Saturday, May 14, 2005

Namdev Chases a Dog

“There goes crazy Namdev,” said one shopkeeper to another. “Look at him, singing and dancing like a drunken man. And he is so absurdly thin. I hear that he never eats.” And thus begins the brief tale of Namdev, as presented in Wisdom's Blossoms: Tales of the Saints of India by Doug Glener and Sarat Komaragiri. Namdev, in the Indian tradition, would be called a god-intoxicant (someone who is “so intoxicated with the love of God that he would forget the needs of his body”). Namdev is an example of being in the world without attachment and petty self-concern. This is a tale of gentleness and generosity, of letting go of selfish needs and opening to the world with a spirit of unconditional giving. One day Namdev remembered that he had not eaten for days, so busy was he in prayer and devotion. A woman offered him chapatis (Indian flatbread) and ghee (clarified butter). He took the offering home and put it on his stove. While it was heating up, he went back into prayer. Meanwhile, a hungry stray and mangy dog from the neighborhood snuck into his home and took off with the chapatis. Namdev alarmed, took off after the dog, taking the ghee as he ran. He chased the dog throughout town and finally caught him in alley. Namdev asked the dog why he fled, and gently said “you cannot eat chapatis; without ghee. They will be tasteless and dry and stick in your throat. Here, let me put some ghee on them for you.”

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