Harry Terhanian.com Wisdom from the son of Armenia.

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  • The devil’s limits

    “All my sins I once amassed
    And sat down before them weeping.
    When the caravan went past
    With my load I followed, leaping.
    Then an angel that we met,
    ‘Woeful pilgrim, whither farest?
    Thou wilt there no lodging get
    With that burden that thou bearest.’”
    HOVHANNES ERZINGATZI (b. 1250)

    The devil is only as strong as we are spiritually weak. Due to our sinful tendency we become vulnerable to the temptations of the devil. As the temptations increase our resolve to avoid them decreases and we succumb. This is due to not having positive spiritual engagement and the good company of spiritually striving friends. Bad association of materially inclined persons, and materialistic culture of music, literature, television, movies, internet, magazines, talk, philosophy and any other means of communication that glorifies materialism incites one to selfish gratification. This puts one in a frame of mind susceptible to fall prey to the devil’s temptations.

    The devil succeeds when we are unable to control our passions. We have a window of opportunity to be self-disciplined. Before any action there are three stages of thinking feeling and willing that take place. The determination to act matures when we will (or make a determination) that we must act in a certain way in order to be happy. Such a decision of will leads us to act. Therefore, culture and education can help one to stop the downward spiral of irresponsible action by learning to think, feel and will correctly. This is done by first understanding what the goal of life is and then planning one’s life and activity and choices to reach that goal. Anything that may subvert one’s attempts to reach the real goal of life can be excluded by a discerning person trained in self-control.

    There was once a woman named Hasmik and her son, Ara who has three years old.. They were the last survivors of a great tragedy. Hasmik’s brothers, sisters and parents had all died mysteriously in their ancestral home during a short period of three months. There was no rational explanation for the deaths. There were rumors that the house was haunted by a devilish ghost. But, no one ever saw the devil phantom so it remained a rumor.

    Hasmik and Ara left their ancestral home broken-hearted. They had no choice. Hasmik did not want to lose Ara. They stayed far away for fourteen years. One day Ara asked his mother if they had if they had a home far away. His friends had told him they heard that Hasmik had run away from her ancestral home and village with Ara. Hasmik sadly said, “Yes, my son.”

    “Why mother, why did you run away from our village? What happened to my father and other family members?” asked Ara.

    Hasmik told Ara the story of the mysterious deaths of their family members in their old home.

    “Eight members of our family died in a short period of three months. Your grand parents, father, uncle and auntie their daughter and your two brothers all died. It was horrible. I was so afraid that you would also die, so I left and I am glad because you have lived.”

    “But mother,” said Ara, “I want to return to our home. I am grown now and I can protect you. Let us go back where we belong and live where our forefathers lived.”

    The discussion went on for several days until Hasmik reluctantly agreed. When they returned, Hasmik began to serve an extra plate food that she left on a special table for the devil. She was so fearful he would kill her son if she didn’t serve him. Her specialty preparation was delicious dolma. Ara was perplexed by his mother’s superstition and fear.

    Hasmik made varieties of delicious dolmas: with grape leaves, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, cabbage and more. She had picked the grape leaves six months ago and kept them in brine. They smelled so good after they were cooked. When Ara tasted them dipped in fresh yogurt, his mouth watered with the mixture of sweet, sour and salty tastes with olive oil. One day, when his mother stepped out of the room to get something from the kitchen, Ara ate all the dolmas on the devil’s plate.

    When Hasmik came back, she immediately saw that the devil’s plate was empty. She looked at Ara with fear in her eyes.

    “Ara, what have you done!” she said. “You will have us both killed by the devil.”

    “Why mother. The devil cannot kill us,” said Ara.

    “You don’t understand my son. The devil killed eight of our family members. He can easily kill us. I don’t know what to do now. You have eaten his food. May God, save us,”
    said Hasmik.

    “Mother, you go to sleep and do not worry. I’ll talk to the devil when he comes. I am not afraid of him.” said Ara. The young man waited for the arrival of the devil. He finally came after midnight. Ara said, “Who are you. Are you the devil?”

    “Young man, I am the devil who was the business associate of your grand father. He and your uncle lied to me and cheated me for the benefit of your family. Therefore, I avenged myself by killing him and other members of the family. I see you are like your grand father, so I may also kill you.” Ara looked closely at the devil and asked, “How powerful are you?”

    The devil said, “I am very powerful. I killed your family just like you kill little bugs. I could have killed your mother but she was not greedy and often did little good deeds. Since she is feeding me delicious dolmas now, I will spare her and you. I am so powerful that I can travel at will to heaven and hell. I can’t enter heaven but I can go to the door and speak to God. But, where are my dolmas? Did you eat them? My plate is empty.”

    Ara quickly answered, “Mother is making them as we speak. Please be patient. By the way, can you do me a favor.”

    The devil looked at the impertinent boy. “What is it.” he said. Since you can talk to God, please ask him how long I will live. Please do that for me and I’ll make sure you get extra dolmas on your quick return.” “What do you want to ask,” said the devil.

    “Please ask God how long I will live on this earth.”

    “I’ll do that for you, but make sure I get the extra dolmas. I’ll be back in a short while, perhaps 2 hours.”

    The boy pushed his Mom to make more delicious dolmas. He impatiently waited for the devil to return. It was not long before the devil returned with the news. “God said you will live to be 60 years old.”

    “Thank you so much,” said Ara. “Please eat your dolmas.” The devil ate the many varieties of dolma avariciously. The mother included different kinds of sour and sweet pickles, fresh yogurt, and warm bread, olives and hot chillies and fresh goat’s cheese. When the devil finished, Ara asked, “Now please do me one more favor, dear sir. Ask God if He could make me die at fifty instead of 60 years old; or, if that is not possible, let him extend my life to one hundred years.” Finishing the dolmas and other condiments, the devil was very pleased. He replied to the boy, “Very well,” said the devil.

    The next day, the devil returned with the answer. He said, “God answered it is impossible to extend your life one day more or less than what you are destined. What is ordained by God is destined to happen as scheduled.” The boy was now convinced about his belief that God is the supreme authority and not the devil. He grabbed a burning log from the fire place and began to beat the devil. “Get out of the house and never return in the name of God,” he screamed.

    Ara comforted Hasmik who was distraught with fright after witnessing what happened. “Mother,” he said, “the devil can do nothing to us. He cannot take us one day earlier or later than what we are destined by our own acts. Unfortunately, my grand parents and uncle and auntie and father and others were stained by the sin of cheating in business. But we have lived a clean life and have been spared by our good works. The devil and all others are not our enemy. Only our foolish acts that violate God’s will bring misfortune and suffering in our lives. Let us worship God and lead a life free of sin. We have nothing to fear.”

    When I atone my sins of past
    With pious acts and holy fasts
    Then my God of mercy will see
    My heart free of perversity

    Dear God Almighty bear with me
    Through my foolishness and folly
    Light my darkness, guide my ways
    I may ever accept your grace

    Harry Terhanian (b.1946)

    Published on March 13, 2010 · Filed under: , Devil;
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