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Chapter 5: The Bondage of Hope

The seven pundits said that there are two alternatives: either he will be a great emperor or he will renounce everything and be a great sannyasin. Only one pundit kept quiet. He was the youngest of them all. His name was Kodanna. But he was the most intelligent. The king asked him “Why are you quiet? You haven’t raised the two fingers!”

Kodanna said, “The two fingers can be raised at the birth of everyone, because these two alternatives are for everyone: either this world or sannyas - these two alternatives are for all. These pundits, therefore, have not said anything important about Buddha by raising two fingers. Well, I raise only one - he will be a sannyasin!”

On hearing this Shuddhodana started crying.

The unfortunate mind of man always behaves like this. He knew that Kodanna was an all-knowing astrologer. He was young but very luminous, his words, his prophecy, would certainly turn out to be true. The other pundits had talked about the possibility of his being a great emperor, but Kodanna had disregarded that alternative. He said that the boy will definitely be a buddha. The king had felt happy when these pundits said that he will be an emperor. He didn’t give any importance to the other alternative of his becoming a sannyasin - because if one can be an emperor then why should one think of becoming a sannyasin?

But Kodanna destroyed this hope by raising one finger. The king tried to console himself by thinking that Kodanna was just one person and there are seven pundits opposing him. Man always goes on consoling himself like this: seven will be right and one will be wrong. But only that one proved to be right - and it is good that only that one proved to be right.

At the time of your birth also, whether the pundits are called or not - nature raises two fingers. Nature puts forward two alternatives: either to be lost in unconsciousness or to be awakened in consciousness. Either collect the outer wealth, run the race of becoming a great emperor; or collect the inner wealth, rest in your being. Always remember Kodanna’s one finger. In real life no Kodanna will meet you with a raised finger. You yourself will have to raise your finger.

These sutras of Shankara’s are most subtle gestures of renunciation and detachment.

One who has long hair on his head, one who has shaved his head, one who has pulled his hair from the roots, one who is wearing ochre robes, or is dressed up in a variety of ways, that fool, in spite of having eyes, is blind. Just for the sake of his stomach he dresses up in different ways.

Always remember that man’s mind is very dangerous. Even in sannyas it looks for the world. It finds hypocrisy even in the temple; even in sadhana it finds the enjoyment of the senses. Whatever the outer activity, the mind goes on acting according to its old habit.

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