There was a hermit who was sincerity incarnate and purity incarnate. He lived in a small forest. From nearby villages people used to come and get inspiration and aspiration from him. They had tremendous love and devotion for him. He used to pray for hours and hours, and they used to watch him worshipping. They used to bring him the bare necessities: bananas, milk and other simple things that a truly spiritual person eats. A very simple life he led. This went on for ten or twelve years.
A young boy from a neighbouring village observed the hermit and said, “Ah, they all worship him. Let me go and be with him. Then people will worship me also.”
The young boy had never prayed or meditated. He came to the hermit only to be worshipped. The hermit accepted him as his disciple. He was all the time wondering when people would start admiring him and worshipping him because he was now with the hermit.
A few months later, sincerity dawned on the young boy. He started praying and meditating very sincerely, and in this way he went on for two or three years. Then the hermit said, “I have to leave this place. I want to go away from here because here people are bothering me. They are disturbing my meditation and my peace. I have to realise God. If I stay here, I will not be able to realise God, so now I am going away.”
The boy, who was now about 17 or 18, had become very sincere. He said, “Please, please take me. Master, I came here to be worshipped by others, but now you know how sincerely I am praying to God and praying to you for illumination.”
The Master said, “No, no, you are too young. You pray here for a few years. Then, like me, you will also follow a higher spirituality. At that time you can go wherever God takes you.”
The boy started praying and meditating very sincerely. Villagers continued coming, but they were not worshipping him. They were watching him to see whether he was sincere or not. Finally they were quite pleased.
In his possession the boy had only two loincloths. One day he saw that a rat had eaten into one of them. Then the poor fellow had only one loincloth left. When the villagers came to know about this, they gave him a very large supply of loincloths and food.
One of the villagers said, “Rats may come again and destroy your loincloths. The best thing is for you to have a cat. A cat will kill the rats.”
So the villager brought the young hermit a cat. The hermit was very happy. But now that the hermit had a cat, the problem was that the cat needed milk. When the villagers brought milk for the hermit, he used to share it with the cat. But sometimes the villagers did not bring milk for him. When he did not have milk, he would go to the neighbouring villages and bring milk for the cat. This was what was going on, but the hermit was still praying sincerely.
Finally one of the villagers suggested, “If you have a cow, then you will not need anything. Why should you have to go anywhere for milk? If you have a cow, you can stay here and pray and meditate.”
This particular villager was kind enough to bring the young hermit a cow. Now, the cow needed grass, but there was no grass nearby. The poor fellow had to take the cow to some neighbouring fields every day. The zamindar came to learn of this situation. He felt sad, because the hermit was a nice fellow. He was acting like an idiot, but he was very sincere. The zamindar gave the hermit a very large plot of grassy land, so he did not have to bring his cow anywhere else to graze. The hermit had admirers, and they used to take the cow to his field to graze.
Then a farmer came and said, “This is such a vast field! Allow me to plow this field, and I will be able to get a bumper crop.”
The hermit allowed the farmer to plow the land and grow all kinds of grains. Then one of the villagers said, “You have everything, but who will take care of you?”
The hermit said, “True, now I am responsible for so many things.”
The villager continued, “Who is going to take care of you when you have to manage your land and your cow and everything else? You should get married.”
The zamindar had a beautiful daughter. Since the hermit was a very sincere man, the zamindar proposed that he marry his daughter. The zamindar said, “Do not worry, your spirituality will not descend.”
So the hermit married the zamindar’s daughter. In the course of time they had three or four children, and the children were all nice. Very, very happily the hermit was living.
Finally the hermit’s Guru came back. He could not recognise his disciple’s cottage. By this time it was no longer a cottage. It had become almost like a palace, and the grounds around it had beautiful gardens.
The Guru asked his disciple, “What has happened? What has happened? How could you fall like this?”
The hermit said, “You left me, so I did not know that all these things were temptations. One by one I accepted them, and people were advising me and saying that I would not fall. Now what has happened? What am I going to do?”
The Guru looked into the young man’s eyes and saw that still he had sincerity in him. He said, “All right, are you ready to give up your wife, your children and all your property?”
The disciple said, “Immediately! I do not need them.”
The Guru said, “Then come with me. Follow me.”
The disciple followed his Master, even though his wife and children all became miserable that he had left them.
First the boy was curious. Then he became sincere. Then stupidity entered into him. Temptation came from all around him, and he did not realise it. Then again he was awakened. Again he accepted the spiritual life, and he no longer cared for his family. He left everything behind when God’s Hour struck for him.