The Three Sieves of Speech

The annual August road trip from Maryland to South Carolina had become a tradition in the Baker household. Grandma was always thrilled to see her ever growing grandchildren, Paul and Tessa. Their parents, John and Maureen, both grew up near Greenville, SC before moving to Maryland for college some twenty years back.

Camping, fishing, golfing and storytelling were always on the agenda during their one week stay with their vivacious eighty six year old grandmother. They all especially enjoyed sitting at her feet after dinner listening to new stories she had written within the past year of their last visit. “Tell us a story” Maureen requested.

Grandma closed her eyes briefly as if thinking of an appropriate story and then began…

Plato

 One day, the old wise Socrates walks down the streets, when all of a sudden a man runs up to him “Socrates I have to tell you something about your friend who…”

“Hold up” Socrates interrupts him “About the story you are about to tell me, did you put it through the three sieves?”

“Three sieves?” The man asks “What three sieves?”

“Let’s try it” Socrates says.

“The first sieve is the one of truth, did you examine what you were about to tell me if it is true?” Socrates asks.

“Well no, I just overheard it” The man says.

“Ah, well then you have used the second sieve, the sieve of good?” Socrates asks “Is it something good what you are about to tell me?”

“Ehm no, on the contrary” the man answers.

“Hmmm” The wise man says “Let’s use the third sieve then, is it necessary to tell me what you are so excited about?” 

“No not necessary” the man says.

“Well” Socrates says with a smile “If the story you are about to tell me is not true, good or necessary, just forget it and do not bother me with it.” *

Imagine how much trouble and headache can be avoided by speaking only what is good, true and necessary. Serenity, calmness of mind, is the result of continued effort in self-control and humility. Only when a man ceases to give his unrequested opinion on every subject but rather speaks only when, where and how it is necessary can he begin to call humility his own. The gift of speech becomes a curse and leads to unrest when its powers are lent to gossip, slander and unnecessary chatter. Patiently observe the effect of your words on your being, only then does the greatness of the story become  undoubtedly evident.

Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

~ Rumi

* Source- Unknown

A Good Man?

ancestor“My only request for my memorial service is that it should be short; do not mention any of my accomplishments or say that I was a good man, simply say that I was a man who strove to be good.” Prasanna Patel said to his grand-daughter.

“But Papa, you are the best man I know. If you are not a good man, then there are no good men on earth.”

“Child, you can only tell if a man is good by the nature of his innermost thoughts, therefore in most cases only the man who can read the thoughts of another can call him good. Even a man who risks his life for another cannot be called a good man if his action was prompted by the desire to be seen as a hero. The incorrect use of the designation “good man” narrows the scope of fulfillment for what it means to be good; being good means being spiritually mature for entry into the land of the pure spirits.  So please promise me not to call me a good man after I am gone.” He pleaded.

 

A Questioning Child

Did Christ Die For Our Sins?

In the early 1960’s, St. Jude’s Orphanage took care of the motherless children of Lome, Togo. The children had a strict academic regimen and were also fed spiritually through daily bible study  with Father Kuntz. One day Fr. Kuntz talked about the necessity of Christ’s suffering on the cross for the forgiveness of sin which terribly confused 10 year old Edem.

“How does the death of one pure man wipe out the sins of a thousand guilty men? How does that work?”

“Well Edem,” Fr. Kuntz responded.  “Imagine a son who does something so evil that he cannot atone for his actions himself. His father who loves him and sees his suffering sends one who is pure and strong to take on the suffering of this weak son who no longer has the power to overcome his guilt and find his way back to his father.”

“So Jesus was this pure One who was sent to take on the suffering by the most brutal death? It seems unjust. I still do not understand Fr. Kuntz.”

“The Creator so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son all the way down to earth to show us misguided human beings the way back to Him and with His suffering on the Cross, He atoned for the sins of all who believe in Him.”

“I see, I think I understand better now, Edem interjected. Like you said, The Creator saw all the suffering in the world so He sent His pure Son to show us the way to a joyful existence. By telling us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” He gave us the key to atoning for our guilt and righting the ship. Fr. Kuntz, could it be that it is through living in accordance with Jesus’ teaching and not His death on the cross that forgiveness of sins lie?  Could it be that His death was simply a consequence of man’s wickedness? I ask because I do not think It is the Will of The Creator, it lacks justice. Think about it Fr. Kuntz, how can sin be transferred from one person to another?”

Fr. Kuntz who simply imbibed this idea of a forgiveness of sin through the death on the cross without thoroughly examining it reflected on the 10 year old’s words. Jesus’ words on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” reverberated within him. Could these words buttress the fallacy of this idea of the necessity of His brutal death on the cross? He dismissed his students and went outside for further reflection.

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

~ Betrand Russell

Vigilance

Vigilance

Sergio Gomez moved to Reynosa, one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, to complete his degree in philosophy at the Universidad México Americana del Norte A.C. Despite the constant threat of danger in the area, Sergio remained indifferent and indolent; he took no measures to protect himself and his precious possessions.

One day, he left his house without locking his door and returned to a vandalized house. All his valuable items were stolen, the most valuable being his Mac laptop which contained 12 months’ worth of field data for his research project. All he had worked for, all he needed for his degree was on that laptop. His inability to protect what was most important led to his failure of the course because he could not make up the research project before the semester’s end. He had no choice but to repeat the course.

It would be unwise for a man who lives in a dangerous neighborhood to leave his door opened but we do the exact same thing when we take no steps to guard ourselves from the dark influences that surround the earth. It is clear to anyone with open eyes that the earth is surrounded predominantly by base and ignoble currents. Look to the media, government, corporations, schools, fashion, and society as a whole- where is there to be found anything leading the spirit upwards?

As with Sergio, our time on earth can be likened to a brief schooling period and in order to complete our development in the allotted time, the spirit has to be protected from these base currents through constant vigilance and an inward resistance to anything detrimental to spiritual ascent.

Immaculée’s Story

Spiritual Growth  “I heard the killers call my name. A jolt of terror shot through me, why did they call out my name- how did they know I was here? Were they coming to the bathroom? … They were yelling at the pastor, accusing and threatening him. ‘Where is she?’ Find her… find Immaculée. ‘I have killed 399 cockroaches, Immaculée will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.'”*

During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Immaculée and seven other women hid in a tiny bathroom (approximately four feet long and three feet wide). After seven weeks of extreme discomfort and very little food, Immaculée weighed only 75 pounds. A pretty, vibrant and intelligent 22 year old college student  was now anything but a pretty sight. She had not showered in all her time in the bathroom for fear that others in the Pastor’s household who were loyal to the Hutu militants would discover their hiding place. Her skin was pale, her lips were cracked and her gums were swollen.

The great intensity of the experience- concern for family members and fear of the brutality with which the Hutu militants killed women pushed everything superficial aside. Immaculée devoted herself to prayer and meditation during her time in the bathroom and despite her physical filth, she never felt more beautiful. Her spirit was wide open to the ray of Divine love and beauty which constantly surrounds us because she possessed two key requisites; purity of thought and humility.

Purity– In her first weeks of hiding, she hated the Hutu militants for their senseless and brutal actions but later realized that her prayers could not reach the throne of The Almighty Father with a heart full of hatred. She struggled for days in prayer for the strength to forgive these misguided men and was finally able to see them as foolish children who did not understand the terrible harm they were inflicting on themselves and others. She prayed that they recognize their horrific actions and are able to atone for them before their time on earth came to an end.

Humility– Drastic events such as genocides, tsunamis etc. often remind us of our smallness and even for just a moment our conceit and belief in our own pseudo-knowledge recedes. They say the wise man is one who knows that he knows nothing, why is this? Probably because he understands that he can receive no real knowledge without first emptying himself of all that he thinks he knows.

Only through her purity and humility was Immaculée’s able to receive of the Primordial Light of The Creator which instills inner calmness and confidence. She ended up spending 3 months in the bathroom before being rescued.

* Ilibagiza, Immaculée. Left to Tell. Hay House, 2006. Print

Mothers Day Gift

little girls in open fieldPatricia took her four year old daughter, Audrey, to the park as she does every Saturday morning. Audrey excitedly ran towards the slides while Patricia sat on one of the park benches. She whipped out her phone to check her “to do list” for the day and realized that she was yet to get her mother  a Mothers Day gift.

Patricia went through a divorce in the past year and her mother was a great source of support for her especially during the initial stages of the divorce process. She wanted to show her appreciation by giving her mother a special gift this Mothers Day. She thought hard for ideas but nothing worthy surfaced. She turned towards Audrey, who was just then laughing with a playmate as they both ran around the field. “She looks so happy,” Patricia whispered pensively with a smile. In that moment Audrey had given her a special gift- the gift of a child’s happiness to its mother.

From this experience, she now knew what to get her mother. Hearing her children sing always brought her mother joy because it meant they were happy.  Patricia decided she would send her mother a video of herself and Audrey singing the “You are my Sunshine” song. Her mother sang this song to Patricia as a child and loved it whenever little Patricia sang along.

………..

What can a four year old give her mother on Mothers Day? What can one give The Creator to show gratitude for the gift of life? Simply to be happy, to enliven our activity with joy. For what else can one give to HIM who has it all?

Greatness

An Alignment with True Greatness

Describe what greatness means to you. This was Mr. Gutierrez’s assignment to his high school students. The students could be as creative as they liked, no restrictions were imposed except for the seven minute presentation time limit.

Zach knew exactly what he would present to his class. You see, Zach and his father have been volunteering at a local homeless shelter every Friday since he was 8 years old. He enjoyed helping people and realized that the more he served others the more it seemed as though everything in creation worked in his favor. This is greatness, he thought.  And so, he began typing  his presentation.

What is Greatness?

Greatness is Service. Nature gives freely out of love, take the sun for example, it gives its life giving rays and demands no compensation. Through service to others, we too act out of love and thereby obtain a direct connection to that same greatness which keeps the sun shining and our hearts beating. We do not own greatness but it always gravitates towards those who, like it, serve joyfully.

The beauty of greatness is that it excludes no one. As Dr.  Martin Luther King  Jr. said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

Video from KarmaTube

Kyle’s Story

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on Friday? He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up, and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.

My heart went out to him. So I jogged over to him, and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before, but we talked all the way home, and I carried his books.

He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes.

We hung out all weekend, and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books every day!” He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became good friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

On graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. I could see that he was nervous about his speech, so I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smile. “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, you teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach—but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend in disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life.

Author: Unknown

The Obstacle in Our Path

Boulder

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

Author- Unknown