WORLD OF LITTLE GODS
Christ started walking along the 79th Park Avenue, lost in His heavenly thoughts. People were passing by, grinning and passing remarks, "Nice getup, buddy! Just got out of studio?" and so on.
The priest, Matthew Walter, was keenly following him, trying to remain as close to him as he could, in the hustle and bustle of the New York streets. "May God nobody hurt him again!" he murmured to himself. The word 'again' was uttered with a sense of pain.
"What is this, my friend?" Christ asked a street vendor, pointing to a bar of chocolate.
"Get lost, you pauper!" shouted the young vendor, with his headphones over his ears.
"God bless you!" smiled Christ and moved on.
Matthew Walter approached the vendor and bought two bars of chocolate and continued his pursuit.
Whole day he followed Lord Jesus Christ, but he was unable to have a word with Him, for the moment he caught up with Him, suddenly, he felt as if a force was trying to hold his tongue. The bars of chocolate were still clenched in his sweating hand. It was the month of July, and the heat was intolerable.
Matthew remembered his country church where eight orphan kids would be waiting for him. He had come to New York to buy new clothes for the poor children. His wife Elda had reminded him many times before his departure that he had to come back before it was too late. It was just 1:00 pm, and he had a lot of time before the departure of the last train at 8:00 pm.
At one place, Jesus stopped and sat down on the steps of a large building. A security personal came out shouting,"Hey, you joker! What are you sitting here for?"
"Can you give me some water, my friend?" smiled Jesus, looking in his eyes.
"Get lost, you beggar! This is not a charity! You will have to buy water here", the guard yelled at him and pulled His arm to raise him from the steps of the building.
Matthew Walter was watching all this with his moist eyes. He wanted to go near Jesus and help Him but an invisible force bound his feet. May be, Lord himself wanted him to stay away. It was quite strange that people were pushing Him and making fun of Him but he could not even go near the Lord. Matthew thought, perhaps, it was Lord's way of presenting Himself.
The pursuit continued for hours but, ultimately, the priest lost Him in the crowd. Finally, he decided to go to the store to buy the clothes for his dependants. It was nearing 6:00 pm, and the last train to his village was to depart at 8:00 pm.
In the shop he hurriedly bought the goods and rushed towards the station. He wanted to tell his wife about everything. How much surprised she would be. Would she believe him if he told her that he had met Lord Jesus Christ.
When Matthew reached home, it was ten minutes to midnight. In spite of having brought all the things as he had been advised by his wife, his steps felt heavy while walking through the gate of his church.
Matthew and his wife lived with the orphans in a small cottage behind the church. It was their small heaven. Though childless, the couple found their happiness among the orphan kids which were brought to their church from various parts of the country.
When he stepped into his room, he faltered at the threshold for a second because he saw Jesus playing with the little kids in his room.
"He is a poor man who has no place to spend the night, so I gave him shelter for the night in our church," his wife whispered in his ear.
Before he could tell her how wrong she was and the poor man was the Lord for whom the church had been established, she continued, "He seems to have some kind of mental illness because he calls himself Jesus".
Matthew was ashamed and bewildered. He had no words in his mouth. He knew that it would be impossible to convince her that the man playing with the kids was Lord Jesus Christ. Somehow, rallying courage, he addressed to the Lord," Lord, may I ask you a question?"
"Yes, my son," smiled Jesus.
"Why have you come to my poor house?" Matthew asked timidly. He had his hands folded toward Jesus.
Lord answered, "People don't want me out there. They are ignorant and innocent.
They laugh at me and push me around. I forgive you. Matthew, I am hungry. Won't you give me the chocolates which you have bought for me?"
The priest stammered, and pulled the chocolates out of his pocket, with shaking hands. He very respectfully passed those chocolates to the Lord. He had no courage left to meet Lord's eyes.
Jesus gave those chocolates to the kids and began to play with them.
Next morning, the new spread like a jungle fire that an impostor had entered the church and he called himself Jesus. People began to gather outside Priest's cottage. They began to shout," Send the impostor out! Hand him over to us!"
Matthew did not know what to do. He took the Lord to the back door and told Him to run away. Jesus smiled and said," This is not the first time I am facing the ire of the people. They are ignorant. It is not their fault. Don't worry; they will go away after some time.
Matthew came out of the house and he persuaded the people to stop shouting and told them to go back.
When he reentered his room, there was no trace of Jesus.
Next morning, he left the church with his wife and the orphan kids. To his wife he said," The church where Jesus is not welcome can not be the place of worship. They can sell His faith, earn through His faith, teach the faith, worship the faith, but when He comes before them, they call Him and impostor!" Matthew began to weep like a child. His wife could not understand what had happened to him.
Do you really think that the materialism has overpowered spiritualism?
The tick-tock of the wall clock, in the study, as if not ready to fall behind, kept a harmonious rhythm with John's heart-beat, during his walk to and fro. John Christopher did seem to be in a dilemma, as reflected on the contracted skin of his forehead. The ultimate step, emanating from the lingering duality, whether he could leave his wife and son, was being delayed, perhaps, due to the realization that he loved them more than anything else in the world.
John had read many times that Lord Buddha had renounced all the worldly pleasures. This belief had made him strong enough to come out of the situation in which the family ties endeavored to confine him."The Enlightenment! The Enlightenment!" The Buddha in him was about to burst forth. Moreover, what else remained there to be seen in life? Hadn't he had his share of life, with all that money, the girls, rich materialistic achievements?
It was about eight years before he had been to Nepal, the land of peace and beauty, teeming with splendors of Mother Nature. How delightful experience it had been to be away , for the first time , from all those familiar surroundings in New York and the American place of life, which in a country like Nepal had made him feel as if he had entered an entirely new world. For somebody else it would have been a trip to unthinkable backward place, but John felt that materialistic prosperity brings spiritual bankruptcy along. The attraction towards that scenic kingdom was irresistible.
The year was 1972, when he reached Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha. It was a long exhausting bus journey from Kathmandu. John had no idea what he was going to do in Lumbini. It was like drifting into a remote past. The first night in a small but cozy lodge in Lumbini was a nightmare, full of hallucinations. Nevertheless, he seemed to be quite at peace with himself the next morning when the first rays of light brought the chanting of the Buddhist mantras along.
Born in a very wealthy family, John Christopher had spent his childhood with all the advantages of a luxurious life, under the care of his loving father, a tycoon in the American automobile industry. Motherless at the age of ten, John had the recollection of those painful agonizing days when his mother was on her deathbed, but, in spite of the best medical attention, she could not be saved, and was not able to see her son grow beyond the age of ten years.
After his mother's death, his father decided to send him to a boarding school in Washington. During the holidays, his father would visit him and they would go for outings. Though his father never let John feel that he was a neglected child, John, gradually, drifted away from his father on emotional level. When he was fifteen, his father gifted him a geared bike, and after his graduation, he was presented his first sports car. It was altogether a new world for young John. He turned out to be a typical American boy, who loved fast cars, giggly girls and drinks.
Having come back to New York, he insisted on having a separate apartment, away from his father's luxurious villa. But he decided to enter his father's business. John's father had many showrooms all over the country. It provided John many opportunities of traveling around. The father was not less pleased to have his son beside. The Jaguars, Ferraris, Datsuns, Toyotas, etc. had always enchanted John.
In the third year, John met a girl named Florence, a tall blond, with dreamy blue eyes. She was a waitress in a nearby restaurant at Park Avenue. John often visited the place whenever he used to be in his New York office. It was a comfortable small restaurant near ABN bank. Born of an Italian mother and an American father, Florence was beautiful enough to turn many heads when she walked along the street.
Introduction to offering of a drink led to a date one evening, to be followed by many repetitions, to ultimately culminate in the bed, in John's apartment, which stood witness to the promises made between John and Florence, on the seventh occasion of the dating. His father, though having cherished a desire to see a pure American girl as his daughter-in-law, and not a common half American girl, perhaps subdued by the fact that the boy had spent most of his childhood without his mother, concealed his dislike and arranged a grand party on the occasion of their marriage. John was twenty three and Florence nineteen at the time of their marriage.
The happy married life lasted for two years, and in the second year, Florence gave birth to a boy. For John it was a very proud feeling to be a father. When their son, Jimmy, was about one year old, John convinced his father to establish a manufacturing unit of their own to produce automobile parts. So the plan was approved and a factory was set up in Detroit. Now, owing to the expansion of the business, John was obliged to spend fair amount of time away from home.
One morning, at the breakfast table, Florence said, "I think, your son needs you at this stage. He is almost one year old."
"I am well aware of all that, my sweetie," smiled John, munching the last piece of the toast.
"As you wish, Dad," said Florence and moved onto the adjacent room.
"I will be late tonight".
"Nothing surprising, dear," Florence gave a faint smile.
Her smile rather irritated him, for he was well aware of her sarcastic ways of putting forward her annoyance and anger, typical Italian.
"Bye, darling, "said he, and kissing her on her lips, quickly strode out of the room.
The woman inside Florence very patiently resisted the emotion of shouting at once. During last six months, John had spent many days out of station. She did try to convince and console herself about the loyalty of her husband, but the grudge against the unseen hypothetical female rival, which is often there in the mind of a wife whose husband spends nights away from his own nest, troubled her time and again.
Loneliness and a kind of neglect she did feel at home, for John was so busy that he hardly had time to revive the glorious moments of lovers of the past. This led to a unwanted habit of drinking. And sometimes, she would start drinking as early as 10 o'clock. The solitude, brought to her in John's absence was killing her. With the progression of time, her new pastime, drinks, transformed into a habit, and she didn't even realize that she had become an alcoholic. Jimmy, her son, used to be under the care of his baby-sitter, most of the time.
It was about a year and a half after the new unit had been started. One night, drunk and angry, she shouted at John. John, however he tried to convince her, could not make her realize that the new business demanded his presence at many places. He was compelled to visit different towns to promote the products of their company.
John decided to cancel all his business assignments for one week so that he could be with his wife and son. But no sooner had he resumed his work than the abuses began to be hurled at him by Florence in the evenings. This often happened when he returned from an out of station trip. But for the patience in John, their marriage would have ended in the fifth year. Up to the best of his endurance, he endeavored to keep himself dispassionate and, very patiently, he sustained the insulting remarks of his wife.
One night, the quarrel exceeded all limits and crossed the boundary of all the civility. He was in the living room, with a newspaper in his hand. Florence was in the bathroom. He had just come back from a long journey to Nevada. Suddenly, the bathroom door opened and belligerent voice of his wife was heard.
"Got fed up with all those whores you have been seeping with?" She was stone drunk.
"I have come back from a business trip," he remonstrated.
"Business! You call it a business, leaving your wife and son behind for weeks and months, without ever thinking that we are humans too!"She screamed, with her vibrant body trembling behind the pink nightgown she had on.
"That's enough, Florence!" shouted John, trying to control the pitch of his tone.
"Why do you come back? Go! Get out!" she was not herself, and before John could realize what was going to happen, she hurled the glass tumbler, which she had in her hand, at John. He had no chance to avoid that throw, and it struck him on his forehead. The glass dropped onto the floor and shattered. The hit was quite powerful enough to make a wide gaping cut on his forehead. Before long his shirt was drenched in his own blood.
Florence stood there, almost speechless, with her eyes wide open with amazement. She tried to take a step toward John, but, without looking at her, he began to pace toward the outer door leading to the passage. Once outside the house, he got in his car and accelerated it, leaving behind a loud screech and dark marks of the burnt rubber on the cemented porch. He was unable to consign his misery to anybody except his father. How much he yearned to revive that comely ambiance of the family life which had prevailed everywhere in his house before he had started the manufacturing unit.
Next morning, when he opened his eyes in his father's bedroom, in his father's house, he had a bandage around his head. He could feel the swollen portion on his forehead, under the medicated cotton pad. Florence had rung up several times but the maid, as instructed by John, didn't tell Florence anything about John. He stayed in his father's house for two days, and on the third morning, he was aboard an airbus flying to Kathmandu. He had realized that he needed a few days away from home and office. He had simply walked into the office of a travel agency and asked for a month long tour to any Asian country, beginning that week. He wanted peace and the surroundings which could, for a few days, keep him alien to the New York life.
The nearest tour was to Nepal. This is how he started his journey to the land of Gautama Buddha, the divine sage. Through the in-flight magazines, he gathered a little information about the mountainous country, Nepal.
John got lost in the relics of the past. In the evenings, he would sit with some Buddhist monks at a monastery and learn about the life of Lord Buddha. Everything around fascinated him It was altogether a divine experience to him. Whatever he learned from the monks made him susceptible as to the Catholic past of his life. Nothing but search for truth seemed to be there in Buddha's life-no mention of punishment, hell, fires, etc. His Americanism seemed to be endeavoring to be resilient, as if ashamed to demonstrate the real John.
He spent well over a month in Lumbini, trying to get every bit of insight into Gautama Buddha's life. He never worried about his wife and his son, for he knew that his father would tell her that John had gone on a business trip to Nepal.
Now, after eight years, he was recollecting all those events. Having come back to America, he found that he was a transformed man. All through those eight years, though being involved in business and the family life, trying to be patient with his wife, he had kept himself like a recluse who answered when he was spoken to. Florence had been nice to him, and her doubts had been resolved through inquiries about her husband's extra marital affairs came to nothing. He had come out as a divine figure to him. Her changed demeanor had convinced John that she was passing through a hellish period of repentance, full of guilt. However nice and good looking she tried to be, she failed to attract John to revive their physical relation.
On the other hand, John, after his return, began to concentrate less on his business. The manager had informed Senior Christopher that John was being dangerously gracious to their buyers. It was not in favor of their business. All the same, John would lock himself in his study and submerge himself in the study of the thick books which he had collected indiscriminately, at an amazing speed, after his return from Nepal.
He was like a drowning man clutching at every spar. John, as if, desired to reveal the Buddha in his existence. For hours at end, he would be squatting in a lotus position, with his eyes closed and palms turned upward on his knees. Though Florence had calmly accepted the change, she was more frightened than confused because she had presentiments which did not seem to be in favor of their family life.
John was practicing renunciation, and he wanted to alienate himself from the material world. Hadn't Lord Buddha gone through this stage in his life? Hadn't He done penance? Otherwise, how He could have got the supreme knowledge. Sometimes, John would stand in front of the mirror and make various promises to himself. He would repeat the oath to continue his penance for the enlightenment. Hadn't Emperor Asoka renounced his Empire and become a monk?
Now, the moment of the decision had come. He had been struggling with his conscience for so many days. He did want to follow the great masters, the great sages, the great teachers, the Gurus, who had spent the greater parts of their lives being wanderers in search of truth.
As John stepped out of the study, he heard his son's voice. He was playing with Florence. So what? Even Prince Siddhartha (Gautama Buddha) had left his wife and son behind. "I have to do it! I have to do it!" Whispered John.
Suddenly, he heard Seeger's voice on the recorder in his wife's bedroom-"We shall overcome......we shall ..... "His wife and son were also singing.
"What is to be overcome?" thought John. He entered his study once again and sprawled on the sofa.
"What do I want to achieve? What do I want to learn - love, truthfulness, peace, brotherhood, faith, patience, nonviolence, loyalty, or what?" said John to himself.
"Am I right in doing so? Leaving my family? All the great masters have said the same thing but made them great? It was the new knowledge disclosed by them to the majority of the ignorant people at that time. But now, even a school boy knows about all these things which were named divine revelations of the past. He seemed to be quite confused. He got to his feet and moved toward the book-shelves. He picked up "The Bhagvat Gita" and began to concentrate on the verses in front of his eyes. It was, by this time, a habit of his to begin to read Gita when he felt confused.
Suddenly, a verse attracted his attention:
(Chapter v: verse 24)
"He, who finds happiness within, his joy within, and likewise his light within, is the Yogi who becomes divine and attains to the beatitude of God (Brahma nirvana).
John read the line several times, and suddenly his face began to beam. He laughed aloud. "I have got it! I have got it!" He was jumping and shouting all over the house. The ecstasy of the moments was more than that felt by John during the happy time. It was like Archimedes shouting, "Eureka! Eureka!" after his discovery.
Florence and Jimmy stood in the hall, with their eyes wide open, but a tinge of joy and amusement could be seen on their faces. John came to Florence and embraced her tightly. He bent down and kissed his son on both of his cheeks. The house, as if, had come alive after all those years of silence. He picked up the telephone and dialed his personal secretary. Without waiting to accept her greetings, John said," Hello, Jeanie, we will be discussing the new project tomorrow. We have to finalize it tomorrow only because the day after tomorrow, I am leaving for Nepal, of course with family. It will be a month long trip". And before he could get any reply, he put the receiver down.