Lightless soldiers failTwo hundred years ago in India there lived a very great and compassionate spiritual Master. This Master accepted disciples from all walks of life and all levels of spiritual development. One night, the Master came back to his cottage to find that all his doors and windows were open. When he walked inside, he was shocked to see that most of his possessions had been stolen. Only his small bedroll remained. The Master knew that the disciples who had been working there that day had forgotten to lock up his house. But he was so sad and disturbed by their irresponsibility that he didn't have the strength to go and scold them.
The Master sat down on the floor to pray to the Supreme to forgive these disciples. No sooner had he closed his eyes than a disciple knocked on his door excitedly. "Master, Master!" the disciple cried. "What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I am in trouble!"
"What are you going to do about what?" asked the Master. "Please come in and tell me what has happened."
"Master, today my mother was very sick, so I asked my cousin to look after the ashram cows. But he fell asleep and left the gate open and all the cows have wandered away. I have been searching for them for hours, but to no avail. Master, now what am I going to do?"
Before the Master could say anything, there was another loud knock on his door. It was the village police. "We have come to inform you, Sir," said one of the officers, "that we have received a complaint against you from the village authorities. They had to spend several hours cleaning up after your last outdoor public meditation. They cannot tolerate this kind of thing. We are sorry, but you will no longer be allowed to hold meditations or give lectures in our town."
The Master said, "I am also sorry." But instead of sending for just the disciples who had been in charge of the last meditation, he asked all his disciples to come to his house.
When all were gathered at his house, the Master said, "I am giving all of you absolutely my last warning in this matter of irresponsibility. If I notice any irresponsibility in anything else that you do, the punishment will be very strict. For one week, one month, two months or even six months, you will not be allowed to come to the ashram. Also, no dedicated service will be accepted from you during this time."
"Master," one girl said, "we can't believe our ears. We thought you were all forgiveness, all love for us. How can we exist without seeing you, without serving you?"
"I am doing this for your own good," replied the Master. "I am exploring all possibilities to make you people run fast. Love is force and force is love. If I forbid you to come to the ashram for a month or so, it is for your good. It is not my personal malicious feeling towards you. No!"
"But Master," a boy said, "we are all human beings, and we have come to you for perfection. How can you expect us not to make mistakes from time to time?"
At this the Master became furious. "Most of you, if not all of you, have no sense of responsibility. Recently some disciples have made a few serious mistakes, and we are suffering and suffering from it. But all of you are culprits. Because of your irresponsibility, our mission is suffering like anything. They are the recent culprits, but all of you could easily do the same thing either today or tomorrow. To everyone I am saying that irresponsibility is also inside you; I see it in your nature."
All the disciples remained very quiet. Each one was thinking of the things he had done wrong recently because of his lack of responsibility.
The Master continued, "No matter who you are, no matter how hard you work for me or how long you have served me, whether you are ten years old or seventy years old, please take this warning very seriously. Please, please, please! If I see irresponsibility once more in any disciple, I will take action. This is not my personal grievance against any disciple, but my personal concern for your spiritual life."
"I have accepted all of you, but now the ashram has become like an Indian village market. You are just singing and dancing. There is no seriousness in you. So I shall start this policy from tomorrow, and your punishment will be very, very severe."
The disciples were inwardly relieved that their Master would not start until the next day. Each one was thinking about how to rectify his mistakes before tomorrow dawned.
"I am your eternal Father, but if I don't act as a divine judge, the way most of you are behaving I see you will take Eternity to realise God. Love is necessary, but force is also necessary. Force is love; love is force. I tell you, force is not punishment. But our human insecurity, our human ego, does not take force as love. It takes it as personal retribution."
"Master," said one brave disciple, "we understand now that you are using your force for our own good. But why have you chosen this particular way to punish us — by not allowing us to come to the ashram? It seems to me that nobody will ever know the reason why some particular disciple doesn't come to the ashram. We will all just think that he is sick or that he is away on vacation."
"It will be known," said the Master, "why you are not coming to the ashram and why you are not participating in selfless service. So that everyone will know the real reason, either I shall announce it to everybody, or it will be posted on the bulletin board. This kind of action will serve us extremely effectively, for others will then be very, very careful. In this way, many will learn from the mistakes of one."
"Master, it seems that being careful will now become a main part of our sadhana," a disciple said. "I never thought of responsibility like that."
The Master explained, "If you drop a glass, it breaks. The soul is also delicate like that. You are holding the soul, a most beautiful child. If you drop this child through carelessness, the child will fall and break its legs or arms. So please be very, very careful."
After a pause the Master said, "There is another way you people show your sense of irresponsibility. If ever I ask you to bring me something or do something for me, if I have to wait for two or three days, if you forget or neglect my request, I will consider that irresponsibility. Please don't do this kind of thing anymore."
"What happens," asked one boy, "if you don't give us any special time limit for accomplishing something?"
"If I ask you people to do something and tell you that you can take your own time, if you have real love and devotion for me, you will try to please me by giving me the work at your very earliest. If I tell you to do something for me in a week, you will try to do it in a day. If I tell you to do something in a day, you will try to do it in an hour. If I tell you to do something in an hour, you will try to do it in five or ten minutes. If you behave like that, I will be very happy, very proud of you. Now, does anyone have any other questions about this, or about anything I have said?"
The disciples kept silent.
"Then please go home," said the Master. "We shall see what happens tomorrow."
September l8, 1974