A Fish Story
-Kavi Raj Singh
Recently, when I was taking a walk down memory lane, a particular incident came to mind... It was a Wednesday afternoon and it was my brother's day off from his shop. He and his family,
along with our mom, younger brother and myself, decided to go
to a beach near our house and spend the evening out there,
catching the sunset.
This is a small strip, next to the world-renowned Laguna Beach.
So, as planned, all of us hopped in the van and off to the beach
we went. Once we got there, we simply stood around and
soaked in the view. It was amazing... the blue water, the perfect
temperature, flying seagulls, fishermen, some people catching
up on their tan, and daredevils out there riding the waves on
their boards ... and in the middle of all this action, stood this
After playing with the water and making forts in the sand, I decided to take a walk on the pier. There were quite a few fishermen on both sides of the platform, with multi-lines in the water. Some couples were enjoying the view ... spending quality time together, as they say in California.
You know what I like most about the people in California? Regardless of whether or not you know someone, one exchanges greetings ... it seems like they have taken that from Sikh teachings ... Aagai aavat singh jo paavai, Waheguru ki fateh bulaaveh! [Rehatnama] I was quite a distance away from where everyone in my family was sitting, by the time I got to the other end of the pier. I leaned over to follow the sight of a fish gliding in and out of the waves. I stood there for a while, enjoying nature and its wonders, before turning around to rejoin the family.
As I headed back, I saw a fisherman pulling out a catch. However, because the fish was very small, he didn't find much use for it; so he just tossed it on the pier. The poor thing was flapping around like crazy. Something in me made me lean over and flick it back into the water.
I stood there for a while, watching the fish struggling to swim away. While it grappled with getting its bearings, I was feeling smug about myself for having done a good deed and saved a life. But, as soon as this thought crossed my mind, a seagull suddenly appeared from nowhere and in a flash, had the same fish caught in its claws and flew away.
My smile disappeared; my smugness was gone. Frozen and stunned by the sudden turn of events, I just stood there ... I just couldn't believe my eyes. I didn't know what to do. The words, "Achintai baaz paye..." somehow surfaced in my consciousness. "A hawk suddenly pounces ..." (Farid Ji's Bani, page 1383 from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji).
For the rest of the evening, I hardly said anything and came home still perturbed by what I had witnessed. I said a quiet prayer...O Kindness, what's this game? Why did the fish have to be saved, and then die the very next instant?
Before I could say anything, I heard something in me ask, why did it have to be caught in the first place and then tossed on the pier like that? Why didn't the fisherman throw it back in the water? Why, why, why....?
The why's never end ... that is, until you convince yourself that you did try ... I told myself that I had been privy to a series of events, and that I had merely played a small part, the role that had been assigned to me. Life is a stage-show and we all have our parts to play. And thus a conversation began ...
Okay, I am willing to accept the reasoning but why do I still feel so disturbed, I asked myself. Remember how you felt when you saved the fish ... you felt like a saviour, and when the seagull took it away, you felt hurt because someone had destroyed what you had saved ... right!
Now open your mind to the following reasoning ... Forget yourself as a saviour; instead, you're a medium whose role was to drop the fish back in the water so that nature could proceed in accordance with its laws. In this case, it resulted in the seagull getting fed. Remember, I said, everyone who is born must die and, in this case, you were appointed to get that particular soul out of its life-cycle of a fish. You were just playing your part ... The voice continued ...
The hurt comes when one starts to claim or own the part that is assigned to you ... instead of just performing and moving on, of being thankful for one's role and the opportunity! So, what say you...how do you feel? I nodded half-heartedly to myself: it is a tough thing to accept that, as a human being, I have no control over the larger goings-on around me.
I will leave you with this one thought, spoke the voice ... If God didn't want you to play the part, He could have made the fisherman throw the fish back in the water or, even better, He wouldn't have let it get caught in the first place. However, He planned a series of events in which you had a role to play. A role that would bring home a very important point, a life-lesson.
A faint smile crossed my face as I realized how true that voice was.
Every step of the way, Gurbani keeps reminding us, Kabir, na hum kiya na karihgay, na kar sakay sareer ... " I have done nothing; I shall do nothing; my body can do nothing". (Bhagat Kabir' Ji's Bani, page 1367, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji).
And again, Jab eh janai main kichh karta, tab lag garabh jon main firtaa ... "As long as he thinks he does it all, he shall wander from birth to birth ..." (5th wonderful Guru Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji's Bani, page, 278, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
Pages and pages of guidance, but we keep getting stuck in the moh and maya of life - the snares of worldly attachment and illusion!
As I was about to drop off to sleep, cherishing the fresh awareness, a different thought started sending ripples through my newly-found peace ... if I have no control over anything, then why should I do anything? ... and, with that, a million more questions followed.