The Tale of Two Pens: By Chhaganlal Yogi
Sri Bhagavan generally used two fountain pens: one contained blue ink, the other, red. Both of these pens were quite old and looked, to me at least, worn out. One day the top cover of the red-ink pen cracked, so a devotee took it to town to have it repaired. It was gone for several days. During this period Sri Bhagavan reverted to an old-fashioned nib pen which had to be dipped in an ink pot of red ink. Since this seemed to cause him some inconvenience, I decided to get him a new pen. I wrote to a friend in Bombay and asked him to send one immediately. A few days later the pen arrived by post. I went straight to Sri Bhagavan and handed over the unopened parcel containing the pen.
Whenever a parcel or letter bore the name of the sender on the cover, Sri Bhagavan never failed to notice it. As soon as he received the packet from me, he turned it over and read the name of both the recipient and the sender. Having deduced that the parcel had been sent at my instigation, he took out the pen, carefully examined it, and put it back in the box. He then tried to hand the box to me.
Allowing it to remain in his hand, I explained, “It has been ordered from Bombay especially for Sri Bhagavan’s use.”
“By whom?” he asked.
“By me,” I said, not without some embarrassment because I was beginning to feel that Sri Bhagavan did not approve of my action.
“What for?” demanded Sri Bhagavan.
“Sri Bhagavan’s red-ink pen was out of order,” I said, “and I saw that it was inconvenient to write with the nib pen.”
“But what is wrong with this old pen?” he asked, taking out the old red-ink pen which had by then been received back in good repair. “What is wrong with it?” he repeated. He opened it up and wrote a few words to demonstrate that it had been restored to full working order. “Who asked you to send for a new pen?” demanded Sri Bhagavan again. He was clearly annoyed that I had done this on his behalf.
“No one asked me,” I said, with faltering courage. “I sent for it on my own authority.”
Sri Bhagavan waved the old pen at me. “As you can see, the old pen has been repaired and writes very well. Where is the need for a new pen?”
Since I could not argue with him, I resorted to pleading and said, “I admit that it was my mistake, but now that it has come, why not use it anyway?” My plea was turned down and the new pen went the way of all its forerunners: It was sent to the office to be used there.
Sri Bhagavan gave us an example of how to live simply by refusing to accumulate unnecessary things around him. He also refused to let anyone do any fund-raising on behalf of the ashram. In this too he set an example. He taught us that if we maintain an inner silence and have faith in God’s providence, everything we need will come to us automatically. He demonstrated the practicality of this approach by refusing to let anyone collect money for the construction of the temple over his mother’s samadhi. Though large amounts of money were being spent on it every day, we had to rely on unsolicited donations to carry on the work. I knew this from direct experience because one day the ashram manager asked me to get permission from Sri Bhagavan to go to Ahmadabad to ask for a donation from a rich man I knew who lived there. Sri Bhagavan, as usual, flatly refused. No amount of persuasion could move him from his categorical “No.”
“How is it,” he complained, “that you people have no faith?” He pointed to the hill and told us, “This Arunachala gives us everything we want.”
By Chhaganlal Yogi, Living with the Master
Arunachala Ashrama Newsletter Mar/Apr 1994