You Have 24 Gurus. And Yourself.

Inspirational post from Elephant Journal

It’s easy when you know how…

Many centuries ago, a great king, Yadu, encountered a wandering holy man who was blissfully unpredictable…quite mad, really. But happy. The king was curious, and asked the holy man about the cause of his wandering and his seemingly ecstatic state of mind. The holy man replied, “I have taken shelter of twenty-four gurus: the earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon and python; the sea, moth, honeybee, elephant and honey thief; the deer, the fish, the prostitute, the kurara bird, the child, the young girl, the arrow maker, serpent, spider, and wasp. By studying their activities I have learned the science of the self.”

From the earth he had learned how to be sober, and from the two manifestations of earth, namely the mountain and the tree, he had learned, respectively, how to serve others and how to dedicate one’s whole life to the benefit of others.

From the wind, manifesting in the form of the vital air within the body, he had learned how to be satisfied with merely keeping oneself alive, and from the external wind he had learned how to remain uncontaminated by the body and the objects of the senses.

From the sky he had learned how the soul, which pervades all material substances, is both indivisible and imperceptible, and from the water he had learned how to be naturally clear and purifying.

From the fire he had learned how to devour all things without becoming dirtied and how to destroy all the inauspicious desires of those who make offerings to him. He had also learned from fire how the spirit soul enters into every body and gives illumination and how the birth and death of those who are embodied cannot be discerned.

From the moon he had learned how the material body undergoes growth and dwindling.

From the sun he had learned how to avoid entanglement even while coming into contact with sense objects, and he had also learned about the two different modes of perception based on seeing the real form of the soul and seeing false designative coverings.

From the pigeon he had learned how too much affection and excessive attachment are not good for one. This human body is the open door to liberation, but if one becomes attached to family life like the pigeon, one is compared to a person who has climbed up to a high place just to fall down again.

From the python he learned that an intelligent person cultivates detachment and maintains his body by accepting whatever comes of its own accord or is easily obtained.

From the ocean he learned that one who is devoted to the spiritual path is clear and grave; he does not become elated when he achieves desirable things, nor does he become distressed in their absence.

The instruction of the moth is that just as he becomes enticed by the fire and gives up his life, the fool who cannot control his senses becomes enchanted by the human form and its glittering ornaments and fine clothing.

Just as a bee goes from flower to flower to collect the nectar, so a sage should also collect the essential truths from all scriptures, be they great or insignificant. Just as a honeybee collects daily, a mindful person does not hoard, as he knows his greed will destroy him.

As male elephants are tricked by hunters into moving toward captive female elephants, whereupon they fall into the hunters’ ditch and are captured. so an intelligent and sober man is not lured by what the material world offers him, and is not deterred from his spiritual path.

From the honey thief he learned that just as he steals the honey collected with great effort by the bee, a person who takes the position of guru has the privilege of enjoying before anyone else the food, money, and gifts given by the hard-earned money of his followers.

As the deer is attracted by the hunter’s flute and thus loses his life, so a person whose attraction to mundane music and song that does not glorify the Lord, raise the consciousness, or purify the heart consequently wastes his life.

He learned that because the fish comes under the sway of attachment to the sense of taste, he is caught on the baited fish-hook and must die. Similarly, an unintelligent person who is victimized by his insatiable tongue will also end up losing his life.

From the prostitute, whom he observed and noted had obtained the platform of pure peace, he learned that the hope for sense gratification is the root cause of all suffering, and one who gives up such hankering attains transcendental peace.

From the kurara bird he learned that attachment creates misery, but the person who is unattached and has no material possessions is qualified to achieve unlimited happiness.

From the simple child, he learned that freedom from anxiety allows one to experience supreme peace and bliss.

He watched the young girl who, when grinding rice, was bothered by the bangles on her arms, which clanged against each other. She removed them all, bar one on each arm. From her, he learned that where many people gather there is every chance of mutual quarrel and gossip.

The arrow-maker was so absorbed in constructing an arrow that he did not even notice that the king was passing right by him on the road. Thus the holy man learned that in the same way, one must strictly control one’s mind.

From the serpent he learned that a sage should wander alone, should not live in any prearranged place, should be always careful and grave, should not reveal his movements, should take assistance from no one and should speak little.

The instruction obtained from the spider, who spins his web from his mouth and then withdraws it, is that the Supreme Lord similarly creates from out of Himself the whole universe and then winds it up into Himself.

From the wasp he learned that the living entity, under the sway of affection, hatred, and fear, attains in his next life the identity of that object upon which he fixes his intelligence.

Thus an intelligent person, expert in perceiving the world around him and in applying sound logic, can achieve real benefit through his own intelligence. Thus sometimes one acts as one’s own instructing spiritual master.

This story is from the eastern philosophical treatise, the Srimad Bhagavatam.


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