Surja worked very hard to support his young family. He would work all day mining for certain minerals. There were days when he would not find any and so could not earn any money to feed his family. They lived from day to day not knowing if they would be fed that day. Surja would nearly always come home late and consequently spent little time with his family. It was tough on him and his family who struggled as well. They lived in a poorly built house and did not have any good clothes to wear.
This family was a Sikh family. As such Surja once a month would go to
the main temple where the Guru Gobind (Sikh's tenth Guru) was resident
and pay his respects. This he always did in a hurry. He would come to the
temple bow and then leave so that he could get back to his mining in order
to feed his family. One day he came to the temple and saw the Guru was
conferring his blessings on the members of the congregation. Surja was about to depart when the Guru stopped him. The Guru
beckoned Surja to come to him.
Surja would have rather the Guru had not noticed him. However despite this he walked up to the Guru. The Guru said, 'I do not see you come here very often. How often do you come?' Surja replied, 'My Lord I have come here at least once a month for about twelve years.' The Guru said, 'When you do come you always seem to be in a hurry. You do not join the others who do their voluntary work. You do not help feed the congregation, you do not sweep up, you do not even try to listen to your Guru or for that matter ask to take your leave. Tell me why is this so?'
Surja said, 'My Lord I have to work all day so that I can feed my family. If I do not do this they will starve.' The Guru asked, 'Tell me what is your name?' Surja replied, ' I was called by another name but now everyone calls me Surja.' The Guru thought for a while. He thought this young man has been coming here to the temple for twelve years and has not learned one thing about God. What has been the point of his coming here. He has not listened to one word and so has not placed it in his heart. He does not realise that God will look after him and his family.
The Guru said, 'I would like you to stay here with me for a while and help out. I think it would be good if you stayed here for six months.' The Guru with his kindness and mercy was asking Surja to stay with him. Surja said, 'I'm sorry my lord but I cannot possibly do this. I have to go out and earn my living.'
The Guru relented and said, ' Do not worry about your family God will look after them. He looks after us all. Even before we are born he has set aside what we will receive in life. If you cannot manage six months then stay here for three months' Surja pleaded with the Guru, 'My Lord I have already said I do not have any spare time. Please do not ask me to stay.'
The Guru was not impressed by this so decided that he would teach Surja a more meaningful lesson and make an example of him. He said, 'So you cannot stay here with your Guru. You have to go out to earn your keep even at the expense of doing God's work. Well then perhaps you can at least deliver a letter for me.' Surja was already thinking of how much time had passed. It would soon be dark and his family had not eaten that day. However he felt relieved by this last request from the Guru. He replied, 'Yes my Lord this I can do for you.' So the Guru drafted a letter of command to be delivered to Pir Buddhu Shah. Surja took the letter and also took his leave from the Guru.
Before long Surja came to Pir Buddhu Shah's mansion. When Pir Buddhu Shah heard that Surja had brought a letter of command from the Guru he was elated. He took the letter placed it on his head then kissed it and put it on the floor and bowed to it. He did not even know the contents yet, but nonetheless was over the moon. In contrast to Surja he was grateful because the Guru had remembered his humble servant. The Pir (a Moslem Holyman) invited Surja in and said, 'Please come in so that I may serve you. What would you like to drink or eat?' Surja said that he was in a hurry but thanked the Pir anyway.
The Pir said, 'Well at least let me open the letter before you go.'
Surja agreed to this. The Pir opened the letter and read it.
It said,'I command you to stop the bearer of this letter from leaving your residence for at least six months.Whether he stays willingly or not use all necessary minimum force to keep him with you.' The Pir said , 'I cannot let you go. This is the Guru's command. For me this is the law. It is also my life.' Surja begged, screamed and cried for his freedom. He thought about his
poor family. How would they survive without him?
In the meantime the Guru spoke to a wealthy neighbour to Surja's family in a dream. He said to the rich man, 'Your neighbour's are my family. I want you to make sure that they are cared for and I will send them more means to support them.' The family now began to enjoy regular meals, wore new clothes and spent much of their time singing God's praises. They continued to live in their old house and were very happy.
One day it began to rain very heavily. The water streamed into the house. The rich man sent his servants to dig fresh earth out of the garden and repair the roof. As they did this they discovered a treasure chest which had been buried there ages ago. The chest was brought to the rich man who ordered that it be take to the neighbour's house. The rich man acconpanied them and said to the Surja's wife,' The Lord has sent this to you. There should no longer be anymore shortcomings for you.'
Six months has at last passed. Pir Buddhu Shah said to Surja, 'It is
time for you to leave if you wish. I urge you to go back to
the Guru and take his leave once more.' Surja was in no mood for this. He blamed the Guru for what had happened to him and blamed the Guru for the plight of his family. He said,"I'm not going back to the Guru this time. He will probably keep me for years at the temple.'
Surja rushed back to his home and saw a sight which confirmed his worst fears. The old house was no longer there. Instead there was large mansion. He thought that his family had been forced out and probably have starved to death. To his complete shock and surprise he suddenly saw his wife who was dressed in beautiful clothes come out of the house and walk towards him.
He ran up to her. She stopped and looked at him. She said,'Oh its you. Go back to wherever you have been! Since you left us you took our poverty with you. We have enjoyed life once more since you left us. Go and take your poverty with you.' Surja was amazed at the turn of events. He soon discovered how his family's fortune had changed so dramatically.
He then remembered the Guru words as tears streamed down his eyes, ' Do not worry about your family God will look after them. He looks after us all. Even before we are born he has set aside what we will receive in life.' Surja made his way back to the Temple at Anandpur and joined the congregation. This time he was not in a hurry. This time he wanted to stay and help with God's work. This time he had at last realised that God always fed and clothed his family and not him. The Ego, which tells a person that they must sustain their life by their own efforts had gone. Gone with it was the misery of poverty and limited horizons.
The Guru smiled at Surja and said wryly, 'Poor Surja do you not have to go to fend for your family today?' Surja did not budge. He sat singing God's praises and now no longer wanted to leave the Guru anymore.
Based on the posting by Anand Singh to the Merton-L Discussion Group.
Last updated: 2001/11/19