Once, three young men set out to see their king. When they reached the palace, they found its huge gates closed. The first man said, “My father used to work in this palace. I am very familiar with all the routes inside. I don’t need to wait. I’m going inside.” Saying so, he scaled the wall and jumped inside. After walking a short distance, he reached the garden. There, the guards arrested him for trespassing and threw him into prison.
The second man was an athlete. He said, “I don’t have the patience to wait here any longer. I’m not prepared to beg anyone either. I’m entering the palace. Let me see who can stop me from meeting the king!” Saying so, he stepped inside arrogantly. He pushed aside those who tried to stop him, and walked ahead. After walking some distance, he found the way blocked. No matter how hard he tried, he was unable to find a way around. In the meantime, a band of armed soldiers captured him.
The third man was very humble and patient. Forgoing food and sleep, he waited patiently by the door. One day, the king disguised himself in order to go out and see his kingdom. The youth waiting by the door did not recognize the king. After a few days, the king returned and saw that the young man was still sitting by the door. The king asked, “Who are you? What do you want?”
The youth humbly replied that he was waiting to see the king. Seeing his humility and patience, the king felt compassion. “Come with me. I’ll take you to the king.” The king then led the youth inside the palace. There, he asked the young man to sit on a chair. Then, the king went inside, changed into his royal regalia, and returned. That was when the young man realized that the man who had escorted him was none other than the king. The youth bowed down humbly to the king. Pleased by his deference, the king made arrangements for the youth to stay in the palace. Thus, humility and patience won him an elevated position.
What can we learn from this story? That one cannot reach the goal through one’s predecessors or from book knowledge alone. An obstacle will crop up somewhere, preventing us from moving ahead. This is what the defeat of the first man in the story shows us.
The egoistic determination to reach the goal by one’s effort alone, without resorting to the Guru’s aid, will not take one to the goal. Having faith in one’s abilities is laudable. It will inspire one to work. But one should not be egoistic. This is the lesson that the example of the second man teaches us. Only by obeying the Guru can one’s ego be eliminated. The head of the ego can be severed only by the sword of humility. Only the humble will attain the goal.
If one has humility, patience and an attitude of surrender, one will find a lofty Guru to show us the way. In truth, it is God Himself who assumes the form of the Guru and leads the disciple by hand. Obedience and surrender to the Guru will undoubtedly take the disciple to the goal. This is what the experience of the third man teaches us.
We ought to have the humility and surrender to see the Guru as God Himself. That is what is meant when we say, “When one becomes a zero, one becomes a hero.” We can supplant any thought by another thought, but we can eradicate the ego only by bowing our head. The seed of a plant will sprout if we sprinkle some water on it. However, if it wants to bear fruit, it must bow down to the earth and be submerged in soil.
A disciple used to stay in a dark room. One night, the Guru came with a lantern and knocked on the door. Hearing the knock, the disciple said, “O Guru, please come in.”
“Son, the knob for this door is inside. Only if opened from inside can I come in,” said the Guru.
It is up to us to open the door, to awaken the attitude of a disciple; only we can do this. Only then, by the Guru’s grace, can the light of knowledge dispel the darkness of ignorance. One can awaken a person who is sleeping, but not someone pretending to be asleep. If we pour water into a full vessel, it will overflow. The water will not enter the vessel. If we are full of ego, God will not be able to enter. Only when the flesh inside a conch is removed can the clarion call be sounded. Only when the ego is removed does a person’s life become an offering to the world. And that is true life.
Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi