A shop keeper used to sell food grains. He was always engrossed in supervising the storage and display of his wares. He made sure that no customer was given even a little extra. If a kilogram of rice was to be weighed, he would personally supervise that the store-boy did not weigh even a couple of grains more. He spent all his waking hours in his shop or in thinking about it; such was his involvement and attachment.
When he grew old, he could not spend so much time, in the shop because he was failing health. His son had grown up and was looking after the business. The old man would call him up on the phone umpteen times in the day to ask him things like, “How much wheat has been sold today?”; “Did you oversee when the boys were weighing the flour?” “Did you order the sugar, from the wholesaler?” “Don’t close the shop before 8.30 p.m.!”
One day the old man was feeling quite unwell so he did not go to the shop all day. Later in the evening he felt that he could not let the day go past without visiting the shop at least once. So he picked up his walking stick and slowly made his way to the shop. When he reached there, he was quite tired and breathless. His son said, “Father, you should not have come today. The doctor told you to rest, why don’t you have faith in me? I can manage the shop. You need to rest.” The son realized that father was breathing very heavily and his face looked sickly and pale. His eyes were stony. The son thought that things might just take an untoward turn. He said, “Father we’ll make some space on the side and you lie down here.” With the help of the shop boy, the son shifted the old man to a mat on the floor. The son said to the errand boy, “Go and get some water, quickly while I call up the doctor.” Suddenly the old man, made an indication towards a corner of the room. He tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come out. The old man strained hard to speak. The son bent down and put his ear next to the lips of the old father, to try and catch what he was trying desperately to say. The son thought that his father was probably trying to tell him his last wish or was trying to tell him about some money, that he had hidden in the corner to where he was pointing. With great difficulty he was able to say, “The, the cat … it’s wrecking the broom!” So saying, he breathed no more.
The old man was so attached to his shop and his wares that he could not bear to see the cat, messing up an old broom, lying in the corner of the shop! That is why Baba tells us; be in the world, but don’t let the world be in you! Only those people who recite and practice the name of God are able to remember Him at their last breath. Those who think only about worldly things can only think of things like brooms, in their last moments.
The story does not end here. One day the son spotted a rat in a corner of his shop. It was gnawing at one corner of a gunny bag containing sugar. The son took a broom and hit the rat. It scampered away squealing, “Ouch, don’t hit me, my son! It is I, your father….” The son swept the wriggling reptile out of the shop. The next day the son saw a rat nibbling at the corner of a bag of rice; somehow he was quite sure that it was the same rat that he had thrown out yesterday. And he was right! The poor rat (father) got a sound thrashing with the broom! For days it hovered around the shop; his dearly beloved shop! How he wanted to go in there, but he could not dare to for he had already had two sound thrashings!
One day the rat braved its way into the shop, through the small gap under the rear entry and ran straight into a mouse trap! It was the same mouse trap that he had bought years ago, to catch those menacing rats. He didn’t know that one day he would also land into it. The following morning, the shop boy saw the ‘catch’ in the mouse trap and took the mouse trap far away and undid the hooked lid. The rat ran for dear life! Weeks passed. The rat was not able to get rid of his ‘shop-attachment’ so he ventured into the shop once more. This time he was very careful and managed to avoid the mouse trap. But he could not escape the observant eyes of the son. The son picked up a broom and beat the rat so hard that it died!
Attachments are very difficult to get rid of. But if we don’t work on detaching ourselves from them, they trouble us not only in this life, but also in the next!