A new spiritual adventureHundreds of years ago there lived in India a spiritual Master who had only fifty or sixty disciples. All of them were men. The Master and his disciples spent much of their time meditating in caves at the foothills of the Himalayas. Most of the disciples were very sincere, and the Master was pleased with their austerity and aspiration.
One morning after breakfast the Master said, "Today, instead of going to meditate, we are going to do another kind of sadhana. We are going to embark on a spiritual adventure."
His disciples were very curious to hear what the Master was going to say. "Today we will start ploughing and cultivating all the fields in the ashram. We shall grow many kinds of fruits and vegetables. Each of you will have a particular job to do, and from now on, all of us will work in the fields every day."
The disciples were shocked. "Every day?" said one disciple. "O Master, what about our individual meditation? How are we going to make any spiritual progress?"
"Selfless service and oneness with others in our work is also a form of spiritual discipline," said the Master.
One disciple stood up. "Master, I don't know how I am going to stay with you any longer. It seems to me that you want us to work only for your own name and fame. People will give you all the credit for having an ashram with such fruitful land."
"The ashram is in my name," replied the Master, "but when I look at the fields, I will see there your hearts and souls, your dedicated oneness with me. I will be all gratitude for your service. Inwardly, in the Supreme's eyes, in my eyes, you will get all the credit."
"Master," said one young boy, "we all want to please you in your own way. Don't listen to my spiritual brother who doubts your motives for starting this project. Let him leave, if he must. Now Master, please tell us how much time we should actually devote to this work."
"There is much work to do," said the Master, "and at times you may feel under pressure to get a job done. Naturally you will have many other important things that you must do in your life and of course you will do them. But if you are sincere to yourself, you will know if you are putting my work first."
The Master then asked the young boy to come up for a blessing. "You are the youngest of my disciples, but when it is a matter of dedicated service, you stand first. When it is a matter of working for me, no one can come close to your eagerness and willingness. Here, there, everywhere, you work for me in many, many projects."
"But Master," one elderly disciple said, "we thought you wanted us to spend more time in meditation."
"This disciple of mine also meditates many hours a day, and he has his own studies and work to do as well. But still he finds time to devote to my needs. There is not one single disciple among you who cannot devote one or two hours more a day to my work. If you say that you can spend only five minutes more or ten minutes more, then I will say no. All of you, without exception, can increase your outer offering."
"But Master," the elderly disciple said, "you don't always have work for us."
"This is your complaint. I hear this all the time from my disciples. But you can create work. To create work means that you will ask if there is any way you can contribute or be helpful. Do not always wait for the work to come to you. Look and see what needs to be done, and then offer your services."
The Master then told the disciples what work they would be doing, and asked one disciple in each group to take the role of leader. "Even though I have appointed one person to head each group, every person in the group is equally important. Everyone's dedicated service is meaningful and valuable. The leaders will be responsible for organising and co-ordinating the groups, but no one is superior or inferior. Everyone is indispensable if they work with aspiration and dedication. Again, no one is indispensable if pride or self-importance enters into him. Then he is worse than useless."
The Master blessed his disciple-leaders. "My spiritual children, you must see that there is co-operation between all the different groups. No group must make me feel that only its job is important and that nobody else does anything significant. Within each group I want each of you to strive for perfection and to make sure that you don't make any mistakes. Of course, if you see that a group before you has done something wrong, when it is your turn to add your labour to the project, you will take pains to correct their mistake."
"It seems, Master," said one man, "that you are asking us to bring forward the critical side of our nature."
"Here you are mistaken," the Master replied. "You will not spend even an iota of energy criticising others' work. You will just use your energy to concentrate on bringing the work to perfection. Dedication and a critical attitude do not go together. If you criticise others, what happens? The energy that you spend thinking of what others have done or not done is not being used to correct the mistake. Who is perfect? We all make mistakes from time to time. So the best thing is just to correct the error, and not dwell on who has made it or who has let the mistake slip by him."
"Master," said one disciple, "you have explained your philosophy to us very clearly. But, forgive me, I still feel sad that our meditation time will suffer."
"All of you please meditate for a few minutes before you start working. Invoke me and cry to enter into my consciousness. Then, when you work, try to remain in my heart. To be in my consciousness is the best meditation. If you are in my consciousness, then you will do your jobs with the correct attitude, and you will be having the best meditation. There will be co-operation, dedication and selflessness. The Supreme needs our feeling of oneness, our ability to work together. Today we will start this new form of aspiration: dedicated work. Please me in this way, my children, and you will see that a new purpose, a new joy, a new inspiration will come into your inner and outer lives from today on."
September 17, 1974