Purity in the physical is indispensable

There was once a very kind and compassionate spiritual Master who lived in an extremely poor village in India. He was the spiritual Father to many sincere seekers. The Master knew that his disciples led extremely hard lives, and so he was fond of inviting them to come to his home for parties and various activities, just to give them some joy and relaxation.

One day the Master invited his disciples to come to celebrate the birthday of his youngest disciple, who was twelve years old. Although some of his disciples had children who were younger than she was, this little girl had come to the Master on her own, and he called her his youngest conscious disciple.

On the day of her party, almost everyone showed up very late, looking as if they had been working in the fields of the Master's small ashram up until the last minute and they hadn't had time to wash or dress properly. "Why are you late?" the Master asked them. "Did something unfortunate happen that prevented you from coming?"

"Nothing unusual," said one disciple, "but we still had so much work to do in your fields, and we thought that you would consider it more important for us to finish our work than to come to a party."

"I am grateful to you for working for me," said the Master. "When you do my work, it is good. But everything is equally important."

"What do you mean, Master?" asked the disciple. "How can a party be as important as finishing up the work in the fields?"

"If you go to a party it will be a kind of relaxation," explained the Master. "It is like a refuelling, and you are getting new strength. Otherwise, after four hours of steady work, you do not work with a divine consciousness: you become like a machine. You get a machine-consciousness. But before that happens, if you do something else for a while, the soul comes back into your actions. So work for several hours and then, especially if I have scheduled something else or invited you to come here, please come and then go back to work."

The Master began to meditate with his disciples as he often did before a function began. But after a few minutes the Master stopped meditating and looked very sad.

"What is the matter?" asked one disciple. "We are sorry that we were late, but why are you looking so sad now?"

"From now on," replied the Master, "when I invite you to come to my house for a party or anything else, please take a shower before coming. Usually you will have an extra half hour at your disposal before the function begins, so please shower then. Of course, if I say, 'Come immediately,' you may not have time to shower, although you can still make an effort to be neat and tidy. But otherwise, you must be clean."

"Please forgive us, Master," one man said. "As we told you, most of us have just been working in the fields."

"In your case that is true" said the Master, "but some of the disciples have just come from home. They pretend that they have been working, and they come here in their dirtiest possible clothes to show me how hard they work. Work hard; that will please me. But come here with clean clothes."

"Well, Master," one young boy said, "today it is a party, but often you ask us to come to your house to do work for you. I must admit that I sometimes feel that I'm wasting time by showering and getting dressed up just to come here and get dirty again."

"You are wrong," said the Master. "All the disciples who come here to work must wear clean clothes. Otherwise, I will be very sad and disturbed. If you cannot wear clean clothes, you are offensive to my eyes. Very often you come to do light work, clean work, but still you wear your dirtiest clothes. Your souls' inner cleanliness, that responsibility I have to take. But outer cleanliness you have to take care of. To purify you inwardly is my responsibility, but to keep yourself outwardly clean is your responsibility."

The Master began to sneeze and cough violently. "I have not been feeling well for the last few days. There are many reasons, but one is that I have been taking on your physical impurity. There are many kinds of impurity: mental impurity, vital impurity and physical impurity. In the last few days it is your tremendous physical impurity that has entered into me."

"Master, we are extremely sorry that our negligence in this matter has caused you to suffer so badly. We had no idea that this would happen."

"You people seem to have no idea about any kind of cleanliness, even in your own houses. True, all of you are extremely poor. But, from now on, if you want me to go to any of your houses, you have to make them clean. If I go to a disciple's house and am dissatisfied, I will never enter into that disciple's home anymore. Physical purity must play a considerable role in your lives from now own. Inner purity is important, true; but outer purity I also consider important."

The Master again entered into meditation. After fifteen minutes he blessed the young girl for her birthday, and then everybody had a delicious meal that the Master had cooked with his own hands. "I wanted to honour our youngest disciple, and so I have cooked this dinner myself. I wish to offer you all pieces of the cake I have baked, as prasad. You know that to receive prasad from the Master is the highest meditation. I wish to bless you in this way, since I had to scold you earlier this evening. Please come to me on your way out. I wish you to have my inner and outer blessing to carry home with you."

The disciples were happy and excited that the Master was to bless them in this way, for it was not often that he offered prasad. Since the Master was standing by the door, they picked up their shoes before getting into the queue. The first disciple held his shoes in his right hand and took the cake in his left. The second disciple tried to take the prasad with both hands, and his sandals were hanging from his wrists. The third disciple also did the same.

Then the Master became furious. "Stop, stop, is this what you people have learned from me? This disrespect? Do I have to touch your shoes when I offer you prasad? Do you know nothing about purity?"

The disciples hurriedly began to put on their shoes before it was their turn to come to the Master, which made the Master even angrier.

"Enough!" said the Master. "Leave your shoes here. Just take the cake from me and wait outside until all have come. Then you can think of your shoes. It seems that tonight is the night for me to scold you, but most of you have been with me for three, four or five years. You should know these things by now."

"From now on, remember all I have said today about purity. Do not forget that in my philosophy, purity in the physical is cleanliness. Be conscious of what you are doing at all times, my children. If you do this, then you will never displease me."

September 22, 1974