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Lessons from Atish

When Atish Dipankar, a realised master from Nalanda University, reached Tibet, he instantly got royal patronage. Naturally, he had to face tremendous hostility from the jealous local monks.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2010 23:07 IST
MN Kundu

When Atish Dipankar, a realised master from Nalanda University, reached Tibet, he instantly got royal patronage. Naturally, he had to face tremendous hostility from the jealous local monks. They decided to learn his meditation secrets to prove that he was no better and sent a scholarly monk for this purpose.

As a compassionate Buddhist, Atish accepted him well and called for tea. When the teapot was brought, he started pouring. The cup became full but he continued to pour. The monk intervened, “What are you doing. The cup is full.” Atish replied, “So is your mind. How can you receive anything more unless you make it empty?” The monk promised to be receptive.

Atish advised, “No one can perfect in meditation without attaining perfection in work. Worship must follow work for service to humanity. Go to the kitchen and help.” The monk was not reluctant to work but he expected some dignified activity. But Atish was adamant, “No work is negligible. Do what I say and report your progress after seven days.” Finding no other way, the monk continued. After seven days, he expressed dissatisfaction but had to repeat it time and again.

The monk lost his patience and thought that Atish was simply playing a trick. He would never teach. So he must quit. Now Atish greeted him with a smile, “you are ready for higher lessons because of your aspiration. Listen carefully.” The unprepared monk wanted to write down. But Atish said, “My lessons are simple as truth is. Next seven days, don’t think of any monkey.”

After a week, Atish asked, “I hope you have not thought of any monkey these days? If so, the next lesson will follow.” The monk morosely replied, “Sorry, all these days I have always thought of monkey and nothing else.”

Atish said, “It is difficult indeed to control the mind. Meditation follows that. It is the last step of sadhana. You cannot reach the roof without climbing the stairs. It calls for self-purification and thereby withdrawal of mind from sense objects and thought waves.”