There was once a great spiritual Master who had many disciples. One day the Master was meditating with about fifty of his disciples. They were all looking at him most devotedly with folded hands. A Yogi happened to walk by. He was not of the same calibre as the Master; he was far inferior. But he was most sincere and he admired the Master’s inner stature. He saw the disciples mediating very devotedly on their Master, and he decided to meditate with them. The Master was most happy to see the Yogi and greeted him very warmly. The Yogi said, “You have such wonderful, devoted disciples. I have never seen a Master with so many devoted disciples as you have.”
Outwardly the Master agreed, but inwardly he was amused to some extent. He said to the Yogi, “I shall show you what kind of disciples I have. Please stay at my ashram until tomorrow.” The Yogi was very happy to be given the privilege of staying at the ashram and he gladly accepted the Master’s invitation.
The next day the Master said to the disciples, “Today I am going into the forest. All of you are invited. But there will be no spirituality, no prayer, no meditation. It will be for sheer amusement. We shall dance and sing and play.”
Immediately three or four disciples said to themselves, “Oh, Master has fallen! He has entered into the life of pleasure. Master has always said that prayer and meditation is most important. We want to meditate, we want to live a spiritual life. It won’t be possible for us to go with him.” So these disciples stayed at the ashram. Among these three or four was the Master’s own son.
About forty disciples agreed to go with the Master, but most of them only went because the Master had invited them, and not with utmost inner joy. Now to those who wanted to go with him, the Master said, “You won’t be allowed to take any food or money. We shall just go into the forest to amuse ourselves.”
They started walking. The Master and the Yogi were in front and the disciples were following. Soon the Master entered into an ecstatic mood and began to dance. The disciples were surprised that their Master was dancing, for he had never done that before. They also began to dance. They were embarrassed, but they danced with the Master.
After they had covered a long distance, many of the disciples were very hungry and thirsty. But they had not brought any food or drink. Suddenly they saw a mango tree laden with hundreds of ripe mangoes. Some of the disciples could not control themselves and without taking the Master’s permission they climbed up the mango tree and ate to their hearts’ content. Although the Master saw them eating, he ignored them. The Master and the Yogi went on.
After the disciples had eaten the mangoes and were satisfied, they knew that the Master would be furious, so instead of continuing, they returned to the Master’s ashram. About fifteen remained with the Master.
After travelling along the road for another few hours, they suddenly saw hundreds of gold coins scattered all over the road. Some of the disciples were tempted and began picking up the coins and putting them into their pockets. They filled their pockets and then they went back to the Master’s ashram.
Now only five disciples remained with the Master and the Yogi. Soon they entered into the thick, dense forest, which was full of wild animals. About forty feet away they saw a tiger sleeping under a bush. The five disciples and the Master and Yogi stopped. The disciples were petrified with fear.
Then the Master said, “This is your final test. I invited you people to come with me today for amusement. Some of my disciples would not even come out of the ashram. They failed immediately. About thirty of my disciples came along with me, but on the way some of them ate mangoes, and some of them gathered up gold coins. They have all gone back to my ashram. So most of my disciples have failed me already. Now only you five remain. This is your final test. You have to go up to the tiger, not in pin-drop silence, but very smartly, in military fashion. You have to go up to the tiger and in the presence of all of us you have to bite its tail. Whoever can do this, I shall publicly declare as my best disciple.”
Everyone was shocked. They were all scared to death. Nobody was ready to sacrifice his life.
The Master turned to the Yogi and said, “Yesterday you said that my disciples were so devoted, but look, not one is willing to go.”
The Yogi said, “Yes, but this test is extremely difficult. It is a most serious kind of test. Even I would have found it most difficult.” The Yogi thought that no spiritual Master could have a disciple devoted enough to be willing to sacrifice his own life for the Master.
Meanwhile, one of the disciples was preparing himself inwardly, preparing his mind and heart, to go and bite the tail of the tiger. “Wait,” said that disciple. “I am ready to go.”
The other four disciples admired him but they were afraid for their own lives. “Yes,” they said, “you will go, but we shall also reap the consequences of your act. When you wake up the tiger, we will also have to go to the other world.”
The Master praised the disciple and said, “I am most proud of you. When you come back I shall reward you.”
Inwardly that disciple was saying, “Yes, but I shall be in the other world,” but he marched over bravely and bit the tail of the tiger. To the wide surprise of everybody, the tiger disappeared, and in its place were two most delicious jackfruits. The disciple immediately started eating the jackfruits and, since the other disciples were very hungry, they also came over and started eating the jackfruits. The Master and the Yogi joined them.
The Master praised the brave and obedient disciple, saying that on their return to the ashram he would declare him his best disciple. The Master also said that since he would soon be leaving the body this disciple would take over his mission and run his ashram.
Then the Master, the Yogi and the five disciples returned to the Master’s ashram. During their absence, the other disciples — those who had not come and those who had returned early — had become embarrassed that they had failed the Master, and almost all of them left his ashram. Only the Master’s son and two other disciples remained. These so-called good disciples were at the ashram. The Master then announced that this disciple would carry on the mission and run the ashram when he left the body. He said, “I offer him all my wealth, all my spiritual wisdom. He will run my ashram when I am no longer on earth. Not only that, but he will run the ashram in my presence for a few days, and I will observe him. Then, when I am gone, he will inherit my spiritual mission.”
The Master’s son immediately protested, “I am your son. It is I who should inherit your spiritual wealth, your position and duties. It is I who should inherit your ashram and run your mission.”
The father said, “No! You are my son, but there is a difference between the physical son and the spiritual son. You did not come with me when you were invited. It is the spiritual son who inherits the Master’s spiritual wealth, not the earthly son.”
The son replied, “I did not go because you always advocate meditation and spirituality, and you said that this was strictly for amusement.”
The father said, “You are a fool. Being with me is the best meditation. When the Master invites you to go somewhere with him, no matter what the activity, you should go. Being with the Master is a far better meditation than staying at home and doing your individual meditation. When the Master invites you, that is not the time for you to sit in your room and meditate. Who gives you your realisation? The Master or your own meditation? What the Master says is the best meditation, and not what the disciple thinks is best.
“You have failed me, but I am sure this disciple of mine will forgive you and accept you as his disciple. In the future, you will be given another chance to become the best disciple.”