Five knots on scarf

Rajiv Vaishnav
6 min readMay 6, 2024



THE greatest problem or the smallest problem, it is the same: MAN. And when I say man, I do not
mean something abstract. I mean I, you, he, she. There exists no man as such, separate from human beings.

Man lives a problematic life, and dies a problematic death. From the very beginning to the end he is
just a long, long problem. That creates anxiety, anguish, tension, suffering, and a constant feeling
that something is being missed. And that feeling is true. Not only something, everything is being

But if you just stand a step back and look at the whole situation, and see how the problem is being
created, then to solve it is just a child’s game.

I am reminded of a story. Gautam the Buddha one day comes into his morning discourse; ten thousand sannyasins are waiting for him, just like every day. But today there is something surprising.

Everybody is puzzled and looking at each other, because Buddha is coming with a handkerchief It is very costly — perhaps some king has presented it to him.

But he does not accept that kind of thing, so everybody is looking, thinking, What is the matter?

And why should he bring it just in his hand ahead of himself almost saying to everybody, ”Look, look well”? And then he comes and sits; and keeping the handkerchief in his hand, says to his sannyasins, ”Look very carefully.”

They all look. There is nothing to look at, just a beautiful silken handkerchief And then Buddha starts putting knots in the handkerchief; he puts five knots in it. There is immense silence… everybody is simply watching what he is doing. Then Buddha asks them, ”Is this the same handkerchief the same that I had brought with me, or is it a different handkerchief?”

Sariputta, one of his chief disciples, stands up and says, ”Why are you joking with us? You have never done such a thing. This is the same handkerchief”

Buddha says, ”Sariputta, think once again — because the handkerchief that I brought had no knots, and this has five knots. How can this be the same?”

Sariputta could see the point. He said, ”I am sorry. I do understand. Although it is the same handkerchief now it is in a very knotted condition — such as a man in anguish. He is the same man; a man in suffering is the same man but in knots.”

Buddha said, ”Exactly right. That’s what I want to show to you: that the man who is in suffering is not different from Gautam the Buddha. I am just a handkerchief without knots. You are a handkerchief with five knots.” Of course Buddha has his philosophy of five basic problems that trouble man: violence, greed, untruthfulness, unawareness, and the ego. You can find many more knots; these are just the main ones according to him.

Secondly, he said, ”I would like to ask you one thing more. I am trying to open these knots. Look at me — will this help to open the knots?” He pulled both the ends of the handkerchief; the knots became smaller and tighter. Somebody shouted, ”What are you doing? This way those knots will never open. Such fine silk and you are pulling so hard! The knots are becoming so small that it will become almost impossible to open them again.”

Buddha said, ”You can understand about this handkerchief so clearly — can’t you understand yourself? Can’t you see yourself in the same, understanding way? Have you been pulling your knots or not? Otherwise why do they go on becoming smaller and smaller, and tighter and tighter?

”A child is loose, relaxed. Look at the old man, just knots and knots. Certainly, whatever you are doing is wrong. You are pulling the handkerchief. You are trying hard; your intention is good, you want to open the knots. You are taking much trouble — but your doing is your very undoing. You are making things more and more complicated, worse and worse. And the more complicated they become, the harder you pull, because you think, What else to do?”

Buddha asked, ”Then I would like to ask you, what do you suppose I should do?”

One monk stood up and he said, ”I would like to come close, and first I would like to see how the knots have been put together.”

Buddha said, ”That’s a scientific way. Before you can undo something, you have to know how it has been done, because if you know how it has been done, you have already known all that is needed to undo it; you have just to reverse the process.”

The monk looked at the handkerchief and he said ”The knots have been done in such a way that if we relax the handkerchief and allow the knots to become looser rather than tighter, and help them to become loose, it is not going to be very difficult. They are simple knots.”

Buddha gave the handkerchief to him and the man opened the knots one by one. Buddha said, ”Today’s sermon is finished. I am not going to speak anymore today. Just go and meditate about your knots, and how you have managed to make them so tight. And just do the reverse.”

Any small problem, just look at it, at how you have been trying to solve it, and it goes on becoming worse and worse. Certainly in your doing there is something which is becoming a nourishment to it rather than a killer. You are not poisoning it, you are nourishing it, feeding it. And don’t try to work on so many knots together. Just choose one small knot, the smallest you can find in yourself; by smallest, I mean the most insignificant.

People have the tendency to choose the most significant; even when they are choosing to solve their problems, they choose the greatest problem first. Now, that is simply foolish. Just become a little aware, alert. Start from the small things, very small things.


गाँठ अगर लग जाए तो फिर रिश्ते हों या डोरी
लाख करें कोशिश खुलने में वक़्त तो लगता है……………….हस्तीमल हस्ती

gāñTh agar lag jaa.e to phir rishte hoñ yā Dorī
laakh kareñ koshish khulne meñ vaqt to lagtā hai……………HASTIMAL HASTI

If a knot is tied, whether in a relationship or a thread,
It will take some time to unravel, even if one tries a million times.

I know I am repeating this ghazal by Jagjit Singh ji, but I can’t help it. Hastimal Hasti has written such amazing words and life lessons in a few heartwarming couplets. One such sher is mentioned above.

Jagjit Singh — Pyaar Ka Pehla Khat Full Song — Album Face to Face (


प्यार का पहला ख़त लिखने में वक़्त तो लगता है
नए परिंदों को उड़ने में वक़्त तो लगता है
प्यार का पहला ख़त लिखने में वक़्त तो लगता है

जिस्म की बात नहीं थी, उनके दिल तक जाना था
लंबी दूरी तय करने में वक़्त तो लगता है ….प्यार का पहेला

गाँठ अगर लग जाए तो फिर रिश्ते हो या डोरी
लाख करें कोशिश खुलने में वक़्त तो लगता है
…प्यार का पहेला

हमने इलाज-ए-ज़ख़्म-ए-दिल तो ढूँढ लिया लेकिन
गहरे ज़ख़्मों को भरने में वक़्त तो लगता है…

प्यार का पहेला ख़त लिखने में वक़्त तो लगता है
नए परिंदों को उड़ने में वक़्त तो लगता है
प्यार का पहेला ख़त लिखने में वक़्त तो लगता है