A farmer and his grandson once lived in a cabin nestled in a mountain valley. They led a simple life tending sheep and a few goats. They took their cheese and wool to the village nearby and managed to bring back bread, vegetables and basic things needed for home. The boy loved his grandfather dearly and wanted to be just like him: strong, hardworking and kind to the animals.
Early in the morning before the birds began their song, the old man would sit at the oak table in the kitchen and read a few pages of the Bhagavad-gita*, his cherished book. This was his favourite time of the day.
Often the boy would watch and wonder why grandfather chose to read the same book again and again. Even the pages had thinned in the corners with thumb marks. One day when they were sitting by a brightly lit fire, the boy said, “Grandpa, I love doing things the way you do. I’ve been reading the Bhagavad-gita just as you do every day. But, I don’t understand it and whatever does make sense I forget as soon as I close the book. I don’t think there’s any point in carrying on reading, do you?”
The grandfather dropped a piece of coal in the fire which created a cheerful roar. He turned to the boy and said, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring it back filled with fresh water.”
The boy did as he was asked but was dismayed to see most of the water had seeped out of the basket by the time he reached the cabin. His grandfather only laughed. “You’ll have to move a little faster this time,” he said, as he gestured for the boy to try again.
This time the boy rushed back but was upset to see the basket empty as he reached home. Out of breath, he said he would use a bucket next time.
“But I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You’re just not trying hard enough my boy,” said grandfather. The wise man stepped onto the porch and watched after the boy who scurried away for the third time. Soon enough the boy and dripping basket were back from the river.
“It’s impossible, grandpa!” gasped the boy. “No point in this silly exercise, it’s pointless!”
“Really?” asked the old man. “Look at the basket.”
The boy looked into his wet basket for the first time and was startled to see how different it looked from usual. The soot and dark coal stains had been washed away from the weave that was now clean and visible.
“Do you see the clean basket lad? You did that with all the water. It looks good doesn’t it? The same happens when you read the Bhagavad-gita. Understand it or not, remember it or not, but the words will change you inside and clean your heart. That is Krishna’s hand in our lives.”
*The Bhagavad Gita is a 700-verse treatise that is part of the scriptural epic, The Mahabharat. Bhagavad Gita translates as Song of God and presents the conversation between God and Arjuna, a sincere disciple who suffers a crisis of conviction just as he is about to fight in a cataclysm battle.