To serve and realise or to realise and serveTwo sincere seekers one day came to their Master. One of them said to him, “Master, I am here to realise you. This is my only aim.”
The other said to the Master, “Master, I have come to serve you. This is my only aim. I don’t need liberation, I don’t need salvation. I need only to serve you. I want to dedicate myself totally and implicitly to your service. That will give me greatest delight. I care only for you. I need only you.”
The first one said, “Master, I want to realise you — you know why. Unless and until I know the difference between you and me — how great you are and how small and insignificant I am — I won’t be able to serve you properly. If I realise you, then I will see that you are the vast sun and I am a candle flame. I know that this I have to realise. I also have to realise that you are the mightiest ocean and I am the tiniest drop. Then will I be able to serve you most devotedly and unconditionally.”
The second disciple spoke. “Master, I don’t have to know how great you are, why you are so great, or the difference between you and me. This is quite immaterial. I have accepted you as my Master, as my Lord. To serve you to the end of my life is my soul’s sole aspiration. Master, please don’t deny me.”
The Master was quiet for some time. The two disciples said, “Master, please let us know who is right.”
To the one who wanted to realise first and then serve, the Master said, “All right, you want to realise me. You say that when you realise me you will know the difference between us. When you realise me you will become totally one with me — absolutely one. Real realisation means total oneness, absolute oneness, inseparable oneness. At that time you will want to serve me? When you know that you have touched the height, you have become the height itself, will you want to serve? I don’t think so. When you see a little difference, then you try to serve if the other person is superior to you. But if you have equalled the other person, you will not want to serve him. You will say, ‘He is in no way greater than I. Why should I bow to him? Why should I serve him?’”
Then the Master said to the disciple who wanted only to serve him, “You are serving me with greatest joy. Now, some day I shall make you realise God and you will be spiritually as great as I am now. After you have realised God, I don’t think you will like to serve me any more.”
Both the disciples became very sad and each other felt miserable in his own way.
After a pause the Master said to the one who wanted to realise him and then serve properly, “My child, you go to school, you go to college, you go to the university. When you get your Master’s degree from your professor, what happens? You also become a professor. You get the degree and you are ready to teach. Now, you know that you have the same amount of knowledge, because he taught you in the university. From a primary-school teacher you get your first lessons. But a day comes when you get your Master’s degree. Still you can show respect to your primary-school teacher because you got your first lesson from her. Similarly, even when we get the same knowledge of the highest, what happens? We show respectful gratitude to the one from whom we got it.
“The student will write ‘M.A.’ and the professor who taught him will also write ‘M.A.’ But the student will naturally retain some respect, some affection and admiration for his teacher, although he eventually acquires the same knowledge. In the same way, if you want to serve me, you can easily do it because you received the knowledge from me.”
“The feeling of gratitude towards the school teacher is not unusual in India. In my own family, my eldest brother, who is a great scholar, touches the feet of his primary-school teacher with great reverence. Unfortunately, in the West this kind of experience is very rare.”
Then the Master said to the disciple who only wanted to serve him, “You serve me and I am pleased with you. What will I do for you? I will try to give you some promotion, Today if you do something for me, tomorrow I will try to give you something more important, something more praiseworthy to do. Suppose today I ask you to massage my feet. If I see that you are massaging my feet devotedly, soulfully, without any pride, then I will give you my hand to massage. Then I shall give you my shoulders and I shall even let you massage my head. Finally, when I see that you have served the Supreme in me in every way, I shall grant you liberation. You will be liberated like me. But if you want to, you can remain devoted to me and be of service to me, since you got liberation from me.”
The Master continued, “If you follow my advice you will be happy all your life. If one becomes one with the Master and reaches the same standard, his inner gratitude will always make him happy. But if he says, ‘Oh, now that we have become one, who cares for him? I am as good as he is. I am in no way inferior,’ such a man will have no joy, no delight. If he becomes one with the Master and basks in the sunshine of gratitude, his life becomes divinely meaningful and supremely fruitful. At every moment his life offers God’s Glory, God’s Height to mankind."
And the Master spoke to the disciple who wanted to realise God first, “When you reach the highest, you are bound to manifest it eventually. This act of manifestation is your true dedicated service.”
To the one who only wanted to serve, he said, “If you please me in every way, I will without fail give you the fruits that I eat every day. If a servant pleases his master, if he is a kind master he will offer the same food to the servant that he eats himself. If I am pleased with you, I am bound to give you what I have. If I am not pleased with you, although I am taking your service, I will only give you what you deserve and I will eat my realisation-fruit. But if somebody pleases me in every possible way, I am bound to give him the divine nectar that I every day drink.”
“Either you realise first and then serve, or you serve first and then realise. Both ways are equally important and significant. While realising God, you are serving the ultimate need of mankind. While serving mankind, you are realising God the Absolute.”