Guiding Light of The Month

Like a flame that burns in silence, like a perfume that rises straight upward without wavering, my love goes to Thee; and like the child who does not reason and has no care, I trust myself to Thee that Thy Will may be done, that Thy Light may manifest, Thy Peace radiate, Thy Love cover the world. - The Mother

A real joy to see greatness that is modest

Stories by The Mother on Modesty

Who is this coming to the door of this Japanese house?
It is the flower-artist, the man who is skilled in arranging flowers.
The master of the house brings a tray with some flowers, a pair of scissors, a knife, a little saw, and a beautiful vase.

“Sir,” he says, “I cannot make a bouquet beautiful enough for such a beautiful vase.”
“I am sure you can,” replies the master politely as he leaves the room. Left alone, the artist sets to work, cutting, snipping, twisting and tying until a beautiful bunch of flowers fills the vase—a delight to the eyes.

The master and his friends enter the room; the artist stands to one side and murmurs, “My bouquet is too poor, let it be taken away.”

“No,” replies the master, “it is good.”

To one side of the table, near the vase, the artist has left a pair of scissors. By this he means that if there is any flaw in the bouquet, anyone can take the scissors and cut away what offends the eye.
The artist has done a fine piece of work, but he would not dream of exalting its merits. He admits that he may have made mistakes. He is modest.

Perhaps the Japanese artist really thinks that his work deserves compliments. I cannot tell his thoughts. But at any rate he does not boast and his behavior is pleasing. On the other hand, we smile at people who are vain.

Suleiman, Caliph of Damascus, was like that. One Friday, coming out of his hot bath, he dressed himself in green clothes, put on a green turban, sat on a green couch, and even the carpet all around was green. And then looking into a mirror and feeling pleased with himself, he said, “The Prophet Mohammed was an apostle, Ali Bakr was a faithful servant of the truth, Omar could distinguish the true from the false, Otman was modest, Ali was brave, Muawiyah was merciful, Yazid was patient, Abd-ul-Malik a good governor, Walid a powerful master, but I am young and handsome.”
The flowers in the vase are beautifully arranged and our eyes are delighted. But it is for us and not for the artist to praise them.

Suleiman is handsome. It is true that there is no harm in his knowing it, but we laugh at his vanity when he gazes at himself in a mirror and tells himself that his good looks make him a finer man than Omar the truthful or Yazid the patient.

You have heard of great Solomon who was the King of Israel many years ago. There are many stories in the Bible and in other books which tell of his glory and his majesty. I shall tell you one story about him.

He was very rich. He had a magnificent throne, his plates were of gold, and in his palace silver was as common as stones in the city of Jerusalem. Merchants were constantly bringing him gold, silver, ivory, peacocks, monkeys, beautiful clothes, armour, spices, horses, mules and many other riches. King Solomon built a splendid temple in honour of the God of his fathers and his nation. But before the temple was built, while the timber for it was still growing in the form of cedar-trees on the mountains, Solomon had a dream in which his God appeared to him and said: “Ask of me what you wish me to give you.”

Solomon answered:
“My father David was a just and truthful man and now I have succeeded to his throne. The work that lies before me is great. I feel like a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. I do not even know how to rule this people of which I am king. Therefore my desire is to have knowledge, so that I may know good from evil.”

And God replied:
“Because you have not asked for long life or riches but have desired knowledge and a heart which can distinguish justice from injustice, I will give you this wise mind so that none shall surpass you in understanding; and long life and riches will be yours also.”

You will notice the modest words spoken by the king, “I am but a little child.”

Do we think less of Solomon because he spoke humbly of himself? On the contrary, it is a real joy to see greatness that is modest.

Many years ago a great singer, who had won a world-wide reputation for her wonderful voice and outstanding talent, happened to be at a party. There, a little girl with a beautiful voice was asked to sing. The piece she was ready to sing was a duet, a piece of music for two voices. The child was to sing the main part, but no one wanted to sing the accompaniment. All the grown-ups thought that it was beneath them to sing the second voice to a child. There was a pause; no one offered to accompany the child.

Then the famous singer said: “I will sing the second voice if you wish.”

And she did so. The duet was sung to the audience; the little girl’s voice rose high and clear, with the voice of the most famous singer of her time following sweetly, making a lovely harmony.
Noble was the heart of the modest lady who was willing to give her service to a child.

Sometimes we feel contempt for vain people who not only admire themselves too much, but boast. No one likes a braggart; even braggarts despise braggarts.

We are not surprised to learn that Ravana the terrible foe of Rama, whose wife Sita he had stolen away, was a braggart; it was quite natural for such a monster. In the last great battle between Rama and the demons of Lanka, the glorious lord stood in his chariot face to face with the demon king, also in his chariot. It was a single combat. The army of demons and the army of monkeys and bears watched the fight.

Then with a dreadful voice, Ravana the king of Lanka cried:
“Today, O Rama, this war will come to an end unless you save yourself by running away from the battlefield. Today, wretch, I shall give you over to death. It is with Ravana that you must fight.”

Rama smiled calmly. He knew that Ravana’s doom was near and he said:
“Yes, I have heard of all your might, O Ravana, but now I want to see as well as hear. I beg you to remember that there are three kinds of men in this world, who are like three kinds of trees: the dhak, the mango and the bread-fruit. The dhak tree bears flowers. It is like the man who only speaks. The mango tree has both flowers and fruits. It is like a man who both speaks and acts. The bread-fruit tree bears only fruit. It is like the man who speaks not but acts.”

The demon laughed at these wise words. But before long his boasting tongue was silent forever.

In 1844 the Sanskrit College of Calcutta needed a teacher of grammar, and the post was offered to Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. At that time he was earning fifty rupees a month, and in this new position he could earn ninety, but he thought that his friend Tarkavachaspati was a better grammar teacher than himself and he said so. So it was decided that his friend should take the post. Vidyasagar was very happy. He walked some distance from Calcutta to find his friend and tell him the news.

Tarkavachaspati was struck by the noble modesty of the scholar and exclaimed, “You are not a man, Vidyasagar, but a god in human form!”

(CWM, Volume 2, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)

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