There was a hermit who lived in the forest a little away from a village. He had a small hut made from mud with a thatched roof. The villagers would some times visit him and he would tell them about the purpose and value of human birth. “We should concentrate on the Lord’s design of sending us on this earth and try to learn to concentrate on the eternal truths of life and death,” he would say. He would tell them that the mind needs to learn to concentrate, that is the first step towards God realization. The villagers would ask him to teach them meditation, but he would insist that they would have to spend more time with him than just a couple of minutes, if they wished to learn meditation.
Tatia was a mischievous teenager who had endeared himself to the hermit by his naughty yet loving ways. The boy would dance around the hermit and sing village songs for him. The hermit would ask him to sit still and repeat the Gayatri Mantra after him, but the boy would keep on fidgeting. He would want to giggle or scratch his nose just when he had been told to sit still.
One day, the hermit told the villagers about Jyoti meditation i.e. meditation on light. He told them that it was one of the simplest ways to meditate. Some of the villagers learnt how to do it too. Tatia tried too, but his mind would travel at a thousand miles per hour. During one meditation session, Tatia was busy looking at the ant that was climbing on to the sleeve of his father; he noticed the bald patch on the head of the man sitting in front of him. He also opened his eyes to make a note of the facial expressions of all those in the meditation class and giggled at their serious faces. The hermit saw it all. When the group was about to disperse, the hermit asked Tatia to come alone the next day.
The next day, the hermit was waiting under the Banyan tree for Tatia. There was a lamp lying next to him along with some cotton, oil and a matchbox. It was a little windy. The hermit said, “Tatia, do you really want to learn meditation?” “Yes,” said the boy somewhat meekly. He was sure the hermit would punish him for his antics yesterday. “Alright make a wick out of this cotton wool. Twist it well between your fingers and make it tight. That’s right. Good. Now put it into this little brass lamp and spread out its cotton base well. Now pour in the oil.” Tatia followed instructions. “Now light the lamp with a matchstick.” Tatia struck the match, but the wind blew it out before he could so much as touch the matchstick to the wick. He tried again with the other matchstick. The wind was faster than him again. He tried a third time; he managed to bring the match to the wick, but it went out again. Again and again Tatia lit the match, but each time it went out before he could light the lamp. Strangely the wind became stronger, almost as if it was determined to defy. The hermit said, “I’ll try and shelter the match as you light it. Perhaps we can do it together.” The hermit cupped his palms on either side of the match stick and the boy was able to light the wick. But as soon as the hermit moved his hands away, the lamp went out. There were only a couple of match sticks left in the box. Tatia looked confused and nervous. The hermit smiled knowingly and said, “Let’s go into the hut, it’s impossible to light the lamp in the wind.”
So they went inside the hut. Tatia was able to light the lamp with the first matchstick he had struck. The hermit smiled and said, “Likewise, the mind too has to be taken away from the hustle and bustle and the noises of life. It has to be sheltered from the cobweb of thoughts and desires. The mind has to go to a quiet place, to withdraw from worldly thoughts before it can experience the light of God.”
The boy said, “Can we go out now?” The hermit shook his head and said, “The flame is too gentle and weak; if we go out again the wind shall blow it out. Similarly a person may learn something about God, but if he exposes his knowledge to the world before it is strong enough, it shall be erased by the tensions, idiosyncrasies, whims and fancies, jealousies, desires etc of the world.
Tatia said, “Does that mean that I can never take this lamp outside?” The hermit picked up a log, rolled a strip of cloth over one end and dipped it in oil. He proceeded to set fire to that end of the log by holding it over the little brass lamp. When the fire was burning strongly the hermit said, “Now Tatia, if we take this flame to the woods and the wind catches the flame, it shall be strong enough to set the whole jungle ablaze!”