beauty of suffering

‘The beauty of suffering makes life rich, strong and free’

Sadhu TL Vaswani sheds light on the power of suffering through the life and times of Krishna.

“This happened before his great revelation to Arjuna at Kurukshetra,” said Madhava.

At a small fair in a quiet little village, I saw him. They had come together—men, women, and children—from neighbouring hamlets: they had put on new clothes of different colours that day. In the crowd, there was one who easily attracted attention. He played upon the flute, and as I heard him, I opened the window of my heart to let in more and more of the melody of his song.

I wished to know all I could of this man with music in him. He was there, I learnt, not for the street-singer’s meagre reward: he was there for he loved the people. He lived, I learnt, in a little house on the roadside.

I called on him a day after the fair. In him, there was the soul of a child and the mind of a sage. His devotion was to his flute, which he played upon wonderfully in his house and in the street, the market and the field, on the hilltop and by the side of the stream. I called on him in the evening: he greeted me with glad remembrance. I was there, I said, to make his darshana and to hear him sing and speak to me.

I asked him what was the secret of the “greatness” of which men and nations were in such weary quest. “Greatness,” said the flute player, “is the mask put on by the petty-minded. If you, my child, would love, renounce greatness. Strive not to be great but to be a servant of humanity, a servant of all life.”

I asked how to him had come the knowledge of the One, how he had become a singer, a flute player, a worshipper of the beautiful.

“The way of service?” I asked. The flute player had travelled much. He had met many minds. He had meditated much on nature, its beauty, and grandeur, on life, its pain and strife, on history made by the broken dreams of God’s rebels, the dreams of truth and beauty and freedom disturbed, again and again by power and pride.

The flute player paused for a few moments, then said, “As to the way of service, the one thing to do is to unveil illusions. Each age has its illusions and what is called progress is often a climb from illusion to illusion. The other-world illusion has played its part in human life. Yet another is the illusion of civilisation.”

Proceeding further, the flute player said, “To unveil illusions is to see the beautiful, is to behold the atman, the spirit within. Money, fame, titles, power, utilities are sought by men who have not the vision that grows out of gyana, knowledge. Do you see the beautiful in the struggles and conflicts of your life? If not, you have not learnt to tread the path of service.”

I asked how to him had come the knowledge of the One, how he had become a singer, a flute player, a worshipper of the beautiful. Then he told me how sorrow had entered into his heart and sorrow had turned into a song. Note after note of sorrow was sounded by his flute. At its heart was the yearning of one who loved nature and life and sang to peasants and labourers and the poor village-folk the song which ravished their hearts. Out of his sorrow he had built his art. In the dark waters of sorrow had he seen the beauty that is God.

And before I took leave of him, he played upon his flute sounding through it notes of the strangest beauty. And when I asked him what they meant, he looked into my eyes and said, “Follow where the flute is leading: for ‘tis the beauty of suffering that makes life rich and strong and free in this bitter world of hate and strife.”


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