Once there was a spiritual Master who was very strict with his disciples. Once a week, however, he met with new disciples and prospective disciples and with these seekers he was not strict. Now, it happened that one week the Master knew he would be late to this meeting, so he asked one of his close disciples, who had been with him a long time, to read out some rules and regulations before his arrival. Unfortunately, even before the disciple had finished reading, people started shouting questions and insults at him. They vehemently protested against the new regulations which requested disciples to give up drugs, shave their beards, cut their hair and dress modestly. The poor disciple felt that the best thing for him to do would be to leave the room.
When the Master arrived, the disciple told him what had happened. The Master became furious. He entered the meditation room to formally start the meeting, meditated only five minutes facing the group and then said, "Some people here are cursing the disciples who are responsible either for writing these rules or for reading them to you. But it was my wish that these regulations be worded in this way and it was at my express request that this disciple read them out tonight. I am taking full responsibility for their actions.
"Some of you are finding these prerequisites very harsh, perhaps undivine. If the wording is harsh and undivine, then you have to know that I myself have been suffering mercilessly from many undivine vibrations caused by the misconduct of both the disciples and the non-disciples. I feel that the time has come for me to be a little strict and to stand firmly by my convictions. If any new seekers approach you about these rules, please tell them what I have just said."
One new disciple who had a beard said,
'Master, I am a little confused, since some of your good disciples do have beards."
The Master said, "My son, you have just joined our centre. If you want to be my true disciple then please try to follow my request. Now, every rule admits of exceptions. If I ask one individual out of two hundred or three hundred to keep his beard, then I am fully responsible for it. If you see that somebody among my disciples has a beard or long hair, then you have to know that either that person has got my permission or I personally have asked him to keep it. Either it is my necessity or it is that person's necessity. When I approve of something that is not in my rules, I approve for a particular individual; this permission does not apply to all."
One boy jumped up and said angrily, "Jesus Christ had long hair."
The Master immediately replied, "If you say that the Christ had long hair, I will agree. If I see the Christ, I will go and touch his feet. But if I see you, I will just run away. If you have the Christ-consciousness, then you can have long hair. I have written and spoken considerably about long hair. It is my feeling that men should look like men and women should look like women according to the present standards. Hundreds of years ago men had long hair, but we have no right to do so now in the twentieth century just because they did. Most of the time people feel that long hair will offer them a kind of soft, gentle or mild quality. But this is not true. Even if you have long hair you can have a very disturbing vibration. I have seen that nowadays long hair creates a ferocious vibration. From now on, you must have short hair and no beard, and your clothes should be neat and tidy."
"Do you think it is fair," asked another boy arrogantly, "to make us stop taking drugs?"
The Master said, "If you are still taking drugs, then you are knocking at the wrong door. Our door will no longer be open to you. Drugs and alcohol I do not approve of, nor can I tolerate. I always say that gradually, gradually you can stop smoking or drinking tea or coffee. But in the case of drugs I don't tell seekers, 'gradually, gradually you can stop'. I tell them, 'Stop immediately'.”
"Are you also strict about diet?" one girl asked.
"Meat and fish," explained the Master, "and especially meat, offer us animal consciousness. When we eat meat, our subtle nerves become agitated. Fish is also undivine. When we take fish, the subtle nerves become lethargic. We are already half animal. We quarrel and fight all the time. Why should we increase our animal qualities? But again I say, as with tea or coffee, if you can't stop eating meat and fish all at once, don't worry; slowly and steadily you can give them up. Week by week you can try to minimise the quantity. But if possible, it is better to stop eating meat and fish immediately. Since you want to follow a spiritual path, why should you add to your animal qualities?"
At this point one seeker said, "I am studying under another Master as well and he is not so strict with his disciples."
The Master replied, "As we have no right to convert anyone, you also have no right to disturb our peace, our serenity, our prayer. We are not begging you to come to our path. If you have come from a different path, there is no harm in it, provided that you now feel the necessity of following our path. But if you still have another Master and at the same time you try our path or other paths, then you will make no progress. In school there are many subjects. Naturally for each subject you need a different teacher. But in the inner school it can never be like that. In the spiritual life there is one subject and one teacher. If you go to different paths, you are making a mistake.”
Finally the Master spoke to all the seekers and new disciples.
"Most of my disciples are very sincere and earnest, so I feel I can exercise my authority. If you don't want to follow our path devotedly, soulfully, explicitly, then we do not want your presence. You cannot please two Masters. He who wants to please everyone, pleases no one. If you want to follow our path, you should give us a chance. If after six months or a year or two you feel that you are not receiving anything here, then you should go to someone else. But as long as you remain in my boat you have to abide by my rules, which are the soulful necessities for my spiritual children.”
Then the Master stood up to close the meeting.