The scholar and the thief

A great scholar, an intellectual giant, read in a book that one can achieve happiness and perfection in life only if one has a genuine, living spiritual Master. The scholar said, "I have read so many books, but I have not been able to become happy. So let me look for a spiritual Master."

He wanted to find a spiritual Master who would be absolutely perfect in every way. He went to one spiritual Master, but saw that the spiritual Master was wearing glasses. The scholar said to himself, "Look at this! I don't need glasses and he does. What kind of perfection is that? I don't need this spiritual Master!"

He went to another spiritual Master and asked the Master something. The Master bent over and cupped his ear. The scholar thought, "O my God, that means his hearing is bad. I don't need this Master either!"

Then he went to see another spiritual Master, but this one he felt was too old. He said, "This spiritual Master is so old he can't even move. How can I accept him as my Master?"

Like this, he went from one Master to another. People would tell him that this Master or that Master had reached the highest height. But because he was using his mind, he saw only imperfection in them. Each time he came to the conclusion that he was more perfect than the Master he was visiting. He was feeling very miserable because he could not find a suitable Master.

One day, after he had eaten his evening meal, his wife said to him, "Why are you so sad?"

He replied, "I have read that you can be happy only if you have a spiritual Master. I have visited so many Masters whose disciples have said they were great, greater, greatest. But each one has such deplorable defects. I feel I have more perfection than they do! I don't think I will ever find a Guru. That means I will never have happiness in this life. What am I going to do?"

His wife asked, "Does it make you happy to feel you are more perfect than these Masters?"

The scholar said, "No, I am not happy. I go to them for happiness, but when I see them, I just become more miserable."

His wife said, "It is because you are looking for perfection in your own way. All right, I have an idea. Tomorrow night after our evening meal, let us go to the edge of the forest and wait. The first person you see is the one whom you have to accept as your Master."

The scholar said, "I have failed in all my efforts to find a Master. So I will try your way. Whomever I see first, I will take as my Master."

His wife said, "You have to keep your promise. Otherwise, you will spend the rest of your life looking for a Master and you will never get one. It will just go on and on."

The husband agreed. So the following evening they went to the edge of the forest and waited. After some time, they saw a man passing by. He seemed to be in a terrible rush. The wife pointed to him and said, "There is the one you have to accept! He is your Guru!"

The scholar called out to the stranger, "Stop, stop! I have to ask you something!" But the man had no time to speak to the scholar, and he started running away. The scholar, who was very strong, just grabbed him. The man shouted, "I can't wait. I have to go!" He was in a great rush because he happened to be a thief and he was running away from a robbery. But the scholar was stronger than the thief was, and the thief thought that he had been caught for his crime.

The scholar said, "I want you to be my Guru."

The thief could not believe his ears. He said, "No, no, I cannot be your Guru. I am such a bad person. I am a thief. I am running away from a robbery I committed. When you stopped me, I was afraid that you were going to take me to the police. So please, please allow me to go away from here!"

The scholar begged him, "No, you have to be my Guru!"

The thief thought for a few moments and then said, "If I become your Master, then are you going to obey me?"

The scholar immediately said, "Yes, I will obey you at any cost."

The thief said, "In that case, I will be your Master. Now what I want you to do first is to close your eyes."

The scholar closed his eyes.

"Now grab your ears and hold them firm — like this." Again the scholar obeyed.

"Now I want you to kneel down and stay like this until I come back. Since I am your Master, you have to listen to me. For the disciple, obedience comes first!" Then the thief ran away.

The wife was so miserable, but what could she do? The Guru had said that her husband had to kneel down, keep his eyes closed and hold onto his ears until the Guru came back. So the man remained there all night in the same position.

Meanwhile, the thief had forgotten all about the man and was leading his own life. The following day he went out to steal again, but this time he was caught by the police and the judge sentenced him to jail. So the thief was feeling very miserable.

The great scholar was also feeling miserable. He was suffering like anything, but he would not disobey his Master by getting off his knees or leaving that place.

In Heaven, Lord Vishnu was feeling miserable that this was happening. So he appeared in front of the scholar with all his luminosity and said, "I am the Lord; I am everybody's Guru. Now I am asking you to let go of your ears and open your eyes so you can see who I am. You don't have to go through any more austerities." The scholar said, "Oh no, I am not going to listen to you. My Guru has asked me to stay like this until he returns. So that is what I am going to do."

Lord Vishnu said, "But I am God! I am your Guru; I am your Guru's Guru; I am everybody's Guru."

The intellectual giant repeated, "I am not going to listen to you!"

"But you are suffering!" Lord Vishnu said.

The man replied, "I am suffering, true. But still I have to wait for my Guru to come."

Since the man would not listen, Lord Vishnu appeared to the court judge that night in a dream. The judge was very happy that such a beautiful, luminous Being had come to him. The luminous Being said, "I have given you so much joy, so much light. Now, can you not do something for me? Can you not release this particular thief whom you have just put in jail?"

The judge said, "You have given me so much joy. Definitely I will do it."

The following day the judge released the thief. He said to the thief, "You may go free, but don't steal anymore." Then Lord Vishnu himself appeared before the thief and said, "That disciple of yours is not listening to Me. Please go and stand in front of him and release him. I will give you joy and illumination."

The thief went to the edge of the forest, where the disciple was still kneeling, and said to him, "Your Guru has come. Look, I am here! Open your eyes and release your hands!"

By that time Lord Vishnu had illumined the thief. The intellectual giant, who was now also a spiritual giant, opened his eyes and fell at his Master's feet. Then he too received illumination.


God is in everybody. No matter whom you have faith in, God will be able to help you in and through that person. In this case, the disciple received illumination from a thief. God in His own transcendental Form, as Lord Vishnu, could not illumine this fellow, but God was able to offer him illumination in and through a thief. God was not jealous that He could not illumine the scholar; He did not feel sad or miserable. All God cares for is our illumination. If He can illumine us in and through this person or that person, then He is happy.

This story shows us that obedience is of paramount importance. If you obey your Master, no matter how imperfect he may be, then the Absolute Lord Supreme will be able to illumine you and fulfil you in His own Way. Start your spiritual journey with obedience. If you have obedience, then the day will come when inside your obedience you will also find divine love. And if you have divine love, then devotion and surrender to the Supreme will also follow.

The day you accept your Guru, something inside you tells you to obey him, to love him and to fulfil him. On that day you become one with your soul and you make a promise to yourself that you will listen to your Master. Your Master does not promise that he will listen to you. No, no! When the student accepts a teacher, the student agrees to listen to the teacher. It is not the other way around.

Some disciples want to change the story. Some disciples are constantly expecting and demanding things from their Master. They feel that they know more than he does. Because of this, they think that the Master is obliged to listen to them. But God Himself does not want to change the story. He wants the story to continue just as He began it. God wants the spiritual Master to teach the disciples, because the Master does know a little more than his disciples do.

If you have the inner strength to obey your Master, you will be the happiest person. When your Master asks you to obey him, he is not asking you to listen to the human in him. Far from it! He is not like a football player who wants to kick the ball to this side or that side. He is only offering you the messages that he is getting from Above, from our Beloved Supreme, who is my Guru, your Guru, everybody's Guru.

When we speak of obedience, what we actually mean is that our own higher existence, which the spiritual Master represents, has to illumine our lower existence, our doubting mind and rebellious vital. The owner of the house comes down from the third floor to the basement, and while descending he turns on the light switch on each floor. Then the whole house becomes illumined. This is how our spiritual illumination takes place.