There was once a spiritual Master who wanted to give each spiritual child of his special attention, concern, blessings and guidance, in spite of the fact that he had hundreds and hundreds of disciples. He conducted many meetings a week, sometimes two in one day, so that each class could be kept small and intimate, no matter how many new seekers he welcomed into his spiritual family.
On one or two days a week the Master allowed visitors to come and participate in the meetings, and some of them later decided to follow his path. One day four visitors — three boys and a girl — came up to the Master after a meeting. One of the boys bowed down to the Master and said, "Master, will you accept me as your disciple? I have been coming here each week for the last month, and I have finally decided that this is my path."
The Master asked the seeker his name and a few things about his outer life, and then in silence concentrated on his soul. Finally he said, "Certainly I shall accept you as my disciple. You have my wholehearted acceptance. Please come to our meetings regularly and devotedly. I can clearly see that this is your path."
The new disciple was extremely happy and grateful to be accepted by the Master.
Then one of the other two boys said, "Master, I too have been coming for the last month, but I have just found out that we can come only four or five times before we have to make up our minds about becoming a disciple. I feel that this may be my path, but I don't want to become a disciple right away since I wouldn't want to have any inner conflicts or be half-hearted in my commitment. I want to be absolutely sure."
The Master replied, "I deeply admire your sincerity. Unfortunately, we do have this rule here at the ashram, but you are most welcome to come to the meetings held on Wednesday nights outside the ashram instead. Many people have been coming to those meetings for eight or nine months or even a year, but they have not yet made a commitment and, on our part, we have not forced them to make any commitment. Of course, I am the same person, the same spiritual Master, whether I am in my ashram or outside it, so you will still have the same opportunity to decide if I am your Master."
"Master, I am happy to hear that I will be able to attend your Wednesday meetings, and I will certainly continue coming to meditate with you. But why do you have this rigid regulation to begin with? Forgive my asking, but why should one's inner life have these outer limitations?"
The Master explained, "My son, if we have some rules and regulations like this one, we can harmonise more effectively as a group. Every organisation needs rules and regulations so it can run smoothly. Also, it is easier to discipline the lives of the disciples in a spiritual community if there are some rules.
"There is also a spiritual reason, my son. I have seen clearly that if you want to select a path, four visits to one Master are more than enough for you to decide whether or not his path is the one for you. After seeing me that many times, if I am supposed to be your Master, you are bound to feel something in me. I am not saying that just because I am a spiritual Master you have to feel something in me; but if I am meant to be your Master you will definitely feel something in me which will encourage and inspire you to become my disciple. If you say, however, that in your case it is taking more time because you want to be very careful and cautious to avoid making a mistake, then once again I would like to invite you to come indefinitely to that other meeting. Take your own time. After six months or so, if you feel that this is not the path for you, you can try other paths.
"I am your older spiritual brother, let us say. Because I am a little more advanced than you in the spiritual life, my role is to take you to our common Father, but I myself am not the Goal. If there is somebody else who is also a little bit more spiritually advanced than you, then naturally he, too, will be in a position to take you to the Father. We spiritual Masters are like messenger boys; we just carry the seekers to the Father. You will have the same opportunity to realise God whether you accept this path or another path. If you want to take your time, then please do so, but don't feel sad or disturbed. At that meeting and at all my meetings — indeed, everywhere — my heart's door is wide open."
The second seeker bowed to the Master. "Master, I am deeply moved by your heart's magnanimity and your deep wisdom. I shall certainly continue to come to your meetings. Thank you."
Now the third boy approached the Master. "Master, I find that my life is in a state of confusion. How can I judge my own sincerity? Master, please give me some advice."
The Master said, "It seems to me that you have two questions, not one. One has to do with your confusion, another with your sincerity. Why are you confused? What makes you feel that you are confused? Acceptance of our path is one thing, but confusion in your own life, inside your own mind, is a totally different matter. Ask yourself if you will be happy if you do not accept our path. If you feel that you will be happy, and if you say that you are not confused in regard to rejecting or accepting our path, then your confusion is totally separate from whether or not you should accept the spiritual life. It is up to you either to accept us or to reject us. This path is one way of seeing the truth. Your sincerity will tell you if it is for you."
"But Master," the disciple interrupted, "how can I judge my own sincerity?"
The Master replied, "You can easily judge your own sincerity. Your sincerity depends entirely upon your heart's wideness or magnanimity. You don't have to become a spiritual person in order to be sincere. Think of yourself as two persons. Think of your vital, mind and physical as someone drowning in the sea of ignorance, and think of your heart and soul as another person, swimming across the sea of ignorance. Separate your mind, vital and body from your heart and soul. Feel that while your mind, vital and body are drowning, your heart and soul have the capacity to save them. What should you do now? If you separate yourself from the drowning person, if you remain with the heart and soul, immediately the heart's wideness and the soul's vision of the future will come to save the drowning man inside you. But you have to decide whether or not you are willing to follow the path of the heart and the soul in order to save the physical, vital and mind. If you feel that the physical is giving you the right message, the vital is giving you the right message, the mind is giving you the right message, then you will not feel a real need for the spiritual life. But if you do feel that your mind, for example, is drowning, then you should turn to the heart, because the heart is in a position to offer illumination to the mind. When you enter into the spiritual life, your intellectual mind will be only an unfortunate obstacle. The mind, as such, is not bad, but the mind has to be illumined by the light of the heart. And the light of the heart comes from the soul itself."
The third seeker said, "Master, I will follow your advice, and I am sure that my confusion problem and my sincerity problem will soon be solved. I will try to identify myself with my heart and soul."
Now the last visitor, the girl, said to the Master, "Although I have been meditating and leading an inner life for many years, this is the first time I have ever tried to find a Master. I feel a strong affinity with you, but is it too soon for me to make a decision?"
The Master said, "My daughter, enter into your heart and soul, and then if you feel that this is the path for you, certainly you should come here. If you feel that this is not your path, then go to some other place. But this is my only request to you and to everyone who has not accepted any spiritual Master: find your Master as soon as possible. Just because you are sincere, I am requesting you not to delay. You may say that you have to wait for God's Hour, but I say that the hour has already struck. That is why you have come here and you are thinking of going to some other places as well. Some people are very fussy. Although they see an object that they like in the first store they go to, they think that perhaps they will get something better in another shop. They go to twenty other shops, hoping to find a particular thing, and after looking and looking, they often end up coming back again to the first shop.
"But if people are wise, if they are really hungry and they find the fruit that will satisfy their hunger in the first shop, then they just eat it there and don't bother going from store to store. Of course, if they don't like the food offered there, they have every right to go to some other place. But some people exercise what they call human wisdom, which has no validity from the spiritual point of view. Their very nature is to say, 'Let us go and look at other things.' But the difficulty is that time is very precious. If I have to look around in many stores and browse through everything, while I am wasting my time somebody may come and buy the fruit that I originally wanted. Also, the shopkeeper does not keep his door open twenty-four hours a day. If I browse in his shop for a long time without buying the thing that I need, he may decide that it is time for him to close his shop and ask me to go look somewhere else. At that time, it is I who will remain unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
"So, after going deep within, if your heart and soul tell you this is not your path, be very brave and look for some other Master. But if you feel that this is your path, then don't allow the mind to come forward and bring in doubts."
"You may think that the mind is being sincerely cautious in questioning the heart, but the mind is only showing its insecurity. The mind is helplessly insecure, and that is why it always creates confusion. Have faith only in your heart and soul. If the soul conveys the message to you through your heart that this is your path, accept this path and stick to it.
"What I am saying is that it is best always to be alert and not to waste time. We have to study three subjects. The first subject is God-realisation, the second is God-revelation and the third is God-manifestation. We have hardly even begun to study the first subject, but we have to complete all three courses. Each course takes such a long time. God knows how many centuries, how many incarnations, each will take. So the sooner we start, the better for us."
The fourth seeker bowed and said, "Master, I shall not waste a second. I shall go deep within and find the path for me. Master, you are our true spiritual brother whose only concern is our progress. We are deeply moved by your unconditional guidance. We shall do what you have said." The four seekers bowed gratefully to the Master before leaving for home.