Thursday, June 10, 2004

At Today's Mass -- Musings about the Story of a Prostitute and a Sage

During today's evening mass, I was enthralled to see my favorite Gospel reading of Matthew 5:20-26, where Jesus lays down some tough guidelines regarding personal morality. Especially, verse 20, "I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven," reminded me of this story told by Swami Ramakrishna Pramahansa. This is another case in point to my own conviction of how the Hindu Culture and Spirituality enables me to nourish my own Catholic faith.

There was a hermit who used to meditate under a tree that was opposite to a house that belonged to a prostitute. Whenever, a new customer visited the sinful lady's house, the hermit used to throw a stone to account for it. He had utter contempt for the lady's sinful life and soon the collection of stones constituted a mound. However, the prostitute always used to converse with God asking why she is not able to spend time in a good manner as that hermit who always ponders and meditates upon God!

One fine day, both the prostitute and the hermit died and the prostitute was taken to heaven whereas the hermit was taken to the hell. Irked by the sudden change of fortune, the hermit asked Lord Yama (similar to St. Peter in Catholic stories), "While that prostitute who was always leading an unclean life was taken to heaven, why is this the place that you have reserved for people like me who had always spent our time meditating on God and His works?" To that, Lord Yama said, "While you were supposedly meditating on God, you were merely accounting for that lady's sins; whereas, that lady while in the act of committing the sin of adultery everytime, she was in communion with God asking for pardon and an opportunity to reform her life. Her invocations were much superior in the eyes of God, than your hubris. Hence the change of destinies for each of you. You got what you deserved and she got what she deserved."

No comments: