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Chapter 3: Live Naturally

Soon it became clear to everyone. The other monks walked on the well-paved road, but Shrona walked through the thorns and the brush. His feet became covered in blood. When the sun was hot the other monks sat in the shade of the trees, but Shrona would stand in the sun. The other monks wore clothes, but Shrona used only a loincloth. And it seemed as if he was also eager to drop that loincloth. Then one day he did drop it! The other monks ate once a day, but Shrona ate only once in two days. The other monks ate sitting down; Shrona ate standing up. The other monks kept a begging bowl, Shrona did not, he used only his hands - he ate only the food that would fit in his hands. His beautiful body shriveled. Previously, people had come from miles around to see his body. His face had been really attractive, immensely beautiful, but after he had been a monk for three months no one who saw him remembered that this was Emperor Shrona. His feet were blistered, his body was black, he became shriveled up and was just bones. And he went on disciplining himself even more.

Buddha said, “Do you see, monks! I told you that what goes to one extreme will go to the other extreme. It is difficult to stop in the middle because the middle is the death of the ego.”

Then Shrona stopped eating altogether. Then he even stopped taking water. He continued going from one extreme to another extreme. It seemed he would be a guest on this earth for only two or three days more and then die. This is when Buddha went to the door of his hut that he had built under a tree. Shrona was lying down. Buddha said to him, “Shrona, I have come to ask you something. I have heard that when you were an emperor you had a passion for playing the veena, and that you were very skilled at playing it, that you took a great interest in it. I have come to ask you a question: When the strings of the veena are very loose, can music arise or not?”

Shrona said, “What are you talking about? You well know that if the strings are very loose music cannot arise, the strings cannot even resonate.”

Buddha said, “Then I ask you this: If the strings are tightened too much, will music arise or not?”

Shrona said, “If the strings are tightened too much they will snap and music will not arise, only the sound of breaking strings will be heard. How can music arise out of the sound of an instrument breaking?”

Then Buddha said, “I have come to remind you. Just as you have experienced the veena, I experience the veena of life. I say unto you, if the strings of life are very tight music does not arise, and if the strings of life are very loose, again music does not arise. The strings need to be in the middle, Shrona, neither too tight nor too loose. The greatest skill of a musician is in bringing the strings exactly to the middle. This is what is meant by tuning an instrument.”

This is why, when you listen to Indian classical music, it takes half an hour to an hour to tune the instruments. Tuning an instrument is a great art. To bring the strings to that middle point where it can be said that they are neither too loose nor too tight takes great skill, a very sensitive ear. Only a connoisseur of music is able to tune an instrument.

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