Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Traffic Sutras


I just missed getting caught by a traffic signal, and as the light changed from yellow to green, I noticed the countdown timer displaying the number 60. As I sped on my way home, I felt happy that I had saved a minute. I told the Master this, and he asked me-

‘So what will you do with the saved minute?’

I said, ‘Oh, lots of things. I can read for an extra minute, I can watch TV for an extra minute, I can listen to music for an extra minute, I can even sleep for one minute more…’

The Master shook his head and asked-
‘What would you have done if you had stopped at the signal instead?’

I said, ‘Nothing much, I suppose. Waited for the lights to change.’

The Master said-
‘A minute of doing nothing is 60 seconds of peace’


We were riding down a busy road.

‘Master’, I asked, ‘There are many who share the road with us, but not all follow the Way. How do we treat those who disrupt the flow?’

The Master did not answer, but pointed to a rash young man with a flashy bike, who was weaving in and out recklessly. After a couple of minutes, the young man was hemmed in by an autorickshaw in front, the sidewalk to the left and us at the right. As he revved in frustration, the Master gently slowed so that a gap opened up and the young man sped on his way.

The Master said only one word-


I narrowly avoided a crash the other day. The car in front of me braked suddenly – without warning- but I managed to twist out of the way. Nevertheless, I was incensed when I related the incident to the Master.

The Master said, -

There is no sudden. The braking is only the culmination of a chain of events. You only see the car in front of you, but the Superior Man sees further. He sees the pothole that caused the truck in front of the car to brake. He who knows the Way anticipates everything and acts to ease the consequences.’


After a sumptuous meal at a roadside restaurant, the Master was feeling expansive and spoke about the Road, -

‘You think that the Road is static- a thing once made and it is there for all eternity- but it’s not true. The road changes everyday. Today there’s dust, tomorrow rain causes streamlets to run on the sides. Potholes appear gradually and suddenly disappear, only to come again at the next rains. Be aware of the changes and you will be close to the Way.’



‘Master,’ I asked, ‘How do we know if there is a pothole ahead in the traffic/ how can we prepare ourselves against things that we cannot immediately see?’

The Master replied, -

‘Nothing exists in isolation. Just as you can know the presence of the jasmine by its fragrance alone, so too does the pothole give out its signs. The dip of the vehicle in front of you, the sudden brakes or the swerve of the car in front of you, the steady degradation of the road after the monsoons- all these are signs. If you pay attention to the Way, no secret will remain hidden from you.’



We never took the same route twice. One day, I was tired and wanted to reach home fast, but the Master took a different route in unfamiliar areas and we were soon lost among the bylanes. We stopped to ask for directions and I testily remarked, ‘We should have taken the normal route’, but the Master suddenly pointed to a tea-stall and said, ‘Oh, look, they are selling my favourite kind of tea.’



We were sitting at a sidewalk café and watching the traffic go by. When the lights changed, the engines revved up and a traffic policeman helped to organize the flow. Seeing this, I asked, ‘Master, there is already a system of rules- the traffic regulations of the country. Why do we need the Way?’

The Master replied, -

‘Those regulations are born of paper and talks. The Way emerges from within the flow itself.’



I heard from the others that the Master had had an accident. I couldn’t believe it, but they told me that it was true and that nobody dared to ask the Master how it had happened.

I walked up to the Master and asked, -

‘I heard that you had an accident. How did it happen? Did you miscalculate? Did you not anticipate?’

The Master gave me a rueful smile and said, -

‘Even the Superior Man makes mistakes, but only the Superior Man uses the mistake to see clearly. The Way is not only of the mind; it is also of the vehicle. The error was mine, my brakes were loose.’



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