There was once a great seeker whose name was Gyandas. A few times he had experienced a vision of his family’s presiding deity, and this made him very happy.
One day Gyandas and a group of seekers were praying together at the banks of the river Narmada. After some time a spiritual Master came and stood in front of them. He pointed to each one and remarked on their spiritual development. To some he said, “You are ripe, mature and advanced.” To others he said, “You are unripe and immature; you are a beginner in the spiritual life.”
Gyandas was one of the unfortunate ones. When it was his turn, the Master told him that he was an immature seeker. He could not believe his ears! He had always thought that he was truly advanced, because he had had a vision of his presiding deity a few times. He also felt that there were a few among those whom the Master had called advanced who were not really advanced.
Poor Gyandas felt sad and miserable. He went home and prayed and cried the whole night. In the small hours of the morning he had a sweet dream. In the dream his presiding deity appeared. Gyandas asked her, “How is it that I am not advanced? You have been so kind to me. You have appeared before me a few times. I thought that it was just because I am advanced in the spiritual life that you came to bless me.”
The deity said, “The spiritual Master was right. You are not advanced, but that doesn’t mean that you will never be advanced in the spiritual life. You too can be a great spiritual Master like that Master, but you have to be initiated first.
“A Muslim mendicant has come to your village. Everybody thinks that he is a simple, ordinary mendicant, but I know that he is a great spiritual Master. Go and be initiated by him.”
The deity’s words gave Gyandas the shock of his life. He said, “Initiation? Do I need initiation? And from that Muslim? He is so filthy! He doesn’t take a bath even once a month. I can’t go near him. He smells! I can’t have him as my Master.”
The deity said, “Then you will remain always unrealised. If you want to become advanced and spiritually mature, if you want to have boundless peace and joy, then go to him for initiation.”
For a long time that morning the seeker argued with himself. Finally he decided to go to the Muslim teacher. He went and stood before him with bitter anger, inner disgust, pride and, at the same time, terrible fear. Then, O God! He saw something which puzzled and confused him no end. The Muslim Master was lying down by the banks of the river Narmada, with his feet on a wooden statue of Lord Shiva!
Gyandas said to himself, “Look at this villain! How dare he place his feet on our cosmic Lord Shiva! Lord Shiva is one of our Trinity! Deliberately he is insulting me because he knows that I am a Hindu.” To the Muslim Master Gyandas said, “I will never become your disciple!” He was mad and furious.
The Muslim Master said to Gyandas, “My boy, I have not come into your life to confuse you. I know what you are thinking. Now do me a favour. Remove this wooden statue of your Lord Shiva. Place it wherever you want to.”
Gyandas grabbed the statue and placed it quite a distance away. But lo and behold, the statue started walking like a human being and went back under the feet of the Muslim Master. Gyandas was astonished and shocked at the same time.
The Muslim said, “Now look, you hold the statue here and let me go away.” Gyandas held the statue while the Muslim Master covered about two hundred metres, and then stood still. The seeker felt compelled from within to bring the statue to the Master, but he argued with himself. He said, “No, I won’t go! I won’t go!” He felt a terrible pressure from within and also an inner command from the statue itself to go to the Muslim Master. But he said, “No, I am not going. I won’t go to him. I won’t accept him as my Master.”
Gyandas put the statue on the ground, and the statue very happily ran towards the Master. So once again the Master was lying down with the statue at his feet.
What could Gyandas do? He was so puzzled. He said, “If I don’t take initiation from this Muslim Master, then my presiding deity has said that I will never realise God. But this man is deliberately insulting my Hindu God. Let me go and ask him why he is doing this to me.”
Gyandas went to the Muslim teacher. Before he could open his mouth, the Master said, “I will remove all your confusion and illumine you. Once you realise God, the cosmic gods become yours. For a God-realised person, the cosmic gods are like parts of one’s own body. It is not beneath my dignity for my hands to touch my feet. Again, I can also touch my head if I want to. Any part of my body I can touch with any other part. There is no question of superiority or inferiority, for all parts of my body belong to me.
“Each limb of my body I claim as my own. In the same way I claim Shiva as part and parcel of my existence. For Shiva to be at my feet is like one part of my body touching another part. Shiva and I are one.
“Realise God. Then you will see that there is neither superiority nor inferiority. We are all one, one, one. Stay with me. I shall initiate you. Once you are initiated, you will go back to that spiritual Master and hear from him that you are far more advanced than all the other seekers who were with you yesterday.”
GIM 9. A story from the Maharashtra. 7 January 1979↩