Thoughts travel in the dimension of time. You can think about past, present or future and you can spend hours contemplating about things that don’t matter. It won’t be tiring to you at all, it would just consume time. What an irony, thinking about time requires time. Life is measured not in days or months or years, it is measured in time. The words, ‘day’, ‘month’ ‘year’, ‘decade’ and ‘century’ are just synonyms of the word ‘time’. Creation needs time, destruction needs time, loving needs time, hating needs time, walking, eating, sleeping, observing, everything needs time, except death. It happens instantly and there is no time left. The dead are timeless.
Nature is a spendthrift. It gives us so much time to live, but we seldom do. Now, that I have began to think about it, I find it very true. Nature spends lavishly. It grows hundreds of fruits on one tree; thousands of seeds lay inside those hundreds of fruits. How many of all those seeds become trees? When you eat a fruit, do you plant every seed? Do you preserve every seed to sow it later? You know there will be more fruits, hence, more seeds. There are 400,000 eggs in a woman’s body at the time of birth. Why does nature provide a woman with 400,000 eggs when a woman does not menstruate more than 450 times in her entire life? A man releases 36 million sperms at one time. Why does nature allow it when only one sperm is needed for conception of a child? Nature is not afraid of spending at all because it is not interested in you or me, but because it is interested in itself. Nature has discovered a trick to survive death and what a beautiful trick it is. It is because of this trick that nature has become deathless. It will always remain alive in one form or another. It will always be. The trick is to let go of repetition. The trick is to be imperfect. The trick is to make mistakes and also looking for continuous improvement. If repetition occurs, perfection follows and there are no mistakes in perfection. In simple words, perfection is dull; there is no surprise in it.
I am reminded of a story that I read many years ago. It is a story about a man who lived in a kingdom at the foot of the mountains. He was obsessed by the thought of being the perfect, the greatest archer since childhood. His name does not matter, but what is a story without a name. Therefore, in my version of the story, I will call him Moorakh. It happened in Moorakh’s childhood that he read the epic of Mahabharata. Of all the events and happenings depicted in the epic, the one event that clung to him was that of Arjuna aiming to pierce the eye of the dead fish revolving over his head by looking at its reflection in a water bowl on the ground. Moorakh was so fascinated by this particular event that he longed to become an archer better than Arjuna.
Moorakh arranged for a bow and began practicing. He would practice his aim all day long and as the years passed; his hard work began to show unexpected results. He developed unmatched skill in archery. He aimed his arrows at the chirping of the birds sitting among the trees and pierced each bird without fail. Such talent was rare in the kingdom to go unnoticed. Soon, he began to receive invitations to perform for the leisure of the king. He carried out several other unbelievable feats. The most loved by the people of the kingdom was his feat of filling an empty cup with water by piercing a hole in the mud pot. The unbelievable part in this feat was that every time he pierced a hole, he managed to plug the same hole by shooting three arrows in the hole. The king was highly impressed by Moorakh’s talent and offered him to become the general of the king’s army.
Moorakh saw a golden chance of achieving the recognition he always yearned for. He put up a condition to the king. He asked the king to declare him the greatest archer ever. The king already had no doubt in the boy’s talent and accepted his condition. On the day of the swearing in ceremony, right at the moment when king was going to declare Moorakh the greatest archer ever, an old servant of the king said, “Wait, sire. I know a man who lives in the forest who never comes to the town. He is old but even then he is a greater archer than Moorakh.”
Everybody in the crowd was stunned at the foolishness of an old servant. The king laughed and ignored the old man to continue with the ceremony. The old man said again, “Let this young man go to him and learn from him for at least three years. He does not know what he is demanding. He is like a camel in the desert that has not yet come across a mountain. Real archers don’t live in the kingdoms; the real archers are in the mountains. I know one, and I know for certain that this man is nothing.”
If allowed, Moorakh would have filled the mouth of this old servant with arrows but he was standing among the greatest men of the kingdom. He thought for a moment and said, “O great king, I feel no fear to be competed against any archer in the world. But, to claim that there is one greater archer in the world than me is an insult. I demand this archer to be found and show his skill to us all. If he is such great archer, what is he doing in the mountain? Piercing clouds?” The crowd laughed hysterically. The king looked at the old servant, who looked the king in the eyes and just smiled. The king understood instantly what the old man meant. No doubt Moorakh was a great archer, but he had an ego greater than his talent, which had to be taken care of.
The king decided to send Moorakh to the archer of the mountains. Moorakh went. He could not believe that there could be a greater archer than him. But he found the old man and he was! The old man was such great master of bow that his arrows followed the path of the wind before hitting the desired target. Moorakh was amazed. He wanted to learn the art of making arrows to follow the wind. For one year he learned from the old archer. One day, he asked the old man if there was anything else for him to learn. The old man just smiled. Next morning, the old archer took Moorakh to the mountain peak and showed him the kingdom where Moorakh had come from. The old archer ordered Moorakh to shoot an arrow that would land right at the King’s feet.
“It is impossible to do so”, Moorakh said with astonishment.
“To an archer, nothing is impossible”, replied the old archer. Moorakh wanted to learn how to do it. The old archer said it would take another year to master this art. Not finding a way out, Moorakh decided to wait to learn the secret.
Another year passed and Moorakh learnt the secret of covering great distance in one shot with the help of wind. He was very confident that he had learnt everything that the old archer could teach him. He was getting impatient to go back to the king and declare his mastery over the old archer. But, the old archer said that it would take another year to complete his training. Moorakh became angry and an angry mind is the devil’s instrument. He decided to kill the old archer. This way, there would be no archer better than Moorakh in the kingdom. One evening, the old archer was collecting wood in the forest. Those who live among the nature, become naturally aware of the changes around them. Moorakh was hiding behind a tree, waiting to kill the old archer. At what he thought was an appropriate moment, he shot an arrow. Instantly, the old archer threw a piece of wood towards the direction of the arrow. The wood struck the arrow, the arrow cut the wood in two, one piece of the wood fell to the ground, deflecting the arrow in another direction and the second piece hit Moorakh in the abdomen and wounded him deeply.
The old archer mended Moorakh’s wound and said, “I knew this. I knew that some day or other you were going to do this. That’s why I did not teach you this secret. I kept it for myself.”
Moorakh was feeling very ashamed. Judging his emotions, the old archer said, “There is no need to kill me, I am not a competitor. But I want you to know that my Master is still alive, and I am nothing before him. If you want to meet him, you will have to go deeper into the mountains. He is a one hundred and twenty years old, but he is alive, and as long as he is alive, nobody can pretend and nobody should even think of declaring himself as the greatest archer. He can teach you things that no one else in the world can. He has such vast knowledge that you must be with him for at least thirty years. Only he can help you now. You have failed me, therefore I cannot teach you any further.”
Feeling very ashamed, Moorakh decided to heartily follow the old archer’s advice and he walked deep into the mountains. He was very desperate because it seemed to be impossible to become the greatest archer. Finally, he found the older archer. He looked very weak, frail, completely bent, he could not stand upright.
Moorakh was surprised. He wondered what the weak old man could actually teach him. He told him about the old archer and his will to become the greatest archer. And he asked, “Are you the old man who is the greatest archer?”
The old man said, “Yes.”
Moorakh was confused. The old man lived in a small cottage and there was no sign of any bow or arrow. He asked, “But where are your bow and arrows?”
The old man said, “Those are playthings. Real archers don’t need them once they have learned the art. They are just devices to learn; once you have learned, you throw them. Once you have learned, anything can be a bow or an arrow.” Moorakh got reminded of what the old archer had done to the arrow he shot at him to kill him. He remained silent. The older archer continued, “A great musician will throw his instruments because he has learned what music is. Learning how to carry the instrument is foolish, childish.”
Moorakh, unable and unwilling to understand the meaning of the old man’s words, simply nodded. The older archer sensed the curiosity in Moorakh’s mind and said, if you are really interested in becoming an archer, come with me.”
He took him to a precipice. A rock was there, stuck with the earth and overlooking a very deep valley. The older archer walked right to the edge of the rock. With a slight trembling he would topple down into the valley. He called Moorakh to come close to him. Moorakh started perspiring, he started trembling, and it was so dangerous to be there.
However, he walked towards the older archer. But, as he walked closer, the valley seemed to come right at him. He felt as he would lose balance and fall into it. At just two feet away he said, “I cannot come any closer.”
The older archer started laughing and said, “If you tremble so much with fear, how can you become an archer? Fear must disappear totally, with no trace left behind.”
Moorakh said, “But how can it be? Everyone is afraid of death.”
The older archer answered, “Drop the idea of death. Find someone who can teach you what a deathless life is and you will become the greatest archer, never before.”
Moorakh felt insulted. He felt angry as well. He wanted to push the old man into the valley, but he was scared to take a step further. The old man stood at the edge, perfectly still, as if reading each emotion in Moorakh’s eyes. Fear, confusion, irritation, anger, resolve and finally peace.
Moorakh fell down on his knees, his head bowed to the older archer. The older archer walked towards him, placed his hand on his head and said, “Now, that you have surrendered, we can learn archery.”
Knowing life is no different. Face your fears bravely. Surrender yourself to whatever is natural. Become fearless. Fear creates trembling, fear creates thinking and what is thinking other than inner trembling? Gaze into the valley of fear, death is an unknown fear, and to overcome it you have to become deathless. You have to become creative. Creatives never die. They live forever. Live through your fears and it will disappear like mist. Once fear disappears, sometimes even for a moment, you become deathless.