In 1999, in the months before my first son was born, I found myself obsessively reading a Vedantic Mystic named Vivekenanda. He was a famous disciple of Ramakrishna, the most famous Indian mystic of the 19th century. Vivekananda had made a huge impact on Western Culture when he addressed the World Religious Conventions in Chicago in 1893. It was the first time that Westerners had become exposed to Eastern Thinking and Yogic Thought in the continental United States. In the months before my sons birth, I read all the books I could find that reported Vivkenanda’s talks and recorded writings. After I had read and underlined all his books, I hand wrote everything I had underlined into a notebook. The project took me a few months and I finished it right before my son was born. I then put the notebook away for most of both of my son’s childhoods. Recently I found the book and was stunned by the the things Vivekananda had said, and the efforts that I had put into recording them twenty years ago. A lot of what he said was a Vedantic version of quantum physics, where he discussed the field of intelligence from which all things spring as Brahman. There are a thousand things he said that were worth repeating. However there was one story that struck me and I will start with that.
“The world is like a group of fish mongers who have travelled far to take their fish to market. After selling them they begin their journey home only to be caught in a huge rain storm. They are offered shelter in the home of some florists whose gardens are filled with many fragrant flowers. The florists are generous and good hosts. However the beautiful scents of the flowers are so foreign, that none of the fish mongers are able to fall asleep at night. One by one they retrieve their fish baskets from outside and place them by their heads, and one by one they were able to fall asleep. The world is like these fish baskets.”
I think this story speaks for itself. But I think it begs the question, “What is my fish basket?” I think each one of us has our own, perhaps more than one. For some it is our biography. For others it is our habits of thinking. For others it is what we pay attention to. It might even be our culture and what it causes us to value. But whatever it is, however we keep ourselves from noticing the eternal scents that that are wafting by us all the time, that is our fish basket. It is worth contemplating what familiar scents we put in our baskets, so that we can fall asleep.