• Sākshi Joanne Banuelos

The Missing Prayer Flags


Recently in one of of Acharya Shunya’s morning classes on Sadhana Chatushtayam (a class in the Vedic Spiritual Studies program on spiritual studentship), she spoke about papam and punyam. Papam is the negative accumulations of karma (actions) borne of ignorance (avidya) and (adharma) wrong actions which have no benefit to others, our world, or the universe. Punyam is the positive accumulation of karma, known as merits accrued from actions borne of knowledge (vidya) and dharma (right actions to all beings and all of Life). After this class I contemplated on papam and punyam and thought- what negative actions do I display and act out and what have I been able to change towards a more positive action?

One thing came to mind; and it had to do with a bird feeder and squirrels.

For many years we have had a bird feeder in our backyard and squirrels delight in climbing onto it, munching on the bird seeds, and many times the feeder has fallen and broken from their weight. For some years I tried to discourage the squirrels from hanging onto the bird feeder by running out of the house, broom in hand, ready to scare them away by hitting the broom on the ground, getting angry at those pesky squirrels! I really believed this was an okay thing to do and sooner or later those squirrels would move on. Today, this is no longer my M.O. with the squirrels. I’ve realized that my mind has changed from anger around the squirrels to compassion. I now have a peacefulness within my mind that happened over time through my studies of Advaita Vedanta with Acharya Shunya. My years of being present and listening deeply (shravanam) to my teacher on shastra and then contemplating (mananam) on these teachings have slowly but surely revealed to me a better way of being in the world. How I am now towards the squirrels that live in our yard has been a complete turn-around, a realization I had actually changed my mind, moving from darkness to light. It was as I’ve heard my teacher say “as easily as ripe fruit falls from a tree”, my mind had changed. Understanding that my actions had changed from ignorance to knowledge in my dealings with the squirrels. I had begun to see that the squirrel and I were One.

I’ve given up shooing away the squirrels with a broom and more importantly, I no longer see them as a menace. They still come around daily and hang from the bird feeder and I now spread some birdseeds out on the top of the compost container, so the squirrels can sit comfortably and munch away.

There is more to my squirrel story...this one having to do with prayer flags.

I have several strings of prayer flags hanging in our backyard, the newest string of flags we hung from a tree branch. It was very pretty, flowing in the breeze. One morning my husband and I noticed large holes in some of the flags and another morning the whole string of flags we found on the ground with a few flags missing. We hung up what was left of the prayer flags and contemplated the mystery of the missing flags. Then one morning, looking out the window from the kitchen I noticed a squirrel chewing on the remaining flags! He made off with two more flags and the last of the flags were now on the ground. I noticed my reaction – no anger or being upset. Actually, it was a funny sight. The remaining flags I picked up and placed them on a nearby bush and within a couple of days they too were gone.

All I can say is the squirrels in my yard are content and I am content with the squirrels in the yard and All is Ishwara.

The author Sākshi Joanne Banuelos is a student of Acharya Shunya, and serves as the Student Coordinator of the Vedic Spiritual Studies Program.

Learn more about how you can study Vedanta with Acharya Shunya in her Vedic Spiritual Studies Program.

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