When Gandhi was a little boy, he notes, while in school, he rarely had the time or the inclination to read books that were not assigned for class. One book–a play– however, stood out: Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka. The tale is about a sturdy and faithful young man, Shravan, and his devotion to his very elderly and blind parents who wanted to spend the last years of their lives on pilgrimage. Shravan’s parents adored him, and their hearts were filled with joy when Shravan told them that he would help them fulfill their wish. Since the trip would be too physically difficult for them, he carried his parents around to sacred sites in slings held by a stick on his shoulders. Mom on one side, Dad on the other.
Upon reaching the ancient holy city of Ayodhya, Shravan’s parents asked for some water, and he happily obliged, setting them down beneath a tree in a dense forest and walking with his jug toward the river bank. As he reaches down to fill the jug, it gurgles, and tragedy strikes. Shravan is hit by an arrow by King Dashrath (the future father of Lord Rama), who mistakes him for a deer. Realizing what he has done, he rushes over to Shravan and begs forgiveness. Shravan offers forgiveness as well as something he can do as an act of repentance: “Bring this water to my parents.” He adds, “Their hearts will be broken when they discover that their only son is gone.” Shravan dies by the river, and King Dashrath fulfills his duty to Shravan, returning to where he set his parents. When they finally discover what has happened to their son, Dasharth again asks forgiveness. They forgive him, too, though they point to the law of karma at work, for better or worse: it has already been set in motion, he has killed their son. (Dashrath will later lose his own son, Rama in a famous epic story). Dramatically, they let themselves die of a broken heart.
Do something for your parents today in the spirit of Shravan and nonviolence.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org