The not-too-clever astrologer

Two hundred years ago in an Indian village there lived a great spiritual Master. He had thousands of disciples, including ten or twelve village astrologers and palmists. Some of them were genuine astrologers and palmists while others were real rogues. They used to cast horoscopes for the children of rich people in order to make money, and they became prosperous. The sincere ones did not care for money, but only for people who were interested in their past and future lives. For these people, they cast horoscopes as a favour, without expecting anything in return.

Among the rogues, the one who topped the list was a real character. He would cast horoscopes and read palms for the children of wealthy parents and for young, beautiful women. He had become very rich with the money he had received from the wealthy parents, and he spent this money lavishly on the beautiful women, presenting them with all kinds of expensive gifts. He used to tell all these women that they had been great queens, great princesses or great spiritual figures in their past lives. He would tell them exactly when and for how long they had been on earth and how many subjects or disciples they had had. He did everything in an apparently strict mathematical way, and it was most fascinating and convincing. When the women learned that they had been great spiritual figures or great queens or princesses in their previous incarnations they were deeply moved and became all gratitude to him.

But alas, the poor astrologer was not clever enough. He told all the women that they had been queens, princesses and spiritual leaders at exactly the same period in time, and he told each one that he had been her husband or spiritual consort. This meant that he had been the husband of seven reigning queens and five princesses, and the consort of nine spiritual figures — all at the same time. He told each of the women this information in strict confidence, warning them that nobody else should be told about their past connection with him because others would become jealous, and this jealousy would drag them down. Then, in their next incarnation they would not be able to become prominent in any way.

Unfortunately, the astrologer's vital life was not of the purest. In the course of time he started mixing freely with these women, who were all very fond of him and very proud of their past connection with him. Soon jealousy started playing its role most vehemently. Some of the women felt that he was paying more attention to others than to them so they became furious. They cut off their connection with him and arranged a private meeting among themselves to decide how they could harass and embarrass him. Previously they had never discussed their previous incarnations, since he had forbidden this. But now that all the losers in his love-life had become close friends, they unveiled the mysteries of their past incarnations to one another, and the extent of this astrologer's deception soon became evident.

One woman said he had told her that she had been the Queen of England in the middle of the sixteenth century. Another said that she had been an Egyptian princess in the middle of the sixteenth century. A third had been an Indian spiritual Master in the same period. Naturally the astrologer had been the husband or consort of each of the three. And the rest of the women in the group found that he had practised the same deception on them.

They were all totally disgusted, and decided to lodge a serious complaint against him to their Master. So they nominated one of their number as a representative, and this woman went to the Master and told him all their fascinating stories. The Master felt extremely sorry and extremely angry. He said to her, "I feel very sorry for your innocent stupidity, and I am extremely displeased with him for his unthinkable deception. I shall send for him and scold him mercilessly. But you must not allow him to come to your homes any more, and needless to say, you must not go to his house.”

The woman said, "Never, never, never! Forgive me, Master, forgive my friends, and please forgive those who are still being exploited by him."

The Master replied, "I shall definitely forgive you, you fools, but if he ever approaches you again just treat him to a taste of your broomstick. Thrash him as soundly as you like! If he asks you the reason for this beating, tell him that since he has taken such trouble and pain to fathom your past incarnation, in return you would like to help him purify his vital life by thrashing him soundly for a few minutes. Tell him that he needs and deserves this favour from you."

A short time later, after having been scolded by the Master for his emotional-vital life and for his exploitation of so many young women, the astrologer went to the woman who had accused him to defend himself and challenge her. As soon as she saw him at her door, she grabbed a broomstick and began to thrash him mercilessly, while delivering the Master's message in her own words.

Soon many neighbours gathered at the spot to enjoy or deplore the plight of the astrologer. A report of the scene reached the Master, who then ordered the astrologer and all his wives from his miraculous previous incarnation to come to him. Most of the women buried their heads in their hands in utter shame when they came into the Master's presence. The Master asked each woman to repeat the name that the astrologer had said was hers in her previous incarnation. As the women did so, the Master ordered the astrologer to write the names on a long piece of paper. When all the names had been written down, the Master folded the paper into a garland, placed it around the astrologer's neck, blessed him and ordered him to leave the ashram immediately.

The story does not end here. Among these women, the one who was closest to the astrologer secretly followed him when he left the ashram. She felt extremely sorry for him and said to herself, "Granted, he is a real rogue or a real fool, but his discoveries did give me immense joy. In this world, who does not want to be flattered, even if the flattery is not at all based on truth? Even wise people secretly or openly enjoy being told wonderful things about themselves. They feel real strength and inspiration when they are flattered, so why shouldn't an undeveloped, uneducated, weak human being like me get joy? He has given me immense joy for the past ten years, so I feel that it is now my bounden duty to give him some joy by following him and being faithful to him and serving him for the rest of his life.”

16 July, 1974