Do not touch gold, do not touch women

There was a hermit who was absolutely pure. The nearby villagers built him a little cottage and they revered him deeply. They wanted to bring him fruits and other kinds of food every day, but he refused their kind offer. He said, “No, I shall beg from door to door. I shall come to your homes and there you will give me whatever I need.”

The villagers were very happy with this arrangement and they served him most lovingly and devotedly. In the course of time, two young men came to the hermit. They wanted to become his disciples.

The hermit said, “No, no! You are both too young. Young people are not meant for spirituality. The spiritual life is all austerity. You come from good families, I can see. If you adopt this way of life, your parents will come and create problems for me. No, I cannot accept you as my disciples at the present time.”

One of the young men, whose name was Kalo, said, “No, no, no, our parents will have no objection, we promise. We want the spiritual life.”

The other one, Bhulo, added, “We need it desperately.”

Finally, the hermit agreed. He said, “All right, you will have to face many austerities. Are you ready?”

The two aspirants were very, very sincere. They said to the hermit, “Whatever instructions you give us, we shall gladly abide by.”

The hermit was silent for a few minutes. Then he said, “I am giving you two special instructions. Never touch gold and never touch any woman. This is the first instruction. My second instruction is never to be familiar with people. If you are familiar with people, then they will only expect things from you and you will expect things from them. So do not be familiar with others. Just keep a few acquaintances, but do not become familiar with them, and never touch gold and never touch a woman.”

Both disciples took the hermit’s instructions very seriously. Every morning the hermit and his two disciples would go out and beg from door to door for alms. Sometimes they used to set off together and then they would go to different homes and return to the cottage. Then they would eat the food they had received.

One particular day, as usual, the hermit and his disciples set out. They went in separate directions but remained in the same vicinity. Kalo was walking in the direction of the river. On the way he saw a little boy crying pitifully. He said to the little boy, “Why are you crying?”

The little boy sobbed, “I had a gold chain, but a man took it from me. My Master asked me to take it to the goldsmith and sell it. Then I was supposed to bring the money to my Master.”

“Do you know who did it?” asked Kalo.

“No,” said the little boy. “A man just grabbed it from me and went away.”

“In which direction did he go?” asked Kalo.

The little boy pointed towards the river. “He ran that way,” he said and started crying again.

“All right,” said Kalo, “Come with me.”

The little boy and Kalo ran and ran towards the river. To their great surprise, they saw the thief sitting on the bank of the river.

Now, it happened that Kalo was physically very, very strong. So he went and pushed the thief over and snatched away the golden chain. Then he gave the chain to the little boy. The little boy was so happy. He carefully put the golden chain inside his pocket and went on his way to the goldsmith.

Kalo was about to continue to various places to beg for food when out of the blue he saw a young woman approaching him. She was weeping bitterly. Kalo said to her, “Please tell me why you are crying.”

She answered, “A friend of mine has brought me the message that my husband is very, very sick. He is now on the other side of the river. I have been waiting in this place for a ferry to take me there so that I can take care of him. Alas, I do not see any sign of the ferry. How am I going to cross the river? I am so worried. Perhaps my husband will not live until I reach him. I want to go to him immediately.”

Kalo said, “Do you not know how to swim?”

The young woman replied, “I am a woman. In our village, women are forbidden to swim. It is thought that if they learn to swim, they will become smart, and the villagers do not like smart women. They like only simple and sincere girls.” Then she went on crying pitifully.

Kalo said, “All right, then climb on my back. I will take you to the other side.”

Kalo placed her on his back and he swam to the other side of the river. When they arrived, the woman was full of gratitude to him. Then Kalo swam back to the other side of the river.

It happened that when Kalo was chasing the thief with the little boy and when he was crossing the river with the young woman on his back, somehow Bhulo observed him. Bhulo saw both of the incidents with his own eyes. He could not believe that Kalo handled a golden chain and, what is infinitely worse, that he carried a woman on his back to the other side of the river.

Kalo spent a little more time begging for food. Then he returned to the cottage. In the meantime, Bhulo came home and said to the hermit, “You cannot imagine what Kalo has done today! He did not obey you at all.”

The hermit said, “He did not obey me?”

“No, Master,” said Bhulo. “You gave us instructions not to touch gold, not to touch women. And what has he done? I saw with my own eyes that he touched a gold chain on somebody’s neck. Then he snatched it away and gave it to a little boy. And what is infinitely worse, I saw him place a young, beautiful woman on his back and carry her across the river.”

The hermit said, “Kalo has done these things?”

“Yes,” said Bhulo. “He has done these terrible things this morning.”

Now the hermit was waiting for Kalo to return. Eventually he came back with his alms bowl and the hermit said to him, “Is everything all right?”

Kalo said, “Yes, Master, everything is all right, but something eventful happened.”

The hermit said, “I would like to hear about it in detail from you later on. Now go and take a bath and then come back.”

Kalo went to take a bath. The hermit said to Bhulo, “You are such a fool! I told you not to be familiar with anybody. Why are you becoming involved in Kalo’s life? Let me see what Kalo comes and tells me.”

In a short time Kalo came back and began his story: “I saw two persons this morning. The first one was a little boy. He was so miserable. He was crying and crying. Afterwards I saw a young woman. She was also crying and crying.”

“And then what happened?” asked the hermit.

Kalo said, “I do not know what actually happened. I was there and yet I cannot even remember what I have done. I saw the boy crying pitifully and I know that I helped him, but I do not remember the details. I also remember that a young woman was crying and I helped her. But I cannot remember what I have done. I simply cannot remember.”

Then Bhulo said, “How is it that you cannot remember what happened this morning? Who touched a gold chain? Who was carrying a beautiful girl on his back?”

Then Bhulo described the two incidents in great detail.

Kalo said, “My friend, I truly cannot remember all these things.” He was not pretending. They had literally vanished from his mind.

The hermit said to Bhulo, “You rascal! Kalo has understood the meaning of my message. When I said, ‘Do not be familiar with anybody,’ I meant, ‘Do not be attached to anybody.’ If somebody is badly in need of your help, as those two badly needed Kalo’s help, you should help them.

“In Kalo’s case, he helped the boy to get back the gold chain, and he helped the young woman to cross the river. He was not attached either to the boy or to the young woman. He did them a big favour, but while he was doing the favour, he was keeping in his mind my instruction never to be attached, never to be attached.

“When I said, ‘Do not touch gold, do not touch women,’ what I actually meant was, ‘Do not be attached to any material thing or any human being.’ Look at Kalo’s spiritual height! He cannot even remember what happened! He is not fooling me, he is not fooling himself. When he saw that those two were overwhelmed with sorrow and grief, he felt that it was his duty to be of service to them. So he served God inside them.

“I can see inwardly that he is not attached to the young woman or the little boy. He has fully understood my message. In the future, Bhulo, you should also try to find the inner meaning of my instructions. Then you will become an excellent disciple like Kalo.”