Maharshi Dayananda's illumination

Maharshi Dayananda came of a very rich family. At the age of twenty-one he was inspired to leave his house to search for a Guru. As he was leaving, he stood in front of his house and bowed down to his parents and relatives. He said, "I am leaving to become a sannyasin. I am not going to come back again."

Dayananda carried with him two books of Hindu scriptures which he had studied. He carried those scriptures hundreds and hundreds of miles as he went from village to village searching for a Guru.

Ten years passed, but still he found no Guru. He saw many so-called Gurus, but none of them satisfied him. One day, a seeker told him where he would find his Guru. He believed the seeker and travelled a hundred miles, all on foot, to the place where the Guru lived. He found the Guru and was very satisfied. His Guru said to him, "What are you carrying with you?"

Dayananda told him, "Two books of scriptures."

The Guru said, "Scriptures? Then you cannot be my disciple. Go and throw them into the river."

Those two books were Dayananda's most cherished possessions, but what could he do? In obedience to his Guru, he threw them into the river. He returned to the Guru and asked, "Am I now ready to be your disciple?"

The Guru said, "Yes, you are ready!"

Dayananda soon discovered that his Guru was totally blind. But that did not lessen his faith in his Master. Next he discovered that his Guru had never been able to read. Even then he had such faith in his Guru. He used to cook for his Guru and wash his clothes, serving him like a slave. Eventually he became his Guru's dearest disciple. But even when you are the Guru's dearest disciple, you can sometimes make mistakes. Once this Guru was extremely displeased with Dayananda and he struck Dayananda mercilessly with his hands. Then the Guru's hands became swollen and very painful. The Guru was miserable, but Dayananda was much more miserable — not because his Guru had hurt him, but because his Guru had hurt himself. He begged his Guru to beat him with a stick when he became angry with him in the future.

In a few days' time, the Guru again became angry with Dayananda. This time he struck Dayananda repeatedly with a stick. In the course of the beating the stick broke into sharp pieces and again the Guru got hurt.

One of the other disciples said, "Master, what are you doing? This disciple has left a very rich family to come to you. The poor fellow has nobody else except you. And he is so spiritual. He is far better than we are. Why do you strike him?"

The teacher remained silent, but Dayananda got furious. He insulted his brother disciple severely "What right do you have to speak to our Guru in that manner? Our Guru knows everything far better than we do. I may know the scriptures and I may come of a very rich family, but I have given up these things. I do not need earthly possessions. I need only the inner world. That is why I am at his feet." And once again Dayananda begged his Guru to beat him whenever he did something wrong. In fact, he went and brought his Guru quite a few new sticks for that purpose. The Guru simply gave him a soulful and compassionate smile.

In a few years' time Dayananda's Guru said to him, "You are now fully prepared. The time has come for you to leave me and initiate your own disciples."

Dayananda was totally heartbroken. He said, "This is the worst punishment!"

The Guru said, "This is not my punishment; this is my wisdom. You have realised me. Now, while I am still alive, you have to go out and spread my light. Others are not fit. Only you are fit."

So Dayananda left his Guru and gathered quite a few disciples of his own. From time to time, he used to tell his close disciples amusing and soulful stories about his Guru. Quite frequently he would take off his shirt and show his students the big marks on one of his shoulders, where his Guru used to thrash him.

He said, "My Guru was so kind and compassionate to me. He used to strike me mercilessly. These marks were not his punishment but his illumination. You have come to me as disciples because I am illumined. But I wish to tell you that my illumination is inside these marks.

"Either I am a better Guru or a worse Guru than my own Master. In my case, I bark, but I do not strike. But, who knows, my striking might have given you illumination by this time!"