The Old Scribe and His Tattered Parchment
Prayer and Meditation
When my father was a young man, his life was rather different from mine. He was born into a large family and, although they were Brahmins, they were not well off. They were the poor relations. However, father was a clever man and he worked his way to a good post in the temple. He was in charge of the ancient writings and he would have to copy them out when required by the priests and by local dignitaries.
He developed a beautiful style of writing. He would use the very best parchment, which he obtained from a craftsman some distance away. He would always get edgy when his supplies began to run low and he would endeavour to discover who would be going to the town where the parchment maker lived. He would ask them either to be a carrier, or simply to get a message to the man that he needed his supplies to be replenished.
On one occasion the Great Festival of Shakti was approaching and he always needed to supply a number of people with written prayers for this event. His parchment was running low and nobody seemed to want to go to the town of the craftsman. Father became desperate. He asked around the other scribes if they had any spare parchment and one of them suggested asking old Ramchand because he was ill and certainly would not be doing any scribing for a while yet. Father winced. He knew that old Ramchand was quite capable of using the skin of an old goat to write upon. However he did not seem to have much choice. Ramchand’s parchment it would have to be, as nobody else was willing to part with any. Old Ramchand smiled his toothless smile as he handed over a dog-eared pile of sheets.
“Well, well, Son. It’s not quite up to your standard is it? But do not forget that it is not the quality of paper that matters when people are praying, but the quality of the prayer itself. If we pray with an open heart, welcoming God into our lives then that is all that is required. It is the same with meditation. You sit and you close your eyes and to all the world you look as if you are meditating, but your mind may be filled with all manner of things. You may be thinking about your lovely wife to be, or that horse you are trying to purchase. You may be wondering what is to be served at the next meal. Nobody knows but you and God. It is always the quality of the prayer or the meditation that counts and not how it is presented. Wouldn’t you agree, Rajendra?”
With that my father humbly accepted the kind old scribe’s sheets and set about making a special effort to get the words beautifully written, hoping that the devotees would not notice the paper, knowing that if they did it would not matter anyway.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- When you need help have you tried finding a quiet place and simply describing the problem? You can do this silently if you prefer, or you can write it down on paper. Then ask for help. You may well find the answer comes to you very soon in one way or another.
- Have you tried sitting or lying down quietly and filling your mind with a beautiful picture, for example of a rose, or a moonlit lake, for five minutes? That would be a simple meditation, which would be calming and uplifting.