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Strange Memorial Stones

One Bramin was passing through hard times. He found it difficult to survive and maintain his family in his own village. So he decided to look for a prosperous place to resettle. During his search he arrived at the outskirts of a very pious-looking village. On entering it, he noticed a strange scene. Many memorial stones had been erected in memory of the dead. This was normal. The bizarreness was that the life span of each deceased person was beautifully written in gold foil: 'He lived for two years', 'He died at the age of three,' 'She survived for two and a half years.'

''My God!'' the Brahmin worried, ''People in this village don't live long. What use is it to settle in a place where one is destined to die quickly.'' He was about to leave in haste when the village-folk saw him.

They welcomed him to their homes, served him delicacies to eat and made him comfortable. Their genuine hospitality won his confidence. But the question of death at a young age was gnawing at him non-stop. When evening came, the whole village turned out for the spiritual discourse. They had come with books and diaries to make notes.

They listened to every word spoken with unbroken attention. The Brahmin was convinced of their piety and was eager to settle there. It seemed like a holy paradise - except for those life spans on the memorial stones. They robbed him of all joy and depressed him. He stayed in the village for a few days but never quite got over his gloom. One day one of the villagers questioned his sadness. He confided his worries, ''I am touched by your love and hospitality. You are good pious people. I also wish to settle here. But what good would it do to us if we are to die within a few years?'' ''What makes you think this way?'' ''Not just think, I've read those memorial stones on the village outskirts. Not one person seems to have lived more than five years!''

The villager laughed and said, ''You are learned but not wise. Just look at my father. He's sixty years old. If everyone here died by the age of two or three then why would he still be healthy at sixty?'' He pointed at his father and then at other old people in the village. ''Then, what must one understand by the life-spans on the memorial stones?'' the Brahmin questioned.

''It is a custom in this village,'' the villager explained, ''that whenever we sit in a spiritual discourse each one of us notes down his or her time spent in the discourse in a personal diary. Perhaps you have noticed this in the past few days you've been with us.'' The Brahmin nodded and the man continued, ''Well, we believe that our real life-span is only that which we spend in spiritual discourses. If a man spends one hour a day in the discourses, then it is thirty hours or one and one quarter days per month. By the end of one year he has said to have lived for fifteen days. And even if he survives for sixty years, his life comes round to about two and one half years. This is how the life span is calculated.''

We must also think in this manner. Only that part of our life which we have spent in worshipping God has been really lived. The years spent in worldly activities have gone to waste. All of us should pass more and more time in spiritual discourses and the Lord's work. Gunatitanand Swami often asked the devotees to donate a part of their life-span for spiritual activities. In twelve months, one full month should be spent in the company of the True Sadhu, listening to his wisdom and serving him through mind, word and deed. This is what will add up to make our real life-span.

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© 1999, Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith