Praying for Contentment

Wisdom, Justice, Divine Intervention and Truth

Wisdom is found in every religious tradition.  Stories which offer a moral, cause us to think about our decisions and priorities in life, or challenge us to see things in a new way help us grow in wisdom and understanding.  Wisdom stories don’t have to follow the laws of physics or be historically true – if they convey a point and cause us to think and reflect on our values, they have done their job.  Below is a prose poem from story-teller Anthony De  Mello set in a Hindu Indian tradition.  It offers us a universal truth not dependent on one religious tradition, and plays upon our wish to win the lottery or have a Genie grant us three wishes, and pokes at our own short-sighted selfishness (even our selfishness in prayer where we attempt to turn God into a Genie whose job is to fulfill our wishes).  Wisdom often brings us out of our dreamy wish-world and into reality.  And as this story suggests, we might all be better off with some contentment and thankfulness for what we have rather than wishing for life on our terms.

“The Lord Vishnu said to his devotee: ‘I am weary

of your constant petitions.

I have decided to grant you any

three things you ask for. After that,

I shall give you nothing more.’

The devotee delightedly made his first

petition at once. He asked that his

wife should die so that he could marry

a better woman. His petition was

immediately granted.

But when friends and relatives gathered

for the funeral and began to recall all

the good qualities of his wife, the

devotee realized he had been hasty. He

now realized he had been blind to

all her virtues. Was he likely to find

another woman as good as her?

So he asked the Lord

to bring her back to life!

That left him with just one

petition. He was determined not

to make a mistake this time, for he

would no chance to correct it.

He consulted widely. Some of his friends

advised him to ask for immortality,   But

of what good was immortality, said others,

if he did not have good health? And of

what use was health if he had no money?

And of what use was money if he had no friends?

Years passed and he could not make up

his mind what to ask for: life or health

or wealth or power or love. Finally he

said to the Lord, ‘Please advise me on

what to ask for.’

The Lord laughed when he saw the

man’s predicament, and said, ‘Ask to

be content no matter what you get.’

(The Song of the Bird, pgs. 142-143)

Minerva: Goddess of Learning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.