Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Story of Endurance

Already a celebrated polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton coordinated the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with the goal of accomplishing the first crossing of the Antarctic continent, a feat he considered to be the last great polar journey of the "Heroic Age of Exploration."

In December 1914, Shackleton set sail with his 27-man crew, many of whom, it is said, had responded to the following recruitment notice: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. —Ernest Shackleton."

Ice conditions were unusually harsh, and the wooden ship, which Shackleton had renamed Endurance after his family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus—"by endurance we conquer," became trapped in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. For 10 months, the Endurance drifted, locked within the ice, until the pressure crushed the ship. With meager food, clothing and shelter, Shackleton and his men were stranded on the ice floes, where they camped for five months.

When they had drifted to the northern edge of the pack, encountering open leads of water, the men sailed the three small lifeboats they'd salvaged to a bleak crag called Elephant Island. They were on land for the first time in 497 days; however, it was uninhabited and, due to its distance from shipping lanes, provided no hope for rescue.

Recognizing the severity of the physical and mental strains on his men, Shackleton and five others immediately set out to take the crew's rescue into their own hands. In a 22-foot lifeboat named the James Caird, they accomplished the impossible, surviving a 17-day, 800-mile journey through the world's worst seas to South Georgia Island, where a whaling station was located.

The six men landed on an uninhabited part of the island, however, so their last hope was to cross 26 miles of mountains and glaciers, considered impassable, to reach the whaling station on the other side. Starved, frostbitten and wearing rags, Shackleton and two others made the trek and, in August 1916, 21 months after the initial departure of the Endurance, Shackleton himself returned to rescue the men on Elephant Island. Although they'd withstood the most incredible hardship and privation, not one member of the 28-man crew was lost.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Farmer and The Archer

There was once a man who wanted to be the best at something and he chose archery.  He practiced and practiced until he could hit the bull's eye every time.  Soon he was champion of his village, then champion of his country and in time became champion of the country.

One day, after a competition, a young man approached the archery champion.  “You're very good,” said the man, “but I know someone even better.  He's a farmer... Would you like to meet him?”

The man led the archer to the farm and Nasseradin's courtyard.  There, the archer saw a high, wooden wall with over a hundred targets painted onto it.  At the very epicentre of every bull's eye was an arrow and the archer was impressed.

When the farmer came out to greet him, the archer said “Tell me, I've practiced my whole life to be as good as I can.  I can hit the bull's eye every time, but you not only hit the bull's eye, you hit it right in the very, very centre, a perfect shot each time.”

The farmer smiled. “Well, you do things your way,” he said, “and I do things mine. You see, first I fire the arrow, then I paint the target around it!”

- Author Unknown

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shipwrecked Prayers

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men aboard were able to swim to a nearby small, deserted island.

The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agreed that they had no recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first thing they both prayed for was food. The next morning the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land and was able to eat its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.
After a week, the first man was lonely and decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor, a woman, swam to his side of the island. On the other side of the island, nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, and more food. The next day, like magic, all these requests were fulfilled. However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings since none of his prayers had been answered.

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?" "My blessings are mine alone since I was the one who prayed for them,” the man answered. “My companions prayers were all unanswered, so he does not deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”

“Tell me,” the first man asked the voice, “what did he pray for that I now owe him for my success.”

“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”

For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our prayers alone but those of another praying for us.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Light of Life

Once there was a guru who wanted to train his two disciples by giving them a practical task, "Take 100 Rps each of you" he said "and use it to fill up your rooms with whatever you are able to purchase. In five days´ time I will return to inspect your work."

When he returned and visited the room of the first disciple, he saw it had been filled up with rags. That disciple had thought that by hook or by crook he had to, somehow or other, fill up the room, and since rags were the cheapest items to purchase, he had chosen them. The guru was duly shocked.
When the guru came to inspect the second room, he saw that it had been filled up - not only once, but twice and his disciple returned 80 Rps back to him and said, "Guru Maharaja, I only needed 20 Rps to fill the room twice."

He had lit a ghee lamp in the middle of room, along with an incense stick. Light and fragrance were spreading everywhere, from top to bottom, from left to right, from the front to the rear.

The delighted guru said, "You have truly understood. Life is very much like an empty room. It should be filled with the light of knowledge and the fragrance of service, and not with the discarded filthy things of this world."

- By Sacinandana Swami

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Why should I Read Sacred Sciptures?

An old farmer lived on his farm in the mountains with his young grandson. Each morning he got up early, sat at the kitchen table, and read the Torah. His grandson wanted to be just like his grandfather, so tried to emulate him in every way he could.

One day the grandson asked, “Grandpa, I try to read the writings just like you do, but I don’t understand most of it, and whatever I do understand I forget as soon as I close it. So what good is it doing me to read this old book?”

The grandfather, who was putting coal on the fire, quietly turned and said, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring me back a basket of water.”

The boy did as he was told, but the water leaked out before he could get the basket home.

The grandfather laughed and said, “You’ll have to move a little faster next time,” and he sent the boy back to the river to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket emptied before he was able to return home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket, and he went to get the bucket. But the old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You’re just not trying hard enough.” He stepped out the door to watch the boy try for the third time.

At this point the boy knew what he was trying to accomplish was impossible, so he decided to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got back to the house.

The boy dipped the basket into river and ran as hard as he could. When he reached his grandfather the basket was empty. He gasped, “See grandpa? It’s useless!”

“So you think it is useless?” the old man asked. “Then look at the basket.” The boy looked and saw for the first time that the basket was different. It had been washed clean of the dirty coal stains and was now clean inside and out.

“Grandson, that’s what happens when you read the Torah. You might not understand or remember everything you read, but the words will change you inside and out. That is the work of God's Word in our lives.”

- Original Author Unknown