Not self-importance, but inner oneness

One afternoon a spiritual Master asked one of his new disciples to hang a picture in the front hall of his centre. The Master pointed to a spot on the wall and told the disciple, "Please drive a nail here." Naturally the new disciple was very happy that the Master had asked him to do this. He eagerly picked up the hammer and began to hit the nail. The disciple was performing the task soulfully and devotedly, without showing off, although the Master had asked him in particular and there were many disciples nearby to observe him.

Now it happened that one individual whom the Master considered a bad disciple was talking to a few of his friends at the other end of the hall. When he saw what had happened, this bad disciple immediately felt jealous. He said to himself, "Oh, Master cares more for him than for me; that is why Master has asked him to drive the nail."

A few minutes later the Master politely asked the new disciple to sweep the kitchen floor. This time the other disciple was again dying of jealousy because the Master had asked the new disciple and not him. "Oh, Master asked him to do it," said this unfortunate disciple. "It is only kitchen work, but I am inwardly dying because I have not got this kind of opportunity,"

One of the Master's best disciples, who was really devoted and dedicated to the Master, was sitting in the meditation room nearby. He said to himself, "I am so grateful to the Master that he has asked that particular disciple, rather than me, to drive the nail and sweep the floor. He has now given me the opportunity to meditate. I can continue my meditation. I truly feel that the Master is doing this for my good."

Another good disciple of the Master had also observed the scene. He was not in a meditative mood and he actually felt very depressed. This disciple said to himself, "Oh, I am so glad to see this. I know that Master is doing everything for my good. Today I am not in a good mood and if Master had asked me to drive a nail or sweep the floor, then I would only have shown off. I would have displayed my pride and vanity and all my other undivine qualities. I am so grateful to Master because he has forgiven me: he has not brought me forward and exposed my ignorance. He has not given me the opportunity today to expose myself."

Occultly the Master had read the mind of each of these three disciples. He was very proud of his two good disciples and very displeased with the bad disciple's reaction. The Master decided to speak to all the disciples present about the correct inner attitude towards selfless service. He called them into the meditation hall and said, "So-called selfless service is creating a problem in my ashram. I shall not use the word 'ego', but 'importance'; it is our self-importance which is creating such problems.

"A good disciple will always find something good in the Master's dispensation. He will think that it is for his own good that the Master is asking somebody else to do something. If he is in a bad mood, even then he is grateful that the Master has not exposed his ignorance. And if he is in a good mood, then he feels that his Master has given him the opportunity to meditate and go deep within and do something in the inner world. A good disciple will always know and feel, 'Whatever is good for me, Master is giving me; whatever is good for others, Master is giving them; and this is bound to be the best for me also.' But a bad disciple will never think in such a divine way. He will always feel that the Master cares for others much, much more than for him. If you constantly have the same divine attitude as the good disciple, then you will always be able to save yourself from the attack of jealousy, which is nothing but ignorance."

This particular bad disciple inwardly felt that the Master had read his thoughts. But outwardly he said, "Master, please explain to us what you mean."

The Master looked at the disciple for a few moments and then said, "When I ask someone else to do something, if you are a bad disciple you will immediately say, 'Oh, Master has asked him; that means he cares only for him.' At that time your whole world is lost because I have asked somebody else and not you. But if you are a good disciple, then immediately you will say, 'I am so grateful to Master because he has allowed me to meditate and go deep within, to enjoy infinite Peace, Light and Bliss.' This is absolutely the correct view, the divine view. Now see how you can change your attitude and save yourself."

The bad disciple felt ashamed that the Master had openly exposed his wrong attitude. The Master continued, "Again, you have to go one step farther and say, 'If the Master asks me immediately to drive a nail or to sweep the kitchen, then with equal joy I will perform the task because, for me, to meditate and to sweep the floor are of the same importance. But just now for one thing I have been asked and for another thing I have not been asked. I am happy that I am able to do something for the Master. If I remain in ignorance and let jealousy attack me, then I shall never be allowed to sweep the floor or to drive the nail. I won't be able to meditate well either.' Good disciples will always ascribe a good motive to everything that they are asked to do and bad disciples will always find a bad motive behind the Master's request. If you play the role of a good disciple, then not only your problem but also God's problem, the problem of age-old human ignorance, will immediately be solved."

The Master paused. "One more point I shall tell you and then I shall end my sermon. When a newcomer enters into a family, when a child is born, if the elder brothers or sisters are not good, then they become extremely jealous of him. They feel that previously the parents gave much attention to them, but that now the little one will get all the importance and they will get none. If they are really good and divine, then they become so happy that they have a new child in the family, a little brother. They feel, 'Now we have one more in our family. If we have any disputes or calamities with a neighbouring family, our little brother will be able to fight for us when he is grown up. He will make us stronger than we are now.' This is the attitude they take."

"Master," said the bad disciple most sincerely, "please tell us how to apply this philosophy in our spiritual lives."

The Master said, "Here the family living adjacent to us is ignorance. You see that in our spiritual family the membership is increasing. If you take the attitude that each newcomer is a real member of your family, instead of a threat, then our family will be strengthened. And you yourself will be able to fight more powerfully against the enemy that is just beside you: ignorance. Always try to feel that in accepting newcomers you are increasing the number of your own soldiers to fight against ignorance. If you have sympathy and love for a new person, then that person becomes yours and in the tug-of-war the strength of your side is increasing, always increasing. The other side, ignorance, will naturally have to surrender to you. So be grateful to the newcomer for joining your side in the tug-of-war. Now you are getting more strength, more opportunity to conquer ignorance."

"Master," said the disciple, "your Illumination-Light has made everything very clear to us. From now on, no self-importance, no jealousy; only inner sympathy and love for our fellow disciples. We shall try; and with your Light, we shall definitely succeed."

A galaxy of saints

Once there was a very great spiritual Master who dedicated himself unreservedly to all his ashrams around the world. The Master had a very high standard and he expected much from his disciples. But alas, one year many of his spiritual centres fell below his standard and his Beloved Supreme compelled him to disband the fallen centres one by one. Each time he lost a centre, the Master felt that he had lost part of his own heart and soul. Finally the Master had only one centre left, in a country far, far away.

One night the Master saw occultly that a great calamity was about to take place in this centre and that the Supreme in him would compel him to dissolve this centre as well. The Master was beside himself with grief. He immediately made arrangements to fly there the following day. As soon as the Master arrived, he called all his disciples together.

The Master began, "My dearest spiritual children, this will be one of my sermons. I am so pessimistic nowadays. Optimism has left me; pessimistic thoughts have come. I always say to you people, 'Let us be hopeful,' but now all the centres have disappointed me to such an extent that I see only darkness all around. I am sorry to say that I may be forced to disband this centre as well.”

The disciples were sad and shocked to hear that the situation had come to this critical point. "What exactly is the matter, Master?" one of them asked.

The Master said, "In some of my other centres there were people who paid all attention to selfless service and did not pay any attention to meditation. Meditation is a supreme necessity; selfless service is a supreme necessity. Both are of paramount importance in the spiritual life. But unfortunately at this centre you don't give attention either to meditation or to dedicated service.”

"Master," asked one disciple, "how have we disappointed you in our selfless service?"

"We have very few ways to express our selfless service here," said the Master. "But each of you can do much, much more. Some of you do work hard in printing my books and in raising funds for the centre. But I tell you that if you had been more sincere, more dedicated and more devoted, then we could have branched out into more enterprises and other forms of dedicated service. That is to say, there are many, many other things we could have accomplished if you had been more serious in your devoted service."

"Then please tell us what we should do to change our nature, Master," one disciple said.

"If each of you can feel that you are one hundred per cent responsible for the success and progress of this centre, not ninety-nine but one hundred per cent, then there is no reason why this centre cannot survive and run the fastest. I wish to say that if you really feel at every second that you are God's supremely chosen children, then this dearest centre of mine, my fondest centre, will have a different fate; and this change can be made overnight.

"When we become undivine in one thing, we become undivine in everything. If a person is really bad, he is bad in everything. But again, if he is really good, he as good in everything. Each one should first play the role of a saint. If each and every one of my spiritual children feels that he is a saint, then here we can have a galaxy of saints. But right now we don't see ourselves in that way. So how can we think of surpassing the saints?"

"Master, we know that we are full of imperfections," one disciple immediately said. "How can you say that we are at all like saints?"

"I tell you," said the Master, "that you are the chosen instruments of God. Chosen instruments of God are far superior to saints. A saint is very good, but he is not brave enough. His standard is high, but he won't touch things that are beneath him and he won't be eager to speak to others. He is afraid of being stained by the dark ink of the world. Usually Indian saints enter into the Himalayan caves. They lead a very pure life, but they don't work for God-manifestation. Here each one of you has been chosen by the Supreme as a hero-warrior. You already embody the saintly qualities of aspiration and the feeling of oneness. These divine qualities you are now going to offer to the world at large. That is why we call you chosen instruments of the Supreme. You have to go far, far beyond the saints and fight against fear, doubt, jealousy, imperfection and limitation according to the Will of the Supreme."

Everyone was deeply moved by the Master's words. But one disciple asked, "What shall we do if people reject our offering, Master?"

The Master said, "A scorpion's capacity is to bite. The very nature of an undivine person is to hurt others. But if you are a saint, you won't kill the scorpion after it bites you. What will you do? You will just put it back where it belongs. It is your very nature to do this, because you are divine. If somebody hurts you, then you will show your capacity, which is your nobility. Nothing is wasted, my children. Even an undivine person is bound to receive some light from your nobility, either consciously or unconsciously.

"Every day this centre can be improved if each individual feels that he is a saint. There is nothing wrong in thinking this way at first; it is absolutely the right attitude. If you say, 'I am a good man, I am a sincere man,' then you become one with your soul. At that time you cannot do anything wrong. If you take the positive approach and say, 'I am the Supreme's child,' or if you repeat a few times, 'I am God's son,' or 'I am God's daughter,' then all good qualities come to you. But if you make yourself feel that you are a lump of clay or a bundle of ignorance and God is somebody else far away, then you will never reach your Goal. You will only be crying and weeping all the time. That is the wrong approach. You have to feel that you are in potentiality what God is. If God is great, God is kind, God is affectionate, God is forgiving, then we also have those qualities. Every attribute that we ascribe to God, we ourselves also have.”

"They certainly are hidden right now," said one disciple.

"We have them in an infinitesimal measure, whereas God has them in infinite measure. But as we become spiritually mature, these qualities grow in infinite measure. So we should have the inner feeling that what God has in boundless measure, we also definitely have. Then at the express command of the Supreme we have to offer our wealth unreservedly to mankind.

"God is the ocean and the individual is the tiny drop. If this tiny drop enters into the ocean, then how are we going to trace it? It becomes the ocean itself. Again, if all the drops are taken away from the ocean, then the ocean will be empty. If I as a drop and you as a drop are taken away from the ocean, which is God, then the ocean is not complete. The drop surrenders itself to the ocean and becomes the ocean. At that time, the compassion of the ocean and the love of the ocean accept the drop as their very own, as something that will add to their strength."

"Are you saying that the drop actually contributes something to the ocean, Master?" asked a disciple.

"It is absolutely true," said the Master. "If your father has one thousand dollars and you, as a child, bring one dollar to your father, then the sum becomes one thousand and one. At that time your father no longer has only one thousand dollars; he has one thousand and one. Similarly, all of you should feel that your effort, your spiritual contribution is extremely necessary. Each individual contribution adds to God's Reality and His Capacity on earth and in Heaven.

"Please try to always feel that you are the chosen child of the Supreme. You know that right beside your house there may be people who are very, very bad, very low and very undivine. You will never do the things that they do. You immediately feel that you come from a respectable family, you have had a good education and you are following the spiritual life; therefore it is impossible for you to do the things that they do, it is simply beneath your dignity. Their standard and your standard are totally different. Your standard is very high; their standard is very low.

"Again, you have to feel that the things that you are doing right now, in comparison to a saint's standard, are very low. But God is telling you that you are far superior to a saint. You have accepted the spiritual life and you now have the power to become His chosen instrument. This is what we always claim to be. Let us always think to what we truly are."

"Master, forgive me, but I don't understand you. First you scold us; then you extol us to the skies."

"Dear ones," said the Master, "when I tell you that you are God's children, I am not flattering you. No! I see in you what you truly are. But unfortunately you don't see what you are. That is the problem. Think of yourselves as divine. Then automatically the undivine qualities will leave you, because they will see that they are knocking at the wrong door, a stranger's door. There will unmistakably come a time when your life and the life of ignorance and limitation will be perfect strangers to each other. So, my children, try to change your fate. God's Grace is already there."

The perfect book

There was once a young, beautiful spiritual Master who had only forty disciples. One night the Master had a dream. In the dream his Beloved Supreme came to him and asked him to write a book about the spiritual life so that seekers all over the world could receive his unparalleled spiritual light and wisdom. The Supreme also told the Master that this book should represent his disciples' soulful and dedicated love and service to the Supreme in their Master and to the Supreme in humanity. This was to be the perfect book.

The next morning the young Master called his disciples together to tell them what was to take place. "This book will satisfy and fulfil the Supreme in me and the Supreme in you only if we work in the right consciousness, in the Supreme's own Way. So that we can serve correctly, I will now share with you my supreme secrets of selfless service. These secrets apply, of course, to all kinds of dedicated work, but if we can apply them here, my children, then this book will be inwardly and outwardly perfect.”

The Master appointed different disciples to carry out the jobs necessary to bring the book to completion. Then he said, "The first secret is your love for me. If you really love me, if you really care for me, then you will do my work with true love and concern.

"If love is there, how can mistakes occur? And even if someone else has overlooked an error, your own care and concern will find it and you will correct it. The saying, 'Everybody's business is nobody's business,' does not apply here. You will all claim the book as your very own and strive to make it perfect in every way you can."

First the Master spoke to the disciples who would be typing from what he dictated or wrote in his own handwriting. "Like all the other groups, I wish this group to work soulfully and devotedly. I wish to see sincerity and dedication in your work. Remain always alert, whether you are trying to read my handwriting or to read back your own notes. And if you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to ask me. Make sure that each word is correct and be careful not to fabricate anything of your own."

"We are very happy that you have chosen us, Master," one of the girls in the group said. "We shall do everything to please you.”

The Master blessed the five disciples. Then he turned to the seven disciples who would be categorising and arranging his writings. "Above all, this book will have my consciousness. When I read any line of the book, I will be able to breathe in the breath of my consciousness. In rare instances, you may have to edit a word or phrase to keep the flow."

"Why would we want to change anything, Master?" asked one girl. "To us, everything you do is perfect."

The Master explained, "If there were time for me to write everything out myself, then there would be no need for you to do any editorial work to prepare the book for publication. At most there might be a punctuation mark missing from time to time or you might have to add a word here and there. But writing things out takes time and often the pressure of my work will not allow me to accomplish much if I have to write everything by hand. So out of necessity I will be dictating most of the material and your dedicated service is needed to prepare it for publication."

The Master smiled. "English is not my native tongue; I have my own Indian form of expression. You can call it charming or awkward, but it is my very own way of expressing things. I know that with your dedicated service, every page of the book will have my own flavour."

Next the Master spoke to the girls who would be typing the manuscript. "I always say that speed in the spiritual life is of paramount importance. But here, speed does not mean getting something done in the twinkling of an eye. It means giving something utmost importance, first priority in your life. You have to be sincere to yourself in order to know whether you are giving a particular job due importance. Speed will come if you give my work priority. I don't expect you to type one hundred and twenty words per minute; I expect you to type with devotion. Do not think that I will be pleased only if you go very fast. No! I will be pleased if you are careful, concerned and dedicated. Type slowly if necessary, to make as few mistakes as possible. Naturally you won't start the job and then spend hours on the phone or do errands every five minutes. You will complete the job as soon as you can without making countless mistakes.”

"May I say something, Master?" one boy asked. "I myself am the world's worst typist, but I would like to say that I find it very inspiring and refreshing to work from a clean, neatly typed copy."

"That is absolutely true," said the Master. "I always say that cleanliness and tidiness, love and devotion go together. Do not sacrifice accuracy and neatness for speed. Remember that one person's love and devotion can go to the next person. Every step of the way you will find love, devotion and surrender in this book."

The Master turned to the disciples who would be typesetting the book. "The Supreme has blessed us with a very good machine to do the final typesetting. When you enter the room where we keep the machine, please feel that you are approaching something that is very delicate and that you must use it with utmost care. When you touch the machine, feel that you are touching me. You know how devotedly and lovingly you will touch me when the necessity arises and how soulfully you receive my blessings. So please give all your love and concern to this machine also."

One girl said, 'That will be very inspiring, Master. I shall feel that I am touching you and I shall feel you blessing me as I work.”

"I am very proud of your attitude, my daughter. And if all of you want to get the utmost benefit from your dedicated service, then keep your mind on me at all times. While you are typing, think only of me and concentrate on what you are typing. Do not allow your mind to roam to all corners of the world, thinking of this person or that person, or thinking of who will do the proof-reading or make the corrections. And do not allow insecurity to capture you. Do not think that others are closer to me or that you are inferior to others. No, just do your job well. Keep your mind and heart on me, me alone. Be as spiritual as possible while you work. Then in the inner world I will feel and receive your dedicated service as you work."

"Master," said one girl in this group, what you are asking us to do is true sadhana, true meditation. Working in this way certainly requires utmost discipline in the body, mind, heart and soul."

"This intensity, this one-pointedness, is what the Supreme wants from all of us," said the Master. Turning to those who would do proof-reading, the Master said, "You must exercise real concentration and total alertness at all times. From you the book will go to the press, so you are responsible for its outer perfection."

The Master blessed each disciple. "What I have said to each group is the ideal. As you work on this book, always strive to be inwardly and outwardly perfect. Then we shall undoubtedly succeed in offering the Supreme the perfect book."

The rules of the Master

Once there was a spiritual Master who was very strict with his disciples. Once a week, however, he met with new disciples and prospective disciples and with these seekers he was not strict. Now, it happened that one week the Master knew he would be late to this meeting, so he asked one of his close disciples, who had been with him a long time, to read out some rules and regulations before his arrival. Unfortunately, even before the disciple had finished reading, people started shouting questions and insults at him. They vehemently protested against the new regulations which requested disciples to give up drugs, shave their beards, cut their hair and dress modestly. The poor disciple felt that the best thing for him to do would be to leave the room.

When the Master arrived, the disciple told him what had happened. The Master became furious. He entered the meditation room to formally start the meeting, meditated only five minutes facing the group and then said, "Some people here are cursing the disciples who are responsible either for writing these rules or for reading them to you. But it was my wish that these regulations be worded in this way and it was at my express request that this disciple read them out tonight. I am taking full responsibility for their actions.

"Some of you are finding these prerequisites very harsh, perhaps undivine. If the wording is harsh and undivine, then you have to know that I myself have been suffering mercilessly from many undivine vibrations caused by the misconduct of both the disciples and the non-disciples. I feel that the time has come for me to be a little strict and to stand firmly by my convictions. If any new seekers approach you about these rules, please tell them what I have just said."

One new disciple who had a beard said,

'Master, I am a little confused, since some of your good disciples do have beards."

The Master said, "My son, you have just joined our centre. If you want to be my true disciple then please try to follow my request. Now, every rule admits of exceptions. If I ask one individual out of two hundred or three hundred to keep his beard, then I am fully responsible for it. If you see that somebody among my disciples has a beard or long hair, then you have to know that either that person has got my permission or I personally have asked him to keep it. Either it is my necessity or it is that person's necessity. When I approve of something that is not in my rules, I approve for a particular individual; this permission does not apply to all."

One boy jumped up and said angrily, "Jesus Christ had long hair."

The Master immediately replied, "If you say that the Christ had long hair, I will agree. If I see the Christ, I will go and touch his feet. But if I see you, I will just run away. If you have the Christ-consciousness, then you can have long hair. I have written and spoken considerably about long hair. It is my feeling that men should look like men and women should look like women according to the present standards. Hundreds of years ago men had long hair, but we have no right to do so now in the twentieth century just because they did. Most of the time people feel that long hair will offer them a kind of soft, gentle or mild quality. But this is not true. Even if you have long hair you can have a very disturbing vibration. I have seen that nowadays long hair creates a ferocious vibration. From now on, you must have short hair and no beard, and your clothes should be neat and tidy."

"Do you think it is fair," asked another boy arrogantly, "to make us stop taking drugs?"

The Master said, "If you are still taking drugs, then you are knocking at the wrong door. Our door will no longer be open to you. Drugs and alcohol I do not approve of, nor can I tolerate. I always say that gradually, gradually you can stop smoking or drinking tea or coffee. But in the case of drugs I don't tell seekers, 'gradually, gradually you can stop'. I tell them, 'Stop immediately'.”

"Are you also strict about diet?" one girl asked.

"Meat and fish," explained the Master, "and especially meat, offer us animal consciousness. When we eat meat, our subtle nerves become agitated. Fish is also undivine. When we take fish, the subtle nerves become lethargic. We are already half animal. We quarrel and fight all the time. Why should we increase our animal qualities? But again I say, as with tea or coffee, if you can't stop eating meat and fish all at once, don't worry; slowly and steadily you can give them up. Week by week you can try to minimise the quantity. But if possible, it is better to stop eating meat and fish immediately. Since you want to follow a spiritual path, why should you add to your animal qualities?"

At this point one seeker said, "I am studying under another Master as well and he is not so strict with his disciples."

The Master replied, "As we have no right to convert anyone, you also have no right to disturb our peace, our serenity, our prayer. We are not begging you to come to our path. If you have come from a different path, there is no harm in it, provided that you now feel the necessity of following our path. But if you still have another Master and at the same time you try our path or other paths, then you will make no progress. In school there are many subjects. Naturally for each subject you need a different teacher. But in the inner school it can never be like that. In the spiritual life there is one subject and one teacher. If you go to different paths, you are making a mistake.”

Finally the Master spoke to all the seekers and new disciples.

"Most of my disciples are very sincere and earnest, so I feel I can exercise my authority. If you don't want to follow our path devotedly, soulfully, explicitly, then we do not want your presence. You cannot please two Masters. He who wants to please everyone, pleases no one. If you want to follow our path, you should give us a chance. If after six months or a year or two you feel that you are not receiving anything here, then you should go to someone else. But as long as you remain in my boat you have to abide by my rules, which are the soulful necessities for my spiritual children.”

Then the Master stood up to close the meeting.

You belong to God

One hundred and fifty years ago there was a certain spiritual Master in India who made a resolution at the beginning of each year as to how he would deal with his disciples. In this way each year the Master would try a different approach to expedite the progress of his disciples. He would follow his declaration faithfully for the entire year. One New Year's Day the Master announced that this would be the year of self-transcendence. He gave a very inspiring talk about transcending limitations:

"The New Year means new hope, new determination, new realisation and new manifestation. Every day we can have new hope, new determination, new realisation and new manifestation, but unfortunately it does not usually happen in that way. So at least once a year we should find inner encouragement and bring forth new achievements, new reality. Such being the case, I wish to say that today we are getting a golden opportunity not only to transcend our limitations, but also to transform them. While aspiring, we eventually transcend our achievements. When we transcend our achievements, we transcend our limitations as well. Every second we can achieve and transcend; and while we are transcending ourselves, our limitations can easily be transformed as well. In this way we gradually come to know more and more of our divine reality."

After his talk the Master asked his disciples to come up one by one for his spiritual blessing. After he had blessed them, a close disciple of the Master asked, "Master, can you tell each one of us individually what limitations we should transcend?"

The Master said, "My spiritual children, we have only one limitation and that limitation is the feeling that God belongs to somebody else and not to us. We have learnt: 'God belongs to him; He is partial to him, not to me.' That is our only limitation. When we have that kind of attitude, we feel that we ourselves are the most useless limitation. But now let us try to feel that God belongs to others and that He belongs to us as well. Each individual has to have the faith that he will eventually feel the constant Presence of God. When we have this feeling, all our limitations can be surmounted. So from now on, all of you please feel that God belongs to you. If you claim God as your very own then there can be no limitations."

Suddenly one young man stood up. "Master, what can I do? I have been your disciple for ten years, but I still feel that I am all limitation."

"First of all," said the Master, "it is wrong to feel that you are an unworthy disciple or that you are my worst disciple. These feelings are not good. There are two ways to ruin ourselves. One way is to feel that we are great, very great, by far the best; everybody is inferior to us. This is one kind of ego; self-aggrandisement. The other way to ruin ourselves is to feel that we are hopeless, we are useless; everybody is far superior to us. By feeling that we are good for nothing, we get a kind of subtle pleasure. By feeling that everybody is at our feet, that we have surpassed everyone, in this way also we get a kind of pleasure. These are the two ways in which the ego operates. One way we feed our self-aggrandisement and the other way we starve our dream and reality. Both ways are bad."

"Then how should I feel, Master?" asked the boy.

"The positive approach is 'I am God's son. Now it is up to me to please Him in His own way and it is up to Him to manifest His Reality in and through me.' If you have this kind of attitude, then you will never have a feeling of inferiority and you will never think that you are my worst disciple. Who is best? Who is worst? God alone knows. But by feeling that you are by far the best or the worst, you do not gain anything. If you aggrandise your ego, then you are doing something wrong. And if you deliberately strike your own reality, then you are also doing something wrong."

"Oh, Master," said the boy, "you have hundreds of disciples, so it is not easy to feel that I am a chosen disciple of yours."

"From now on," the Master said, "please feel that you are God's son, and that out of millions and billions of people on earth you have been awakened. You are following our path. Whenever one follows a spiritual path, that person is supremely chosen. Here the feeling of unworthiness has no value. All of you are following our path. You are chosen disciples for our path. And for you, our path is the one that is destined to take you to God."

Why the disciples don't come

One day while a spiritual Master was taking a walk, he happened to meet a former disciple of his on the sidewalk.

"Venu," the Master said, "you are so dear to me. Why have you stopped coming to my ashram?"

The disciple bowed his head in shame and said, "Master, I have to be sincere. Just because that rascal Tushar comes to you, I no longer come. I don't want to see his face.”

"Venu!" exclaimed the Master. "What kind of reason is this?" The Master paused then said sadly, "I know of a spiritual Master who had an Indian disciple and an American disciple, both of whom were women. The Indian and the American became intimate friends. Unfortunately their friendship did not last and they were soon at daggers drawn. One day the Indian woman came to the Master and said, 'Master, I am leaving your ashram.' The Master asked, 'Why, why?' She said, 'If that American lady gets God-realisation, then I don't need it. It is beneath my dignity to get something which she will have. I don't need your God-realisation. I could never be satisfied with anything she might get.' Now, my Venu, you are acting the same way."

Venu said, "Forgive me, Master. I know my reason sounds absurd, but to me Tushar's very presence is an eyesore."

"Venu," said the Master, "there are other disciples who have left me. They, too, stopped coming because of personal grievances. They too quarrelled with disciples who continue to come to my ashram. Now granted, Tushar is bad according to your point of view. But since he continues to meditate, since he is still in our boat, he is definitely going to realise God much sooner than you."

"Master!" Venu cried out. "I can't bear to hear you say that!"

The Master continued. "You have left the path because of your disagreement with somebody. Here our difficulty is that we lack wisdom. We don't think of what we are actually doing to ourselves. By finding fault with others, we are just stabbing ourselves and nothing else. We must always try to be wise, divinely wise." The Master paused. "Venu, leaving aside your difficulties with Tushar, what kind of progress do you think you are making now?"

Venu was silent.

The Master said, "What is most painful is that when you came to me you had much more inspiration and aspiration than you have now. That means that four, five or six years ago you were a better aspirant than you are now. Like you, other disciples had utmost sincerity, devotion and aspiration when they first came to me. Some of my disciples were really so pure, so divine; they were absolute angels in every sense of the term. They gave such promises that in this incarnation either they would be on the verge of realisation or they would actually realise God. Now those disciples are giving us another realisation. On their way to God-realisation, by mistake they have realised something else instead of God, and that is ignorance. Now what has happened to them? I can only use the term 'fallen' to describe them; and this word is absolutely applicable to you, my son."

Venu buried his head in his hands. "Master, what can I do now?"

"My son, nothing is lost. You have not lost the ladder of your spiritual evolution; it is right in front of you. While you were climbing you lost your footing and that is why you fell down. Now again you can try to climb up. But you have to be always careful to place your foot on the proper rung. Then you will again be able to climb back to the height which you had a few years ago. What you once achieved is not lost. Only be alert, be careful to keep your footing so that again you can reach your height. Then you can go high, higher, highest; far beyond what you achieved in the past."

Sincerity determines the goal

"Master, are my goals always stationary?"

"What do you mean, my daughter?"

"Master, sometimes I feel that my goals are coming closer to me and sometimes I feel that they are receding. But do they ever really move at all?"

"My spiritual daughter, each goal is constantly crying to come to us if we are sincere, if we are devoted, if we are very spiritual. There are three significant goals. The first goal is God-realisation which for you is still a far cry. Next comes God-revelation. This second goal is right now beyond your imagination. The third goal is God-manifestation, which is further yet.

"A disciple aspiring for God-realisation is like a child crawling to her mother. If the mother sees that the child is trying with utmost sincerity to crawl to her, then she herself runs to the child. Similarly, God comes to the intensely aspiring seeker. God-revelation, which is the second goal, is also like that. God is watching you all the time. Once you have reached the first goal and you are sincerely crying to reach the second, He is standing at the second destination and will come towards you. Finally He is standing by the third goal, which is God-manifestation, and again at the proper time will come."

"Then why do I sometimes feel that my Goal is receding, Master?"

"My daughter, it depends entirely on your sincerity. If you are totally sincere, then He who is going to grant you realisation, revelation and manifestation will come closer to you. But if you are not sincere, then the Goal will constantly recede. Realisation-goal, Revelation-goal, Manifestation-goal: all three Goals will constantly go far, farther, farthest away from you if you are lacking in sincerity.

"My daughter, there is another reason why you feel at times that your Goal is receding."

"What is that, Master? I am eager to know."

"My child, each time you find fault with someone, please feel that you have to go one step more in order to reach your goal. Let us say that your goal is one hundred metres ahead of you. The very moment you are displeased with someone, angry with someone, jealous of someone, your destination does not remain one hundred metres away; it becomes one hundred and one metres away. Each time you cherish undivine thoughts about someone, the distance to your destination is only increasing; your goal is receding. So now you can see who is the loser in this situation. Only a fool will want to delay his progress. You don't want to be a fool."

"Master, of course I will not deliberately try to do anything wrong. But the Goal is so far. Does that one extra step really make a difference?"

"Dearest daughter, you are trying to reach your destination as soon as possible because you have studied our philosophy and you know that even realisation is not the ultimate Goal. Let us say that you wish to get your Ph.D., but right now you have not even gone to college. First you have to get your bachelor's degree, then you have to get your master's degree and finally you will get your Ph.D. Your goal is very distant. So what are you doing right now? You are studying with all your eagerness in order to get your first degree. But if you don't study in school, what will happen? Similarly, in your life of aspiration, if you study jealousy, insecurity, anger and aggression, which are absolutely the wrong things to study, what will happen? Each time you do something wrong, please feel that you have to go one step farther in order to complete your task. With greatest difficulty you are studying. You don't want to delay your ultimate achievement even for a second."

"Master, right now these Goals are sheer impossibility for me. Why do I even cry for them at all?"

"Why do you want these Goals? Because you need satisfaction, that is why. There is no other reason. You want to satisfy yourself in a divine way, in God's own Way. If you want to be satisfied, then you have to do something in order to achieve your satisfaction. When you climb up a mango tree, pick a mango and eat it. At that time the mango tastes much sweeter than if somebody had brought it to you with no effort on your part. If you do not contribute any personal effort, then you may just throw the mango aside. He who has brought it to you may say that it is most delicious, but just because you have not contributed your effort, the mango will not taste as delicious to you.

"When you offer your personal effort, you get God's Grace. If you want to climb up the tree, then somebody helps you to climb and that somebody is the Supreme within you. But if you don't want to climb the tree and if the Supreme climbs up on your behalf and brings you the mango, then I tell you, you will not get satisfaction. So your personal effort and God's Grace must go together; then only will you be divinely, supremely satisfied."

"Master, you have thrown abundant light on my questions. But please tell me how I can stop doing these wrong things."

"My daughter, you are at my ashram, you are in my boat, you are part and parcel of my mission. Today you are representing God's Dream here on earth; tomorrow you will represent God's Reality. If you remember this sublime truth, then your frustration-disease, your depression-disease, your anger-disease, your insecurity-disease, your jealousy-disease, your failure-disease — all these diseases are bound to disappear in the twinkling of an eye. You know what your ultimate destination is. Once you reach the Goal, once you become the Goal, you will see that that is what you have always been."

The Master blessed his dear disciple. "All right, my child, you have heard my sermon. It is my concern that is speaking, it is my compassion that is speaking, it is my gratitude that is speaking. Always see my Wisdom-Light in that way."

The Master's scolding

"My daughter, why do you look so sad today? You should be happy and proud that I have asked you to come to my ashram to work for me."

"I am sorry, Master. I cannot help thinking of your scolding yesterday."

"Yesterday I scolded you mercilessly, true, but today I am showing you my infinite Love and Affection. Why do you always have to think of my scoldings?"

"I don't know, Master."

"Do you feel resentful?"

"Master, is it a feeling of resentment or a feeling of helplessness?"

"In this case, my daughter, it is not a feeling of helplessness; it is an inner revolt."

"What should I do so that I won't revolt in this way, Master?"

"You have to feel that everything I say is absolutely correct, absolutely necessary. No matter what I say, even if I do it in a joking manner, it is for the good of my disciples. If you become annoyed or embarrassed by something I say, then you will not receive my Light."

"Sometimes I feel really useless and hopeless when you point out so clearly my limitations and weaknesses."

"At that time, my child, do not feel depressed or disheartened. Instead, feel that here is someone who really loves you, who has unconditional Concern for you."

"Do you ever feel disheartened when I make the same mistakes over and over?"

"If I had been an ordinary human being, I would have given up my efforts with you long ago. I would have said, 'She is useless, hopeless. To transform her nature is an impossible task.' But the divine in me will never take this attitude. When I deal with my spiritual children, it is my unconditional Love, Concern and Compassion that are operating. No matter what you have done, no matter what you do, I will always continue to show you my infinite Concern."

"Master, I am sorry that I don't deserve it."

"Everything is unconditional, my child. As I have been asking you to be unconditional and unreserved in your love, devotion and surrender, so also I am being unconditional with you. I do not only preach: I also practise. Again and again I will come to you and offer you my unconditional guidance in the hope that gradually, gradually you will improve."

"Am I improving, Master? Will I improve?"

"Yesterday I talked to you for an hour and a half. That means that I feel you can receive my Light and Wisdom. You should be happy and proud that I spent so much time with you. If I had felt that your case was hopeless, then I would simply have given up the fight. Your problem is that you don't feel confident that you can transcend your weaknesses. But if you feel me in your heart at all times, then you will have confidence in yourself."

"Master, there is something else I should tell you. Sometimes I feel so ashamed of my weaknesses.”

"Daughter, if I am your Supreme Lord, your Beloved Supreme, which is what you always tell me, then you should not feel that you have to hide anything from me. There is nothing you should try to keep from me, nothing in your nature that you have to be ashamed of. If you know that I am your dearest Lord, then only feel our oneness, our inseparable oneness. The creation does not try to hide from the Creator. If you have a lump of clay and you offer it to be moulded, then it will no longer remain unformed, dirty, impure. Similarly, if you offer me your ignorance, then I can transform it. My daughter, don't you feel how lovingly and divinely I have been guiding, moulding and shaping you?"

The Master paused. "How great is your surrender to me, my child? If I asked you to go and work somewhere else, would you do the work as cheerfully as when you are here with me? When I ask you to do something, do you do it willingly, cheerfully, unconditionally?"

"Master, I confess that my surrender is not very strong. Usually for much of the day I am not with you and therefore I don't feel that I am an integral part of your life."

"Daughter, is there one day when I don't see you or speak to you on the phone? In so many ways I am making you close to me. By asking you to do all kinds of selfless service for me, I am giving you the opportunity to become part and parcel of my life. When you work for me, it is so easy to be in my consciousness, to feel me in your heart. The important thing is not how much you are with me physically, but how much you hold me in your heart. My sister, who lives thousands of miles away, is so dear to me. And I am everything to her: I am her whole world. But I can speak to her on the phone only two or three times a month. Now, do you think she is not dearest to me?"

"Master, I shouldn't think so much about other disciples who are with you more than I am."

"My dearest daughter, I know what is best for you, what will enable you to make the fastest progress. I do what is right for each disciple of mine."

"Even when I am with you, Master, often I am painfully aware of my limitations that you have pointed out."

"Why do you allow this kind of mental headache to torture you? How much faith do you have in me? Can you not feel that I am doing and will do everything for you? You should be happy that there is a person who really loves you unconditionally and unreservedly. Come, let me bless you, my child."

The Master blessed the disciple. "Do you believe what I am saying?"

"I believe it."

"Do you feel it?"

"I feel it Master."

"Then grow into it, my child. Believe that I am doing everything for you. Feel me in your heart at all times. Increase your love for me. Make your surrender cheerful, unconditional. You will be my true joy, my highest pride. And you will be eternally secure, happy and fulfilled."

Nothing but ridicule for a saint

Once there was a spiritual Master who had about two hundred disciples. Among them was a lady with seven children. The older children did not care for spirituality at all and this made the mother extremely sad. Her husband was spiritual, but his spirituality was stupidity. Every day he was more than ready to change Masters: today this Master, tomorrow that Master; today this swami, tomorrow that swami: today this Guru, tomorrow another Guru. His spirituality was useless. But the wife had a little faith in her Master. When there was a calamity or a crisis in the family, she would immediately phone the Master for help.

Now it happened that for almost a year this lady had not written to the Master or spoken with him on the phone. Then one afternoon the Master got a phone call from this disciple. She was crying and lamenting loudly.

"What is wrong?" asked the Master.

"Today we are going to lose everything! Today my husband is being sued by an eminent family."

Her husband was a doctor. It seemed that some other doctors had accused him of prescribing the wrong medicine and causing a patient to die. Now the relatives of the dead man were suing her husband.

"If my husband loses the case today, then he will have to pay one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars or accept life-long imprisonment! Master, we do not have one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars! You have to save my husband and my family.”

The Master said, "All right."

The case was to be tried around one o'clock. The Master concentrated and did something occultly. By God's Grace the lady's husband won the case. His lawyer could not believe his ears. He told his client that what he had said in his defence was extremely weak and inadequate. He had thought that the judge would laugh at his presentation. He never, never expected that this doctor would win the case. He was simply astonished.

The doctor came home full of greatest delight and said to his wife, "It is not in vain that we two meditate. Today some special divine force has definitely been operating. Just because you and I both meditate a divine force has intervened."

The wife told her husband that the Master had helped. For a few fleeting seconds the doctor believed her. Then he said, "It is impossible! He is far, far away and the case was tried here. It is simple impossible! But since we have won the case, we can offer our gratitude to your Master. However, we can just as well offer gratitude to anybody, to God or even to a street beggar. If we had lost we would have known whom to curse, but now we can appreciate anybody.”

After some time the Master paid a short visit to this lady. Her eldest son, who was anything but divine, was also present. To him spirituality was a nuisance. He never, never cared for spiritual life. Romantic life was his normal life; vital life was his normal life. But the Master, out of his infinite bounty, blessed this boy and offered him a tiny pin. The mother was really surprised that the eldest son did not make fun of this pin or ridicule the Master. He could easily have done so, but did not. The mother thought that after the Master had left, her son would throw the pin away; but he did not. He kept the pin inside his wallet.

A few months later this boy was walking across a meadow with one of his friends during a thunder-shower. There was only a few metres distance between them. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck and killed his friend. The lady's son was miraculously saved. Quite amazed, he phoned his mother and gave her the message that the pin worked.

Now the Master had known that this boy's life was being threatened by attack. He had seen the shadow of death on the boy's face. So the Master offered the pin to provide the boy with God's protection. The boy's life was saved. But if you ask the boy now about this Master, his comment will be one not of gratitude but of sheer ridicule.

In the spiritual life there are people who mock their spiritual Master in spite of getting unconditional compassion and concern. The Master does everything for them unconditionally, but they take it all for granted. They feel that it is their Master's bounden duty to be of service to them at every moment. They don't even listen to the Master. For months the Master practically touches their feet. Why? Only to please them, only to make them happy. But the disciples cannot show the Master a happy face; it is impossible for them.

The Master does not want one dollar from them. The Master does not want help of any kind. He needs no help; his God can take care of him. When the Master comes to his disciples with folded hands, begging them to be happy, the disciples don't even have the willingness or the capacity to do so. In addition, they feel it is the Master's duty to give all of them his constant attention. The Master does give them all his boundless Love and Concern, but they don't receive it. They know and expect only human attachment; so when they receive the Master's unconditional Concern, to them it is a currency from some other world which they cannot value.

Editor’s preface to the first edition

It is said that life is the supreme storybook in which the characters take infinite forms. In the story of life everything exists and plays in order to fulfil the supreme Storyteller, who guides each player with an unseen hand. A spiritual Master is one who can read our life just as we read the pages of this book. He sees each individual life in all its joys, failings and subtle nuances. And the stories that he writes are borrowed from the original storybook of life, individual and collective. Here the author is at once one with the human striving and the divine illumination. To Mother Earth he says, “Mother, I am becoming.” To Father Heaven he says, “Father, I eternally am.”