Guru Nanak was traveling by foot, walking from village to village, offering his teachings to people. A very compassionate and courageous man, both ways. And we like him, because he is not one of those all-the-time smiling, gentle saints. He knows when to be hard, when to be soft – real thing!
So, one day he happened to be a guest in a home of a very rich man in the area. So, he was a guest in this house for a few days. When he is leaving, he gave this man a needle, a sewing needle. He gave this needle and said, “You keep this with you. Some time when you see me, you can give it back to me. Till then please keep it with you.” A needle, not a golden one, just a simple needle. That man took it and kept it with him.
Then after the guru left, he told his wife, “The guru gave me a needle and I am supposed to keep it in safekeeping, and give it to him later.” The wife, who was little wiser than him – usually they think they are – said, “You fool, why did you take a needle from a guru? If you take something from a man like him and suppose, he is a old man and if he dies and you don’t get to give back this needle, what will you do? You will be in debt forever. Taking a needle from a guru, why did you take it? You should not receive anything from a man like him. What we offer is fine, never take anything from a man like him. And if he dies and goes away, you can’t carry this needle to heaven and give it there. It is not possible to take the needle to heaven and return it there. So, you will be in debt forever and ever and ever, and you will not be able to wash off that one karma and it may mean a thousand lifetimes. This is not a good thing. Just somehow find him and return it to him immediately.”
So, the man started trekking behind the guru. The guru walks fast. But slowly after a couple of months, the man caught up as to where he is, and then he said, “Oh my guru, I don’t want to carry this needle with me because just in case, you are a old man, if you die – and I will be left in debt forever, and I know I cannot carry this needle to heaven and return it to you there.” So Guru Nanak said, “So, you know that you can’t carry this needle to heaven, you know that, right?” He said, “Yes.” “Then when you know this, that you can’t carry a needle, what are all these things that you are accumulating? You will not be able to carry any of that. If you can’t carry a needle, definitely you can’t carry anything else.”
Then the man got the message. He fell at his feet and he went back home, sold everything that he can sell. Just kept what is needed for his family, for him and his family, and the rest – because the whole society was poverty-stricken, so he went about building whatever was needed for the well-being of the people around. All these days people were living in poverty, he was going on accumulating.
The world is a limited space. This planet is a limited resource. If each individual goes about accumulating endlessly, all that can happen is strife, all that can happen is pain. Unless every individual somewhere fixes it within himself, “Okay, this is my deal, beyond this I will not go. Rest of my capabilities, I will use it for everybody’s well-being.” If this does not come in a human being, he is a disaster to himself and to the world. The disaster on this planet is not earthquake, not volcano, not a tsunami – the true disaster is human ignorance. This is the only disaster. Ignorance is the only disaster. Enlightenment is the only solution, there is really no other solution, please see.
So, spiritual process, if it has to become alive – this is not about renunciation, this is just about living sensibly. Wrong words have been put by external scholars. There is no such word as renunciation in any of the Indian languages, if you don’t know this. Yes! There is no such word as renunciation in Sanskrit language. It is the outside scholars who come and say, “Oh, this man has renounced.” No, he has embraced the whole universe, and you think he has renounced. That is your understanding because you cannot think of life without possessing this, this, this – one part of the planet is mine, without that you cannot live. Somebody has embraced the whole universe, so he did not think he has to gather it, because of all the stars belong to him. The whole galaxy belongs to him. He did not think it is necessary for him to gather something and keep it in his bag or in his bank. It did not arise, it did not occur to him. This is not renunciation.
So understanding life from an inner perspective, not from an objective sense – because objectively whatever you perceive is only good enough for survival. You need a subjective perception of life.