National Hindu Students Forum (UK)

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The Banyan Seed

There was once a cobbler who lived a simple and honest life. He was a poor man and had to work hard to support his wife and children, but whatever little extra he had he devoted to the worship of Vishnu, the Lord of creation. He lived beside a huge banyan tree. Like all banyan trees its central trunk was massive, surrounded by smaller trunks which hung down from the branches to put out fresh roots. The tree was very old and was just like a small forest. One day, as he worked in the shade of the banyan tree, the great teacher Narada came to visit him. Narada is famous among Hindus as the personal messenger and friend of Vishnu. He is able to see Vishnu whenever he wants, but spends most of his time travelling throughout the universe, visiting Vishnu's devotees and instructing them. The cobbler was very happy to receive so honoured a guest. After welcoming him with proper respect he ventured to ask if he had recently seen Vishnu.

"Yes", replied Narada, "I have just been with him and he has sent me to see you."

The cobbler was amazed to hear that Vishnu had sent Narada to him. No one important ever came to see him - he was only a shoemaker. What possible interest could Vishnu have in him? After some time his curiosity overcame his shyness. "Why did Vishnu want you to see me?"

"He thought you might have some questions."

"Questions?" The cobbler was surprised. Narada himself had come to answer questions! Of course, he did have questions from time to time, but now, with this unique opportunity, his mind went blank! In confusion he racked his brain for something to ask. Suddenly he thought of something. It wasn't very profound, but at least it was a question.

"What was Vishnu doing when you saw him?"

Now Vishnu knew that the cobbler, although simple-hearted, was really a very special person, and he knew what would happen when Narada suddenly appeared in front of him. Because he knows everything, he knew the cobbler would ask this exact question. Wanting to teach Narada a lesson, he had already told him what his answer should be.

"He was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle."

"Threading an elephant through the eye of a needle?", the cobbler was surprised. He hadn't expected that Vishnu would be doing this. "Well", he laughed, "Only Vishnu could do that!"

"Surely you don't believe me", smiled Narada, amused at the cobbler's simplicity. He had given this answer merely to test the cobbler and didn't expect him to believe it. "I don't think even Vishnu could really do that - it's impossible."

"Why can't Vishnu do that? Nothing's impossible for Vishnu. This world is full of miracles. He makes the sun rise each day. He makes the wind blow. He makes the rivers run and the trees and flowers grow."

"Look at this", the cobbler went on as he bent to the ground and picked up a seed from beneath the banyan tree, "Inside this seed is a banyan tree as big as the one above us. It's just waiting to come out. If Vishnu can squeeze a whole banyan tree into such a tiny seed, surely he can thread an elephant through the eye of a needle!"

Hearing the wisdom of the cobbler's words Narada had to admit that what he said was true. He realised that this man was not the simpleton he had taken him for but was very wise because he could see in everything the hand of God.

Taken from "Hinduism and Ecology - Seeds of Truth" by Ranchor Prime