There was a young boy who was very spiritual. He used to pray and meditate most soulfully every day. He had a Guru who was of a very high order. His Guru had quite a few disciples.
This young boy used to go to his Guru’s ashram and at the same time he was going to college. It happened that the Prince of that particular Kingdom studied at the same college. He and the boy became very close friends.
One day the Prince said to his friend, “How is it that I have everything — material wealth, comfort, joy, pleasure, anything that one can imagine or desire — and even then I am not happy? But I see that you are always happy. You come from a poor family, but you are very happy all the time. What makes you so happy? What keeps you happy all the time?”
His friend, said, “There is someone who gives me constant happiness in my life.”
“Who is that? Can I meet this person?”
“Yes, I can take you to his ashram. He is my spiritual Master. But you are a Prince. You expect respect from everyone. Even though you are my friend I show you tremendous respect. Even the professors show you respect because you are the Prince. But my spiritual Master may not show you any respect. He is above all that. If you think you will not be offended, then you are most welcome to come and visit my spiritual Master.
“All right. Tell me where he lives. Tomorrow I shall go there. But shall I bring him anything?"
“It depends on what kind of attitude you want to have. If you want to go to him with aspiration, with an inner cry for everlasting peace and bliss, then you should take some fruits and flowers with you to offer to him. This is what a seeker does when he goes to a spiritual Master. The Master distributes these things to others. We call it prasad, sanctified food. But if you go only out of curiosity, you don’t have to bring anything. You are most welcome to see my Master, but I have no idea what he will do and how he will receive you."
The following morning this particular student and his brother and sister disciples were meditating most sincerely and devotedly in front of their Master when the Prince came in. The Prince brought fruits and flowers with him, but at the same time he wanted to prove that he was not an ordinary person, he was the Prince, so a sword was hanging from his side. Unfortunately, nobody paid, any attention to him. They were all absorbed in their spiritual Master, including the Prince’s friend. Even his most intimate friend was not looking at him or even noticing him. He was looking at his Master, deeply absorbed in him, like his sister and brother disciples.
For about half an hour the Prince stood near the door, but neither the Master nor the disciples paid any attention to him. At last he became furious. “Do you know that I am the Prince?” he shouted, “Do you know my power? I am going to kill everybody here. One by one I shall kill you all!” But when he tried to draw his sword he could not remove it from his sheath. He tried with all his force to unsheathe his sword, but it simply would not come out.
The Prince became more furious than ever when he found himself so badly embarrassed. Bursting with rage he looked at the Master. The Master showed him a compassionate smile.
Then the Master began speaking to the Prince. When the Master spoke to him, all the disciples turned their gaze on the Prince. The Master said, “You thought that we were all fools because we didn’t pay any attention to you and you are the Prince. But these are my spiritual children. They came here to see me, not you. You have also come here to see me. You did not come here to kill us, but your pride came forward and you wanted to kill us. We are all innocent people. We are interested in praying and meditating. You also came here with a sincere motive, but you should have been more sincere. You should have come here with the idea that you would participate. When we go to a restaurant we eat. When we go to a school we attend classes. In an ashram we pray and meditate. If you had been sincere enough you would have joined us in our prayer and meditation. But you wanted to show that you are the Prince and when you saw that nobody was paying any attention to you, your undivine ego came forward and you became so angry that you wanted to kill us all. Luckily my occult power prevented you from doing so, for the Karma you would have reaped would have been unspeakable.
Prince, I see with my occult vision that in sixteen days you will have a fatal attack of cholera. You will never be King, oh Prince. Your younger brother will get the throne.”
The Prince and his friend and all the other disciples were terribly shocked. The Prince finally said, “If you are a spiritual man, how can you curse me like this?”
“I have not cursed you,” said the Master. “It is your own soul that has cursed you because you were going to take our lives away. We were meditating on God, on Peace, Light and Bliss and you wanted to kill us for not paying attention to you. Now your soul is disgusted and wants to leave the body.”
The Prince was terrified at the prospect of his imminent death and begged the Master to save him.
“There is one way that you can be saved,” said the Master.
If any one of my disciples comes and touches you on the day that you are going to die of cholera, that disciple will die and you will revive. You will be all right, but I shall lose one of my disciples. Now if there is anyone among my disciples who is willing to sacrifice his life please stand up.”
Immediately all the disciples stood up. "We are all ready,” said one of the disciples. "You make the selection.”
The Master said to the Prince, "Look, you wanted to take their lives, but they are ready to offer their lives for you. This is the difference between spiritual people and ordinary people. These are my spiritual children. Each one, without an exception, is ready to give his life for you.”
The Prince said, "Now everybody is ready to give his life for me, but when the fatal hour strikes I don’t know where they will be.”
"Prince,” said the Master, “in sixteen days the fatal hour will strike and I assure you, among my disciples nobody will disappoint me. I have that much faith in my disciples.”
On the sixteenth day the Prince was attacked by cholera as the Master had predicted. The King and Queen became practically insane with grief. All the doctors had failed and it was only a matter of a few hours before the Prince would die. All the disciples who had been at the Master’s ashram sixteen days before went to the palace, ready to offer their lives. The King listened to their story and was deeply moved that so many people were ready to give their lives for his son.
The King said, “We have to make a selection. I shall give half of my kingdom to the family of the person who sacrifices his life to save my son — that is, if the Master’s prophesy comes true.”
The Master said, “Of course my prophesy will come true. Now make the selection. There are many people here.”
The friend who had invited the Prince to come to the Master’s ashram said, “Your Majesty, please choose me. All this is my fault, so it is I who deserve to die. I will be so grateful to you if you grant me that opportunity. Let the Prince, my intimate friend, remain on earth. I am just an insignificant creature. Who will cry for me? But if he dies the entire Kingdom will mourn his loss.”
When it was all decided that the friend would give his life, and he was about to touch the Prince, the Master said, "Now it is all decided. Your son will not die, but my dear disciple will die. Now I want to say that there is one way to save both your son and my spiritual son.”
Everybody was delighted. "Tell me how,” said the King, “I will gladly do it.”
You have to wash the feet of all my spiritual children,” said the Master. “If you are willing to wash the feet of all my disciples who are here, then your son will be saved and my spiritual son will be saved.”
“I have to wash the feet of all these people? I am the King. I am their Lord. How can I touch their feet? I can touch only the feet of the one person whom we selected to give his life. But it is impossible for me to touch the feet of all your children.”
Then the Master said, “It is beneath your dignity to touch the feet of my spiritual children, but all of them are most willing to give their very lives for your son. This is the difference between spiritual people and ordinary people. Ask any one of my disciples here and without the least possible hesitation he will sacrifice his life for your useless son. This is the difference between you and them. If you knew the meaning of love you would gladly wash the feet of every man in your Kingdom in order to save your son. And if you knew the meaning of gratitude you would do the same to save the life of someone who had offered his own life to save your son.”
“All right,” said the King, “I am ready to wash your disciples’ feet.”
The King’s servants brought water and the King washed the feet of all the Master’s disciples, one by one. Then he said, “Are you satisfied now? I have touched the feet of all your disciples.”
“I am satisfied, but you have to know that you did all this only to save your son. If your son’s life had not been at stake, you would not have done this to save another person's life."
“What do you want of me? My son is dying and I have already accepted so much humiliation. I have touched the feet of all your disciples. But if you feel that there is something greater than this I am ready to do it.”
“If you were really spiritual,” said the Master, “you would have said, ‘The time has come for my son to depart. This boy who wants to offer his life also has parents. The suffering, the loss that I would undergo in losing my son, parents of other children would also have to endure. I cannot be so cruel. The time has come for my son. My son has done something wrong and if it is time for his soul to leave the body then I am ready to accept my loss.’ If you had had that kind of attitude, then I would say that you are not only a King in the outer world, but you are also an Emperor in the spiritual Life."