A teenage disciple asked the advice of a senior in the Yoga group he had joined. ‘My parents don’t understand me at all – we are always having rows. Why shouldn’t I have pictures of nudes on the walls of my room, like my friends do? I wanted to put one up in the hall too, but they raised hell over that. Why should I have to listen to them? I think I’m a natural rebel, and I won’t just meekly conform.’
The senior said: ‘Do you really get that much pleasure from these pictures?’
The teenager considered. Then he said: ‘Well, as a matter of fact, no. I think that clothes are like the sauce with a meal; they increase the pleasure. I don’t care much for bare meat. But all my friends have them up, so I do too.’
‘But isn’t that just meekly conforming?’ asked the senior. ‘Shouldn’t the natural rebel refuse to do that?’
There was a pause, then the teenager said: ‘Yes, maybe you’re right there. Perhaps I’ll put up pictures that I really like. But it’s not only the pictures; it seems to be everything. My parents just don’t understand me at all. I have to stand up for what I believe is right, against their out-dated ideas. No understanding, that’s the whole trouble.’
‘There’s certainly some of it about’, rejoined the senior. ‘But has it ever occurred to you that perhaps you don’t understand your parents. You have asked my advice, and here it is: every evening, after you finish your evening meditation, sit quietly for a little bit, and try to understand your parents. Come and see me again after a fortnight.’
The disciple turned up in due course and said: ‘I have come to realize that they are bound to think as they do, because of the way they were brought up. I have misunderstood them, and I don’t feel resentment now. In fact I am trying not to provoke them. The home atmosphere is much better now. Thank you for your help.’
‘Oh, it’s not finished yet,’ replied the senior. ‘Now do the same practise, but this time think about, and try to understand, yourself.’
After some time, the pupil asked again for an interview, and spoke without his usual self-confidence. ‘I’ve come to see that all those defiant and shocking things I was doing in the name of freedom were really things I didn’t care about at all. It was just devilment, and I now feel ashamed when I look back on them.’
The senior gently patted the table that was between them. ‘This can hurt us if we kick or fall against it, but its true nature is to be helpful. Don’t feel ashamed; it is not a crime to be spiritually only two or three years old. But we are expected to grow up.’
With thanks to Trevor Leggett.
© 1999 Trevor Leggett
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