The mobility scooter man
One of the best parts of the day is cycling into town in the morning. Cycling helps get you in a good mood, and the journey is an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Oxford. It’s a moment of peace before the days work begins. To fully enjoy the bicycle ride, I found some nice cycle paths, which avoid the busy roads and stresses of the rush hour.
Now it happened that on my way to work, I invariably passed a middle aged man in one of those mobility scooters. For a reason which remains lost to me, he started swearing and cursing at me, every time he saw me. Every morning, I would get a daily insult as I passed him on my bicycle. At first, I didn’t really pay much attention; I didn’t feel threatened, (one good thing about being a racing cyclist is that you always fancy your chances in out-sprinting an old man on a mobility scooter with a top speed of 5 mph).
But, after several weeks, it was getting a bit tiresome. I like to try and inwardly sing Guru’s songs on the way into town, I try to maintain a meditative atmosphere in my mind. These random insults were getting under my skin and spoiling the enjoyment of the cycle. Then one day, I was in the park, and he jumped out of his motor scooter and threatened to start punching me! O Boy, I’m not really a Kshatriya, I avoid conflict like the plague, I ignored him and cycled quickly on, but I did feel shaken. It got worse, another day he veered his scooter into my path. Always I ignored him, I never said anything, looked away and cycled on. But, even this didn’t stop the daily insult. He had tremendous persistence.
I told my flatmate - who just thought it was really funny I was getting harassed by an old man in a mobility scooter.
Anyway, how do you respond to unsolicited abuse when all you want in life is to enjoy a quite life and protect your peace of mind? I prayed to God to illumine this angry old man - I made a specific point of praying to God to illumine this man through either his compassion aspect or his Justice aspect. But, if God wanted to use his Justice I really wouldn’t mind at all!
The next thing I did was to take a different way to work. Avoiding the cycle path where I kept meeting him and instead taking the busy roads. It’s not as nice - fighting through the rush hour, but at least I can avoid this inner and outer conflict which was getting really irritating. My philosophy was that if he really wants a fight - he can have one, but he won’t get it with me.
After a while I went to New York, but when I came back from the holiday I was genuinely shocked to see a headline on the newspaper billboard. “Man in mobility scooter drowns in river”
I nearly fell over in disbelief. What do you think at a time like this? Can it really be the same person? Then I had the strange, slightly disconcerting (and perhaps arrogant thought) - Has God the justice really acted so quickly? He was a bit annoying, but a puncture on one of his wheels would be more appropriate to his misdemeanours, not drowning! It was a strange situation where you don’t know what to think. I just prayed for God’s Will to be done.
I really needed to know whether it is was my ‘friend’ who met with an accident in the river, so I returned to the cycle path route. For a few days I don’t seem him. Goodness me! Perhaps he really did meet with a sticky end?
But, then one day I do see him, and immediately he veers his scooter into my path and shouts some unpleasant curse! What do you think, at a time like this? I suppose I’m glad my ‘enemy’ did not die. But, it’s annoying to meet these curses again because I have to go back on the rush hour roads.
Well my flatmate was enjoying all these stories, but the story doesn’t end there.
Just recently my flatmate was walking through town when he sees this old man on his mobility scooter and suddenly out of the blue he punches a passing tourist (a young boy). My flat mate said he screemed at the top of his commanding voice. “NO!” and walks on. We know it was the same man because of distinguishing features (and to be frank - old men in mobility scooters who go around punching random strangers are not that common in Oxford).
The incident was kind of comforting to hear. Firstly, that it wasn’t just me. Secondly, my flatmate was now on a mission; he wasn’t laughing so much now.
It did make both of us reflect, what do you do with someone who has a psychological problem which makes them be very aggressive and unpleasant to random strangers?
In the past, it had felt like the right thing just to ignore the problem and take a different route to work. But, now when I hear young tourists being hit at random, I’m wondering whether I have a certain civic duty to try report his behaviour and make sure it is checked.
Sometimes praying to God is not enough to illumine people. If we allow people to get away with doing the wrong thing, they may just accumulate more and more bad karma and if they feel they can get away with their bad behaviour they just get worse.
Guru said his philosophy was to try and stop bad actions. Guru said his philosophy was different to that of Ramana Maharashi. There is a very interesting extract from Sri Chinmoy Answers I put at the end.
Everything is an experience. We can take these kinds of experiences in so many different ways. It’s definitely not something I enjoyed. But, perhaps it made me pray to God more than if I hadn’t come across this man. It teaches a lot about forgiveness, illumination, justice and dealing with tricky situations. As Guru might say ‘it all thickens the plot’.
I don’t have any particular ill-will towards this person. I genuinely hope he gains some kind of illumination. Perhaps he has some psychological problem. Ultimately, we have to see God in everyone. But, sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is actually to be very strict and not allow bad behaviour to go unpunished. Perhaps the story will have a few more twists.
Once it got to a point that whenever I saw a mobility scooter I would get a mild wave of anxiety. But, a paradox of this story is that Guru used mobility scooters quite a bit during his last years on earth. I had some great meditations whilst Guru was driving in one of these scooters. So I guess never judge people by the vehicle they drive.
Extract from Sri Chinmoy Answers part 21.
“…Ramana Maharshi himself received a blow from one of the thieves. Ramana Maharshi said to the thief, "Why have you struck only one side? I have got another side also. You can do the same thing to that side." Ramana Maharshi's way of satisfaction was like Jesus Christ's: if you are hit on one side, then the other side also you should offer.
I do not agree with that philosophy. Because of your ignorance you gave me a slap on one side. Why should I allow you to increase your ignorance by hitting me on the other side? Ramana Maharshi said that it was their dharma, their way, to misbehave, while his way was to forgive. Ramana Maharshi showed his compassion for their ignorance. I would say, "I know you have done something wrong, but I have not done anything wrong. Then why should I allow you to do more harm? Why should I allow you to enter further into ignorance-life?" Ramana Maharshi had infinite compassion and forgiveness for the thieves, even while they were doing the wrong thing. I would say, "Whom should I forgive, the one who wants to do more wrong things or the one who will say, ‘I have struck you. Please forgive me, forgive me!' "
Definitely, if someone has done something wrong to me and asks for forgiveness, I will forgive him. But when someone is ready to strike someone else, should I forgive him? Should I refrain from telling the police or informing somebody to come and help? Ramana Maharshi was such a great yogi, but my philosophy on this matter is different. He got satisfaction-perfection from his forgiveness. I get satisfaction-perfection from my wisdom. My wisdom tells me that the thief is already bad. I did not go and strike him. I did not go anywhere to steal. He is the one who is doing something wrong. I am only preventing him from doing something more in that line.”
- What a story Tejvan! I was wondering - did you ever try and talk to him - or bring him a flower or smile :)? From a distance it feels possible, but that would probably not have been the solution, if he was over aggressive. Sometimes people with strange minds or emotions still respond to unexpected kindness, but I doubt I would have even had your patience.
Anyway, your story reminded me of a little story where praying for a bit of illumination plus showing strictness may have worked. I am teaching some children`s yoga at two places, and at one place I used to keep our shoes outside in front of the glas door to our yoga room, right on the doormat at the top of a small flight of stone stairs, to avoid kids or parents stepping into the room with their shoes or putting their shoes back on inside in the changing area and walking through the room on their way out (which we are not allowed to do, and any shoe would invariably leave some kind of footprint on the floor).
In our small village-type suburb I thought there would be no danger for the shoes in front of the door. However, one day, the shop owner opposite our yoga room came running in and told us, some youngsters had just taken one pair of the shoes and run off with them, and he failed to catch them. It was a nice pair of fairly new neon green Nike sports shoes - and the poor kid, to whom the shoes belonged, felt quite sad about it, understandably. So did I, of course, feeling also guilty about my carelessness or naive trust. It may have been an opportunity to talk a little bit about detachment, but then I was more trying to encourage positive thinking and visualisation - of the shoes coming back, somehow. Or even praying to the hearts of the thieves to change their mind. (In case you wonder how the poor kid got back home - we called his mother who brought some shoes. I was grateful she did not blame me at all, but I still felt I had to make up for it.).
The shop owner said he would recognize the kids, he had seen them around the playground, but did not know them by name. We felt we should definitely inform the police - since these youngsters may be doing more mischief - but I was not sure if that would really help to get the shoes back. It was Friday, I called the police for general advice on Saturday and was going to see them personally on Monday.
In the meantime I put up a few coloured printouts in the area with a foto of the type of shoes, asking the "dear shoe lifters" to please bring the shoes back - otherwise we may have to inform the police. The poster said it may have just been a stupid boys' prank - and not really a very courageous one - and we would be grateful to get the shoes back. Besides, they had been seen and would be recognised.
Monday I had no time to go to the police, and on Thuesday morning the yoga room owner called me - there was a pair of neon green Nike shoes in front of the door. Of course everyone involved was very happy, and I just wished that many more things could be righted by speaking to or addressing people - plus a bit of strictness if needed.
So often we tend to do stupid things, for various reasons. And although praying definitely helps in many ways, also outer action may be needed, and just someone talking to you and reminding you of what is right and approaching you with kindness or understanding can create an opening and bring in light. Of course, increasing someone`s ignorance by simply indulging or ignoring his wrong actions is not the way either.
One other cute little story: in my last workshop I had a kid which wants to learn how to manage her anger - she often falls victim to her inner anger and even has been getting months of therapy for it. Kids are invited to bring a toy animal to our yoga classes, and that kid had brought two, but her mother, who also participated, had none. So I asked her to share and give one of the toys to her mother for our breathing exercise. Her first impulse was "no" - and she was clasping the two toys even closer to her heart. I looked at her and heard myself say "you know, great yogis love to share" - and immediately she smiled and gave one to her mother (the newer one, she emphasized). Her mother told me later that she keeps hearing about "the great yogis" now several times a day....
(still an amateur in the art of kindness)Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 8
"By ignoring ignorance
We cannot illumine ignorance.
Ignorance has to be caught.
Ignorance has to be tamed.
Ignorance has to be perfected."Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 22
I must choose one of the two."
"My Lord's Strictness
Changed my life for a day.
My Lord's Kindness
Changed my life for a month.
My Lord's Oneness
Has changed my life forever."
- Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower Flames No 3800Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 129,
"Be kind, be all sympathy,
For each and every human being
Is forced to fight against himself."