A Playlet by Bill Davis
Narrator: One day some visitors are walking in a garden.
First visitor: This is a remarkable garden. Look how delightfully everything is arranged.
Second visitor: I especially like the subtle contrasting colors of the blooming flowers. It’s done so artistically.
Narrator: Overhearing them was the gardener himself, a brahmin, who is the owner of the garden. He is digging the ground with a spade making it ready for new plants. As they speak with each other he speaks to himself.
Brahmin: I love it that I am receiving the recognition I deserve for the careful and creative work I have done in making this garden. Many visitors praise it. It may be that I am the best gardener in all of Kolkata – certainly one of the best.
Narrator: Mother Kali speaks to Herself.
Kali: That Brahmin is becoming blown up with pride. He offers me beautiful flowers every day but I see that in his heart what he craves is that poison known as praise. So I have given him this. Now out of pity I will get out my sword to cut off his swelling head of egotism.
Narrator: Later that afternoon the brahmin leaves to buy some new plants. While he is gone there are other visitors. One of the visitors forgets to close the back gate as he leaves. Soon after that a cow enters through the open gate and begins to feast on the flowers. Later the Brahmin returns.
Brahmin: Oh my God. Look what that cow is doing. That stupid cow. How dare she eat these flowers? She’s utterly ruined my garden. What will people say when they see this devastation? I hate her. Where’s that spade? Oh here it is.
Narrator: He picks up the spade and brings it down with all his might on the head of the cow. The cow drops to the ground.
Brahmin: You got what you deserve. (Pause) OK, you can get up now and I’ll lead you out. Get up. GET UP. Why aren’t you getting up?
Narrator: The brahmin shakes the cow. It is lifeless.
Brahmin: Oh Lord. Help me. What have I done? It is a great sin to kill a cow. I will suffer a terrible karma for this act. But wait. I just remembered. It is Indra who is in charge of the hands. He guides them. Thus the fault lies with Indra. So that’s a relief.
Narrator: The sin of cow killing, like a dark cloud, arises out of the cow’s body and comes to possess the brahmin.
The brahmin’s mind: Go away! It is Indra who is at fault. He guided the hands to commit this dastardly deed.
Narrator: The sin then goes to take possession of Indra.
Sin: Sorry, Lord Indra, I have to possess you for killing the cow in that garden over there. The brahmin’s mind tells me that you guided the hands, so you are at fault.
Indra: Just wait a minute. Let me go and investigate. If I’m truly at fault then you can possess me.
Narrator: Indra disguised as a human approaches the brahmin standing in the midst of his garden.
Indra: What a beautiful garden! Who planted it? It is such a lovely arrangement. The flowers and plants are just delightful.
Brahmin: Well, thank you. It was uh, uh. . . .
Narrator: The brahmin falls silent. He seems flustered. After a little while he speaks again.
Brahmin: I’ll tell you the truth. If you had asked me this morning I would have answered without hesitation that it was I who planted it. And I would have felt quite elated at your praise. But I’m ashamed to say that something just happened which has revolutionized my outlook. A little while ago I found a cow eating flowers in my garden. In my rage I struck it with a spade, killing it. (pathetically) I didn’t mean to kill it. When I came to my senses, I thought, “What a terrible thing I have done.” Then I had an “Ah Hah.” I remembered that Indra guides the hands. So in order to escape punishment, I put the blame on him. But when you asked me the question: “Who planted this garden?” it got me thinking. If it was Indra who killed the cow, it was also Indra who planted the garden. Thus, in answer to your question, it was Indra who planted this garden but I was not conscious of it at the time.
Indra: I’m amazed and pleased with your honesty. Tell me, what gave you this change of heart? At first you thought of Indra guiding the hands as a way to escape punishment, but now you seem to have taken this idea to heart.
Brahmin: I really can’t say. I can’t remember having ever spoken so confidentially to a stranger before.
Narrator: At this point Indra assumes his real form.
Indra: I am Indra.
Narrator: The brahmin falls prostrate at his feet. Indra raises him.
Brahmin: Please. I beg your pardon for trying to foist the blame for this heinous sin on you. I am ready now to fully accept the sin of cow killing and its karmic consequences which I certainly deserve since I was not aware of you as the actor when I struck the cow.
Indra: I will share the sin with you. I accomplished the planting of the garden and the killing of the cow. I brought to the surface of your mind various creative thoughts which led to such a nice arrangement of flowers. I, in the form of ignorance of your true nature, filled your mind with anger at the cow. The killing of the cow has become a blessing to you since it has raised the level of your consciousness and subdued your pride. If you can maintain awareness of me as the doer, the sin and its consequences will be utterly wiped away. You will be a brahmin worthy of the name.
Brahmin: This is all Thy grace.
Indra: No, it’s the grace of the Mother.
BILL DAVIS came to the Vedanta Society of New York in 1972. After a career as a psychologist, he retired in 2007 and now lives at Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely, where he serves as a handyman. He also still helps out monthly at the Vedanta Society of NY. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
**Full Image Attribution: “Abbey Gardens” by Jim-curtis – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution- Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abbey_Gardens.jpg #mediaviewer/File:Abbey_Gardens.jpg