CHAPTER – 4
“Once King Yadu, the son of Yayathi, saw in a forest, recluse saint (avadhuta) and addressed him thus: ‘So, every human being is impelled to strive and act by a longing for any one or all of all the goals of life – righteousness, wealth, fulfillment of desire and liberation from ignorance and misery. But your attitude is quite different. You do not strive or act at all. I dare not say that you abstain from all action owing to lack of ability, skill or understanding. You are indeed quite capable, energetic and wise. Such as you are, why do you live in the forest, free from all desire? Even though you have neither kith and kin nor even a family, how could you be so blissful and self – contended?”
The avadhuta replied, “My bliss and contentment are the fruits of self-realization. I have gained the necessary wisdom from the whole of creation, through 24 gurus. I shall elaborate the same from you:
All creatures, in accordance with their previous store of karma assume different physical forms and live on earth. People plough, dig and thread the earth. They light fires on it. Still, the earth does not swerve from its course even by a hair’s breadth. On the other hand, it feeds and houses all creatures. Seeing this, I learned that the wise one should never swerve from his vow of patience, love and righteousness under any circumstances. Besides, the many mountain peaks on earth are the abodes of holy shrines and of dense forests which usher timely rainfall for the well-being of all creatures. The many caves in them shelter different creatures. Several rivers which are indispensable for human weal have their rise in mountains. Stones and mud that are needed for building our houses, palaces and forts are afforded by mountains. Their peaks are most congenial for a life of contemplation and meditation which alone can ensure fulfillment of human life. Thus, as it were, the mountain exists solely for the welfare of all, materially and spiritually. From this I learned that the wise one should dedicate his life for the welfare of all living beings. The earth, with its mountains, was thus my first guru.
I observed that air is pure and odorless in itself. And it blows on either sweet or foul-smelling things without any discrimination or preference. Though it momentarily seems to take on the smell of its surroundings, in a short while, it reveals its pristine quality. From this I learned that the individual also should live in a like manner. That a spiritual aspirant should live in the world, unaffected by the dualities of life like joy and sorrow and by the objects of the senses. He should keep his heart’s feeling and speech unpolluted by vain objects. As the wind takes on only very few of the qualities of the objects it contacts, a yogi should eat only what is just necessary to keep his body and soul together. Air blows for a short while and seems easily agitated, but soon regains its calm. So too, a yogi should ever strive to retain inner calm, though living in the thick of the battle of life. As I have learned all this by observing it, air is my second teacher.
I have noticed that sometimes the sky (or space) gets thickly overcast or filled with dust or smoke. At sunrise and during night, it apparently takes on different colors. But in fact, it ever remains its colorless self, and it is never touched or stained by anything. From this I learned that a true sage should remain ever pure like the sky or space, untouched or unaffected by anything in the phenomenal universe in time, including his own physical processes. His inner being is totally free from emotional reaction to things and events, even like the space. Though many things appear in the sky or space and seem to demarcate and divide it into zones, it indeed ever remains an invisible continuum. The Real Self, too is indeed such. Again, like the self the sky or space is omnipresent. Thus I accepted the sky or space as my third teacher.
My fourth teacher is the element of fire. Sometimes, it manifests as blazing flames; sometimes as smoldering embers, covered by ash. But it is always present in all objects as latent heat. In the latter form, it is omnipresent. When dry twigs are rubbed together for the fire-sacrifice, it manifests as ordinary fire which is said to burn down the sins of those who offer oblations. The god of fire accepts the offerings of everyone, irrespective of his moral worth and burns down his sins; but it still remains ever pure divinity as the fire-god; he is untainted by the sins of such devotees. So too, a sage of perfect realization should accept food of everyone, burn down his sins and bless the giver. Though fire has no specific form of its own, when it is associated with fuel that burns, it assumes such apparent forms. So too, the true Self, though formless in itself, appears in the forms of deities, human beings, animals and trees when it is associated with the respective physical structures. The source of all forms in the universe, as also their end, remains ever mysterious. All the things are manifest only in between their origin and their end. Their source and end is the true self which is eternal, unchanging, unmanifest and omnipresent. The nature of the element of fire is such. By reflecting deeply on this truth, I have realized the Self. The manifest fire transforms the various things it consumes into the same ash. So too, the wisdom of self – realization rejects the manifest forms and properties of things as illusion and realizes their one original essence as itself. Thus the element of fire is my fourth guru.
My fifth Guru is the sun. Though the sun we see in our daily life is one, it appears as many when reflected by water in different vessels. Similarly, the one Real Self manifests itself as the many selves of living creatures when reflected by their physical structures. Again, in summer, the sun draws up the water on earth as vapour and again cats it down as rain in the proper season. So too, the sage gathers a lot of wisdom through his senses and imparts it to his worthy disciples at the proper time. Still, like the sun, he does not egotistically feel, ’I have gathered such wide knowledge and imparted it so many!’ Just as the sun illumines the many forms in nature to our vision, the sage too illumines the true nature of all things to his devotees. The self-same sun makes the lotuses blossom, but makes the water Lillies close up. So too, human beings receive wisdom from a sage according to their receptivity but he blesses all creatures alike.
I have gained wisdom from a pigeon too. Once a paid of pigeons lived together on a tree. They bred their young and were bringing them up with deep affection and love. One day, hunter caught the young fledge lings in a snare. The ladybird which returned from the forest with food for its young ones saw their plight and, unable to leave them, her self leapt in the snare to share their fare. Shortly after, the male pigeon turned up and, unable to bear the separation from its sweet-heart, it too jumped in the snare and met its end. Reflecting on this, I realized how, even after being born as an intelligent human being, man is caught in the coils of possessiveness and brings about his own spiritual destruction. The Self which is originally free, when associated with the body and the senses, gets identified with it, and thus gets caught in the endless cycle of birth, death and misery. Thus the pigeon was my sixth guru.
The python is a sluggard, unwilling to move out briskly for its prey. It lies in its lurch and devours whatever creature comes across, be it sufficient or insufficient to appease its hunger. From this I learnt that the man in search of wisdom should refrain from running after pleasures, and accept whatever he gets spontaneously with contentment. He should live, ever contemplating his true Self. Even when he does not get anything to live by, he should trust god and fast. Like the python, he should shake off sleep and wakefulness and abide in a state of incessant meditation on the Self. Though endowed with a sturdy body, he should refrain from all actions which are characterized by a sense of agency and by a desire for the results of action. He should withdraw the power of perception from all his senses and centre it on the Self. Like the python, he should be unmindful of both purity and impurity. Like it, he should keep off from human haunts and be ever immersed in the purity of inner contemplation. Thus the python was my seventh teacher of wisdom.
Contemplating the marvellous nature of the ocean, I have gained much wisdom. Any number of overflowing rivers may joint it, yet the sea maintains its level. Nor does its level fall even a hair’s breadth in summer when all the rivers dry up. So too, the sage of wisdom does neither get elated by the joys of life, nor does he get depressed by its sorrows. Just as the sea never crosses its threshold on the beach, the wise one never transgresses the highest standards of morality under the pull of passions. Like the sea, he is unconquerable and cannot be troubled by anything. Like the unfathomable ocean, his true nature and the depths of his wisdom cannot be easily comprehended by anyone. The sea never casts outs its pearls and it never allows any useless stuff to remain in it for long. So too, a sage does not surrender any of his natural virtues, nor does he allow even a single error to creep into his nature. The ocean is which has taught me thus is my eight teacher.
I often observed the moth is tempted by fire to jump into it and get burnt down. So too, the unthinking man is enticed by the illusory pleasures of the senses and thus gets caught in the ceaseless cycles of birth and death. The power of his evil deeds draws him down to the bottom of the spiritual ladder. On the other hand, the wise one, when he catches even a glimpse of the fire of wisdom, leaves anything aside, leaps in it and burns down the illusion of being a limited self. Thus the moth was my ninth teacher.
The elephant was my next teacher. The human beings raise a stuffed cow-elephant in the forest. The wild tusker mistakes it for a mate, approaches it and is then skillfully bound in fetters by the cunning human beings. So too, the unregenerate man is tempted by the opposite sex and gets bound by the fetters of infatuation. Even when the bull-elephant succeeds in finding a mate, it is soon challenged by other male elephants in heat and it often gets killed in the fight. It was in this fashion that wicked kings like Ravana and Duryodhana were annihilated by their infatuation for the fair sex. The seeker after liberation should learn to be free from lust. The elephant was thus one of my teachers.
The ant stores up lots of food materials which it neither eats nor gives away in charity to any other creature. In consequence, other more powerful creatures are tempted to plunder the ants. So too, the man who lays by treasures of merely material things become a victim of robbery and murder. But the ant has something positive to teach us, too. It is a tireless worker and is never discouraged by any number of obstacles and setbacks in its efforts to gather its treasure. So too, a seeker after wisdom should be tireless in his efforts for Self Realization. This noble truth has the little ant taught me.
The fish greedily swallows bait and is at once caught by the angle-hook. From this, I realized how man meets his destruction by his craving for delicious food. I learned that the wise one should eat only wholesome food in order to sustain his life and health. It is truly said that when the palate is conquered, all else is conquered. Besides, there is a positive feature in the fish. It never leaves its home, i.e., water. So too, man should never loose sight of his true self, but should ever have his being in it.
The thirteenth guru that has awakened my spirit is a prostitute named Pingala. One day, she eagerly awaited a particular client in the hope that he would pay her amply. She waited till late in the night. When he did not turn up, she was at disillusioned and reflected thus, “Alas! How stupid I am! Neglecting the divine spirit within, who is of the nature of bliss eternal, I foolishly awaited a debauchee who inspires my lust and greed, and who is most likely to inflict on me the most unbearable torments. Henceforth, I shall expend myself on the Self, unite with Him and win eternal joy. Through such repentance, she attained blessedness. Besides, reflecting on its obvious purport, I also realized that a spiritual aspirant should likewise reject the lure of lesser spiritual powers which are mere by products of Sadhana. I learned that desire on either of the planes, and the temptation to secure things from other’s hands are the seeds of misery; that renunciation of these is the sole means of realizing infinite joy.
Once I observed an arrow-maker who was totally absorbed in moulding a sharp arrow. He grew so oblivious of all else that he did not even notice a royal pageant that passed by. This sight awakened me to the truth that such single-minded, all absorbing contemplation of the Self spontaneously eliminates all temptation for the trivial interests of the world. It is the sole secret of success in spiritual discipline. Thus the arrow-maker is my fourteenth guru. Similarly, I noticed that little boys and girls are playful and carefree. They know neither honour nor dishonour. They cannot nurse a grudge or a prejudice against anyone. They do not need any external objects or conditions to be happy. Their happiness springs from their own selves, their innate creativity. I realized that the sage of perfect enlightenment is also such. A playful boy thus happened to be my fifteenth teacher.
Of all things in nature, the moon is unique. It appears to wax and wane during the bright and dark fortnights. In fact, the lunar globe ever remains the same. In this, it is like the ‘self’ of man. While a man appears to pass through the stages of infancy, boyhood, youth, maturity and old age, his real self remains unchanged. All changes pertain only to the body and not to the self. Again, the moon only reflects the light of the sun, but has no such of its own. So too, the soul or mind of man is only a reflection of the light of awareness of the real Self. Having taught me this truth, the moon came to be my sixteenth guru. It bestows joy and coolness to all creatures. Similarly, the sage of perfect wisdom propagates the grace of god and thereby quenches the fire of misery. Yet, like the moon, he does not expect any reward of recognition.
While wandering about in search of wisdom, I observed that the bee is lured by the sweet scent of the lotuses, at sunset. It sojourns in the lotus, as the latter closes up for the night, and thus gets imprisoned. So too, a wandering monk, if he is not wise and wary enough, is tempted by the same objects and dainty dishes offered to him by house-holder devotees as tokens of their regard for him. Such a one easily yields to their persuasion to linger, and finally, stay on in their houses, and is enslaved by the luxuries. Therefore a monk should be careful to accept of them only what is just necessary to keep his body and soul together, and should not bother the householder-devotees much. He should make it a principle not to live with them. Besides, the bee wanders from flower to flower and, without hurting them in the least, draws honey. So too, a spiritual seeker should study all the holy scriptures but retain in his heart, only that which is essential for his spiritual practice, and discard all claims to mere scholarship. The honey-bee neither consumes its rich store of honey, nor does it give it away to anyone. In consequence, it tempts the honey – vendor to rob it off its store. The instruction is clear: The wise one does not store food for the next meal or even for the morrow, but accepts only what his hands and stomach can hold for the moment. Such is the teaching I imbibed from my seventeenth teacher, the honey-bee.
It is said that deers are very fond of music and that poachers employ it to lure them before hunting them. From this, I learned that a spiritual aspirant who has a weakness for merely secular music will soon get bogged down by passions and sensual desires, till he ultimately loses whatever spiritual progress he has achieved earlier. Such, indeed, is the story of sage Rishyashrunga. The deer that taught me this truth is my eighteenth guru.
A bird of prey is my nineteenth teacher. One day, I saw one such carrying away a dead rat. Many other birds like crows and eagles attacked it, now kicking on its head and again pecking on its sides in their endeavor to knock off the prey. The poor bird was thus very much pestered. At last, it wisely let its prey fall and all the other birds rushed after it. Thus freeing itself from so much botheration, the first bird quietly perched on a tree top and sighed in relief. From this, I learned that a man who runs after worldly pleasures will soon come into clash with his fellow beings who too run for the same, and has to face much strife and antagonism. If he learns to conquer his craving for worldly things, he can spare himself much unhappiness. I realized that this is the only way to peace in this world.
Once, I observed a family visit a maiden’s house, seeking her hand in marriage for their son. At that time, her mother was away from home. So the maiden herself had to entertain the guests with refreshments. She at once started pounding food grains with a pestle. The bangles on her hand started knocking against one another, producing sound. She was afraid that guests might hear the sound and be unhappy for having caused her so much trouble. As a Hindu maiden, she is not expected to remove all the bangles on her hands at any time. So she kept two on each hand and removed all the rest. Even then, they were knocking against each other and were making noise. So she kept only one bangle on each other and were making noise. So she kept only one bangle on each hand this time and she could finish her task in quiet. Reflecting on this, I realized that when a number of spiritual seekers live together, a lot of unwanted gossip ensues and no spiritual practice can be pursued with a single minded effort. Even when tow seekers stay together, it is no better. Only in solitude can he assiduously carry on his task. Knowing this, I henceforth resorted to solitude. Thus, a maiden happened to be my twentieth guru.
I observed that serpent never builds a dwelling for itself. When white-ants have raised an anthill for themselves, the serpent eventually comes to inhabit it. Similarly, worldly people have to endure many hardships in raising houses for themselves, while a recluse monk does no such thing. On the other hand, he makes such muth his temporary abode. The monasteries are raised by worldly men and the monk lives in them; or, he lives in old dilapidated temples, or underneath shady trees. Thereby, he avoids the snares of possessiveness. Again, the serpent’s ways of living remain a mystery hidden from the notice of human beings. Similarly, a practicing yogi should keep his modes of spiritual practice and even his existence hidden from the curious gaze of worldly men. Only then can he carry on his yogic practices undisturbed. Yet again, the serpent molts, leaving off its old skin. So too, at the end of his life, the yogi leaves his body deliberately and in full awareness of his own true Self and is not frightened by the body as happily as he does his worn out clothes and dons new ones. Thus has my twenty first guru taught me.
The spider is my next teacher. It weaves its web from the thread which it secretes in the form of fluid. After sometime, it gathers up the web into itself. Such was the ancient belief. In a similar way, the Supreme projects the whole creation out of itself and after sometime, withdraws it into Itself at the time of dissolution. The individual soul too, bears the senses and the mind within itself and, at its birth as a human being or any other living creature, it projects them out as sense organs, organs of action and the whole body. In accordance with its latent tendencies, the creature thus born, gathers up all the means and objects needed for its living. At the end of its life’s duration, the soul once again withdraws the senses, mind and acquired tendencies, the creature thus born, gathers up all the means and objects needed for its living. At the end of its life’s duration, the soul once again withdraws the senses, mind and acquired tendencies at the hour of death. Thus have I learned from the spider.
The caterpillar is also one of my teachers of wisdom. The wasp carries its caterpillar to a safe corner and closes it up in its nest and goes on buzzing about it. The young caterpillar is so frightened by the incessant buzzing, that it cannot think of anything else than the buzzing wasp. Through such unintermittent contemplation of its mother, the caterpillar too, soon grows up into a wasp! In a like fashion, a true disciple is so charmed and over-awed by the spiritual eminence of his own guru that he cannot think of anything or anyone other than him. Through such contemplation, he soon blossoms into a great spiritual Master himself. The caterpillar is thus my twenty third guru.
Water is twenty fourth guru. I observed that it quenches the thirst of every creature, serves to wash it and affords it health and coolness. It sustains innumerable trees and plants. While it thus serves all living being, it is never proud of itself. On the other hand, it humbly seeks the lowliest of places. The sage too should likewise bestow health, peace and joy to every creature that resorts to him. Yet he should ever live as the humblest of god’s creation.
With such humility and devotion, I looked upon the whole god’s creation as my teacher, gathered up wisdom and, through patient effort, I realized my goal of spiritual enlightenment”.