Many Spikes, by Trevor Leggett

An Indian Yogi Tied to a Palm Tree. Willem Schellinks.Sometimes people complain that there are many things that go wrong for them. There are innumerable little worries about personal relationships, and not being able to afford this or that, or the noise of the traffic and so on and so on. They feel, “If only I were a millionaire, everything would be all right. Of course some people would dislike me but they would keep their mouths shut. And all these other little troubles would disappear if only I was very rich.

There is an interesting parallel to this: the case of the yogi on his bed of nails. When you see him, it does look terrifying; dozens and dozens of these sharp spikes on the board and he is lying on them (he has a little strip of wood under his head). We are impressed by his stoical endurance and give a coin to his attendant at which the yogi lifts a hand in a routine blessing. Two hours later, after we have been round the fair we pass the same place again. He is still there, calmly braving what one imagines must be dozens of small wounds in his back.

But when one thinks a little bit one realises that the more terrifying the apparatus looks, the effect it will have on a hardened skin. The more spikes there are, the more the weight of his thin body is distributed among them. And indeed, when we look carefully, we can see that there is no blood.

One comes to see that the real agony would be to lie not on dozens of spikes, but on just one big spike! He is well off as he is.

In the same way the very rich man is indeed freed from many of the little discomforts of the not so well-off. It is true that people smile at him and flatter him and fuss around him. He can imagine that they are devoted to him and are praying for him. But one day he will realise that they are indeed praying for him – to die.

They all want to inherit his money. That is the one big spike.

With thanks to Trevor Leggett.
© 2000 Trevor Leggett

Read more articles by Trevor Leggett here.

Categories: Beginners, Buddhism, Trevor Leggett

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1 reply

  1. Excellent! I will no longer complain about lifes little niggles!


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