaimed, “See I have brought God home! Now all our worries will go away.”
His wife was a bit puzzled and asked: “Where?”
He showed her the stone that the priest had given him. She thought that the priest had fooled her naive husband but didn’t want to interrupt his stream of joy, so just smiled at him.
Dhaniram then asked her to bring food for God, as he would have food only after feeding God. He bathed the stone while his wife brought food. He was overjoyed at the idea that God would eat food from his hands. Dhaniram was so simple; he never thought that a stone could not eat. In fact, he never believed he brought home a stone, all that he knew was he brought God home. He offered the food lovingly to the stone. But the stone won’t eat. He was disappointed, but then thought “I must pray Him to eat. The priest had said to worship properly.”
So he folded his hands, bowed before the stone and pleaded to eat. Nothing happened. He then thought, “Nakulanada sings bhajans, maybe God will be pleased by it. I must sing to please Him.”
He sang for the first time in his life. He could feel his voice was coarse. The stone still not ate the food offered.
Dhaniram felt, probably God is feeling uncomfortable in this hut, I should arrange a better seating arrangement to please Him. He went out to get some fine cloth and decorations to prepare a seat suitable for God. The whole day was spent in preparing a decorative seat, after which Dhaniram was so tired that he didn’t know when he fell asleep. He went without food that day.
Next morning he woke up and saw that God had still not eaten the food. He bathed the stone and dressed it in the new clothes he had brought for ‘his God’, seated Him on the decorated seat, burnt some essence, offered some flowers and fruits and tried singing a bhajan to appease Him. All this to no avail, he kept calling upon God from morning to night but God still did not eat the food offered. Three days passed like this. Dhaniram tried his best to please God, but He would not accept his food. Three days Dhaniram too went without food. His wife was worried for him. She pleaded him to have food, but he refused and said until God accepts my offering, I will not eat.
An old beggar came to their house that day and asked for something to eat. Dhaniram’s wife told the beggar that her husband had not eaten since three days, and unless he had his food how could she offer him food. The beggar asked her why he had not eaten; and she told him the whole story. He then asked to see Dhaniram. She took him inside where Dhaniram was pleading his God to eat. The beggar went over to the altar where Dhaniram had placed his God. He kicked the ornately adorned stone and in his tattered rags, seated himself on the altar. Dhaniram was in a state of shock. For a moment he wanted to scold the beggar for kicking down his God, but then he lovingly picked up the food and fed the beggar with his own hands. He wept tears of joy as he did so. The beggar hugged him, fed the remaining food to Dhaniram and said, “Now that you have fed me, can we go to the fields.”
Dhaniram realised that the one he was trying to propitiate was not the real one. That was only a medium to beckon the real. And the one who was real, needed no appeasement.
Later when he returned, his wife asked him “This beggar threw away your idol and you still fed him?”
“I was angry only for a moment when he kicked my idol, but then I thought, if the feeling to feed God was not within me I could not have fed him either in stone or human form. But the feeling to feed him was strong enough that it didn’t matter what form He came in”, replied Dhaniram, with a never before smile. And he walked towards the temple to return the borrowed God. He had found his own now!
Author: Jyoti Jain