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  Volume 4 - Issue 10 OCTOBER 2006



A group of prosperous and well-off alumni, all of them highly established in their respective careers, decided to pay a visit on their favorite former university professor. It was a happy reunion for all, with much laughter, good cheer and feelings of camaraderie as the first few hours of the afternoon were spent recollecting their college years, from their trials and struggles, through their youthful pranks and foolishness, to their ultimate successes. However, after the reminiscing was done and the topic of talk turned to the present, their laughter gradually subsided until it was replaced by a vague gloominess. Complaints about problems at work, in family matters, health issues, financial worries, and other difficulties soon became the central theme of their conversation. When political differences arose, the former feeling of unity and comradeship was lost. What had begun as a celebration of their lives together slowly turned sour. It was at that point that the old professor interrupted the proceedings.

He stood and asked jokingly, “Class, now pay attention. Who among you would like a coffee break?” All present raised their hands. He disappeared into the kitchen and in short order returned with a large steaming pot of coffee and a large assortment of cups – everything from Chinese porcelain, cut crystal, fine glassware, handcrafted ceramics, to plastic and simple old mugs, some expensive and exquisite and others common and plain looking. He told his guests to help themselves to the coffee and let them choose whichever cup they liked.


When everyone was settled with a cup of hot coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you notice, all the fancy and ornate cups were quickly scooped up, leaving behind the simple and ordinary ones. Certainly, it is common for one to choose the finest available for oneself. That is the normal course of things, but it is also the source of the problems and stress you have all been complaining about since our conversation turned to your present situations. All any of you really wanted was to enjoy a good hot cup of coffee, and for that, the cup itself bears no importance at all – anyone without a hole will do the job! – yet each one of you became consumed with having the best cup available and even surreptitiously eyed each other’s cups in comparison to your own.”


The old professor sat back and enjoyed a sip from a plain simple mug he had chosen. “Now,” he went on, “let us propose for the moment that life is coffee, and the jobs, money and position in society deemed so important are the cups. What are they truly? Nothing but tools, implements with which to hold life, but the quality of life, the coffee inside, doesn’t change a whit and remains the same no matter the cup selected. Sometimes, by concentrating too much on the cup, and those of others,” he smiled, “we fail to fully taste and experience the coffee within it. So don’t let the cups drive you and take all your attention…simply enjoy the coffee instead, no matter the container you find it in.”

And with that, the old professor toasted them, and sat back and heartily drank his coffee in the same old stained but sturdy mug he had been using for forty odd years now, the one he found for five cents in a used goods store the day he began his career as a teacher.

Swami has often emphasized that what matters to God is quality, not quantity. And what is the true quality of every human being? He says, ”There is no nobler quality in the world than love. It is wisdom. It is righteousness. It is wealth. It is Truth.” It is love alone which can bring unity in this world of apparent diversity.

Illustrations: Sri Vamsi Aditya, SSSIHL

- Heart2Heart Team

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Vol 4 Issue 10 - OCTOBER 2006
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