The capacities of a great man2

There was a spiritual Master who in his youth reached unparalleled inner heights. After a few years the Supreme asked this young Master to begin revealing and manifesting his realisation in his outer life. The Master started accepting disciples, giving lectures and holding public meditations; and as he became better known, the number of his disciples and followers grew. Yet even with his increasingly busy schedule, the Master found time to compose music, write plays and try his hand at painting and drawing. One evening the Master was talking about creativity and manifestation with a few of his close disciples.

“You know that I have recently begun painting and drawing again, as I did in my youth,” said the Master. “Although you may not see a thing in my drawings, I give them such bombastic titles that I make you feel I have brought down realisation and many other divine things into the drawings. I simply force my disciples to appreciate my drawings.”

“Master,” said one disciple smiling affectionately, “you are in a joking mood. You know that I have entered some of your earlier as well as your more recent pictures in an exhibition and a competition. Of course you are only joking, but even so, how can you say that we don’t appreciate the artist in you? We certainly do!”

“Yes, but only because you have fortunately or unfortunately accepted me as your spiritual leader,” replied the Master. Then, becoming more serious, he continued, “Although right now I am not well known as a Yogi, if or when I become very well known, not only my own disciples, but also sincere seekers who do not have Masters will hesitate to criticise me. They will say, ‘After all, he is a God-realised soul. What do we understand?’ And there is some inner truth in this attitude. Of course, disciples of other Masters will naturally criticise me because they have their own loyalties.

“Sri Krishna once said that if one really has something to offer in one field, although he may not be as great in other fields, others will not be the losers if they can appreciate what he does in those areas as well. Although from the technical point of view he may not deserve such high appreciation, his consciousness embodies something unique which others do not have. Just to be beside him, to be in his presence, is a blessing.

“It is not only what is done, but who does it that matters. Two or three times it happened that one of India’s greatest poets needed to raise millions of dollars in order to continue running his university. But how could he get the money? Although he was a famous writer, a singer, an artist — a great man in many fields — these achievements brought him practically no money. Since he desperately needed to make money, he decided to do something extraordinary. At that time he was 76 or 77 years old, but he announced that he would dance for the public. Thousands of people would immediately have gathered to watch him dance, and he could have made as much money as he needed.

“A great politician, however, happened to be his dearest admirer. These two were most intimate friends. The politician used to call the poet ‘Gurudev’, as he was known by many, many people, not for his spiritual height, but for his literary height and inner depth. The politician said, ‘Gurudev, as long as I am on earth, I won’t allow you to dance in public. Please tell me how much money you actually need.’ The poet quoted a very large amount, thinking that since his friend was a son of Mahalakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, this would be almost nothing for him to give. The politician told him that in a week he would bring him this sum. Then what did he do? He gave his poet-friend double the amount that he wanted, just to save him. Otherwise the poet would have danced, and in this way he would have raised the money. Why would people have come to see a dancer whose skill was not only unknown, but also very dubious? Just because he was a famous man in his own field.

“Although this man was not a dancer, as a poet, as a visionary, as a man of inner depth, he was really something extraordinary. Just to be in his presence, even if his dancing had been totally unskilled, would have been inspiration. His inner capacity, his inspiration and his aspiration would have elevated the consciousness of his audience. There are many really good, excellent dancers, but in the matter of inner depth or inner height they come nowhere near the standard of this poet. Of course, I am not criticising other dancers for their lack of inner depth. As artists in their own fields, they may be excellent. But because of what this beloved seer-poet had contributed in the field of poetry, because of what he was as a man, his very presence could elevate the consciousness of his admirers, although he might have been nowhere in the field of dancing. When one is really great in some field, others are not the losers if they spend a few hours with him in another field, although it may be totally foreign to his original area.”

“Master,” asked one of the disciples, “you say that when you become well known as a Yogi, people will appreciate you in other fields as well. Of course, we are your disciples, so whatever you do, we love it; we are caught by our devotion for you. But don’t people who are not in the spiritual life recognise something in you already? Don’t they see something outstanding in you?”

The Master replied, “Let me tell you about something that happened in the ashram where I stayed in my youth. A friend of mine asked me to help him with a paper he was preparing for a particular teacher. He had not been doing well in his studies. Since this was an important paper, he had worked very hard on it, and wanted me to look it over. I agreed, and I made some very minor changes; I did practically nothing. Unfortunately, he received a very low mark on the assignment, and he felt miserable that in spite of the fact that I had helped him, he had still done poorly. He blamed himself, saying that with my help he had had the opportunity to do very well, but because of his own incapacity he had failed.

“I consoled him, and said, ‘Let me take the paper and try something.’ I retyped the paper and kept it for a few months. Then, since I had once had this same teacher and I was still on very good terms with him, I asked the teacher to look over this paper of mine. He accepted the paper gladly.

“The next morning his wife invited me to their house for refreshments, and the three of us sat in their kitchen together. They lavished much affection on me, and then the teacher brought out my paper. I was surprised that he had already read it. Then he carefully went over it with me, praising it highly, saying it was one of the best papers he had ever seen. And in every one of the places where I had made a minor change for my friend, he had written ‘absurd’ and ‘all wrong’. He had circled every one of those phrases that I myself had added to the paper, calling them absurd, but he enthusiastically praised the paper as a whole.

“Now, originally I had not planned to tell my former teacher what I had done, but as I was leaving to show the paper to my friend, I changed my mind and narrated the whole story to the teacher. He did not show the least sign of surprise. He just said, ‘Look, you have to know that there is a little difference between you and your friend. There is a little difference between such an advanced soul as yourself and that particular boy.’ To him, the same article, the same ideas, meant something very different coming from me. So, my son, this teacher did see something in me, and many others have also done so.”

“Master,” said the disciple, “one day the whole world will recognise and appreciate what you are in spirituality and what you are doing in these other fields as well. In the meantime, please remember that your spiritual children love you, and we love the artist in you. I really mean it.”

The Master smiled. “Thank you, my son.”

AD 2. 29 July 1974.