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True Master

December 6, 2018

A short story by Baba Hari Dass, Illustrated by Arpan Connor Maxon. Originally published in Sweeper to Saint (1980), available from Sri Ram Publishing.

In a valley of the Himalayan Mountains, there was a family that had been living there for several years. The father, whose name was Sudarshan, had left his home town of Nainital when he was ten or twelve years old. He began to live with a few holy men who were traveling by foot to different sacred places in the Himalayas.

After visiting several places, the group of saints returned to their meeting place, the holy town of Haridwar. From there they all separated and went to their own places. Sudarshan had no special place to go because he was not yet initiated into any sect. He really had no idea of what a saint was, what a sect was, or what was the meaning of traveling to all the different places. He had left home only because he did not want to go to school and take responsibility.

For a few days, Sudarshan wandered in different places around Haridwar; then fortunately he met an old man who was kind and very learned in Sanskrit. The man saw that Sudarshan had a good mind and that he could be a good scholar. He told Sudarshan to live with him and that he would give him food and would teach him Sanskrit. Sudarshan was very tired of traveling and he was eager to find some place where he could live happily. So he agreed to the old man’s suggestions.

Sudarshan lived for eight years with the old man. He learned Sanskrit and read all the scriptures. Gradually the learned people around Haridwar began to appreciate Sudarshan’s ability in explaining the meaning of the scriptures. Sudarshan was happy and he almost forgot about his parents and birthplace.

One day the old man said, “Sudarshan, listen. Now you have two possible paths: either take the vows of sannyasa (renunciation) or get married to a girl and do your household duties while you continue searching for God.”

Sudarshan was very intelligent. He knew perfectly well how difficult it was to take the vows of sannyasa and fight against desires. He did not want to cheat himself, so he replied:

“Sir, I learned all the scriptures from you, and I understand perfectly that to crush the desires by force is not an easy job. On the other hand, the householder’s life is full of attachment and desires that create pleasure and pain; and also it confuses the mind when you try to understand yourself. But if I get married to a girl and practice seeing that the same God is in her and in myself, and if I separate the physical attachments from real love, then it will be easier to realize the truth.”

Hearing this answer, the old man became very happy and said, “Sudarshan, you have understood the reality of life. Now I am going to give you my youngest daughter, who also is very intelligent and pious in nature. I’ll arrange for the marriage, and then you can choose your own place to live.”

Sudarshan got married to the daughter of his teacher. Her name was Sunanda. She was very beautiful and just seventeen years old. Still, she was fully acquainted with the duties of a wife.

After their wedding, Sudarshan and Sunanda left Haridwar and went north to live in the Pauri Mountains. A few years passed, and Sunanda gave birth to a boy. She named him Sri Charan. Sudarshan would write poems, stories, books on the scriptures, and in this way he would earn enough money to keep his family.

Sri Charan was growing up. When he was seven years old, his father was stricken by some disease and died suddenly. His mother received a heavy shock by her husband’s death, but she knew that everyone will die. And no one can say when and where he will die. So she strengthened her mind and began to continue her duties as before.

Once, when the sun was about to set, Sri Charan became very sad. He began to weep. Sunanda thought that the boy was missing his father, so she took him on her lap and kissed him. Sri Charan hid his head on his mother’s breast, and then slowly said, “Ma, where is this sun going?”

Sunanda said, “The sun always goes away in the evening and again appears in the morning.”

Sri Charan again said, “Ma, why is this sky covering us like a box? My breath is choking. Can you take me out of this sky where I can get open space to breathe?”

Sunanda said, “My son, what are you saying! I can’t take you out of this sky. You are hungry now. Take food and go to bed.”

Next morning Sri Charan woke up and washed himself. He went to his mother who was grinding wheat to make flour. Sri Charan said, “Ma . . . you really can’t take me out of this sky?”

Sunanda said, “No, my son, I can’t. Forget it. Why do you ask such questions?”

Sri Charan said, “Ma, I am going.” His mother did not pay much attention because she thought he might be going to play nearby.

After half an hour, she called Sri Charan but did not receive a reply. She looked here and there. All at once she remembered that his father had also left home at an early age. It could be possible that Sri Charan would also run away.

She ran down to a trail and saw Sri Charan going very fast on the other side of the valley. She yelled, “Sri Charan! Sri Charan! Where are you going?”

Sri Charan yelled, “Ma, don’t worry about me. I am going out of this sky. I can’t live here any more. My breath is choking.”

Sunanda called, “My son, your father just died, and now you are also going away from me.”

Sri Charan said, “Ma, I don’t want to leave you. But if I live here I’ll be choked to death. I tell you truthfully, I can’t live in this box. I have to get out from this box!”

Sunanda was in a great dilemma. She could not think what to say, and Sri Charan was in a hurry. So with tears in her eyes she said, “My son, if you want to go, then I don’t want to stop you. But I request that as long as I’m alive, you won’t go very far from me.”

Sri Charan at once said, “All right, Ma. I won’t go very far.” And he ran down the trail very fast and disappeared.

He walked and walked and did not know what to do, where to go. Finally, when the sun was about to set, he saw a watermill. He went inside the small watermill, where an old man was grinding wheat. It was getting dark and the old man saw that the small boy was all alone. He asked, “Where are you going?” Sri Charan had no reply. He was so tired that he had forgotten about the earth and the sky making a box that choked his breath. The man said, “Are you hungry?” “Yes,” the boy replied. So the miller gave him two small breads and a cup of water, and said, “If you want to stay here tonight, go sleep in the corner. There is an old sack you can cover yourself with. I am going to my house.” And he left before it got too dark.

Next morning, Sri Charan woke when the sun was quite high up in the sky. But he had slept like a dead and was completely relaxed. He came out of the watermill like a bird comes out of her nest in the morning. He washed his face and dusted off his clothes. He felt very good . . . like a bird out of a cage. He again continued his journey.

Now he was in a vast plain. He could see very far in the distance as he went on walking. Sometimes, on the way, he would meet some villagers who would give him bread and fruit. Again the sun was about to set and it was getting dark. Sri Charan thought that he should try to find a place to sleep before it got too dark, but there were no houses, huts or any kind of shelter nearby. He was a little afraid, but all at once he saw a big rock suspended over two other rocks so that they made a small cave. He went inside and sat down, resting his back on the rock and stretching his feet forward. He fell asleep at once. When he woke up in the morning, he saw two men standing outside. They asked, “Why are you sleeping there? Don’t you know this is a place famous for poisonous snakes? Are you running away from your house? Or are you a thief?”

Sri Charan said, “I am going somewhere. I don’t know where yet. I am not a thief.”

Both of the men felt very kindly to the little boy and said, “If you want to live in our village, then come with us. We will give you food. You’ll have nothing to do except to watch the cows of the village while they graze in the pasture. If you don’t want this, then you can go ten miles south where there is a trail going into the jungle. Inside the jungle you will see some huts. A few boys of your age are living there and they practice Yoga exercises with a teacher.”

Without thinking which plan was good or which plan was bad, Sri Charan replied, “I’ll go to the huts where the boys are living.”

One of the men said, “You are a tender little boy and the trail is very rough and full of snakes and wild animals. So go carefully and reach there before the sun sets.” They gave him some roasted barley flour mixed with honey to eat. Sri Charan ate the food and picked up the trail to the south.

Now he was accustomed to walking, so he arrived at the huts early in the afternoon. He stood outside of a hut until a boy saw him. The boy at once told the others to come see the newcomer, who looked completely different from them. All of the boys surrounded him and asked him where he was going. Meanwhile the teacher came and asked his name and how he had reached there. The boy said, “My name is Sri Charan, and two men told me about this place so I decided to come here.”

The teacher replied, “If you want to live here, then you have to obey all the rules. And you can’t wear the clothes you are wearing now. I’ll give you a few days to decide. Meanwhile you can rest here, and if you feel you can do it then tell me.”

Early in the morning all the boys would wake up, wash themselves, and then do Yoga exercises. After resting for thirty minutes, they would recite prayers and then learn Sanskrit from the teacher. They all had their duties: cooking food, collecting food from villages, grazing cows, collecting grass and firewood, planting fruit trees, etc.

Sri Charan liked this life very much. He was feeling very free inside himself. He agreed to follow the rules, so the teacher gave him one red loin cloth to wear, one yellow cloth to cover his lower body down to the knees and one yellow cloth to cover his upper body. He said, “Sri Charan, now you are initiated into a Brahmacharya order, beginners’ stage. You have seen all the rules, and you can live here happily.”

Sri Charan had some God-given abilities in Hatha Yoga. In doing asanas, he was the only one who could do them all, some even more perfectly than the teacher. After completing all his duties at the ashram (monastery), he would go to the river and perform some cleansing methods. No one had taught him these techniques, and he himself did not know what effect they might have Afterwards, he would sit under a tree and meditate. Not one of the boys, nor even the teacher knew about Sri Charan’s meditation.

One day while he was doing his cleaning methods, he drank several glasses of water and then vomited it out. Again he drank several glasses of water and rolled his stomach around in different ways; he did a few asanas and pushed the water out through his lower intestinal tract. Then he went in the water waist deep; he rolled his stomach around and pulled water in through his anus, and then flushed it out.

A saint was cooking his food on the other side of the river and was watching all of the activities of Sri Charan. As soon as Sri Charan had finished his meditation, the saint crossed the river and stood in front of him. The saint asked, “Who taught you all these methods?”

Sri Charan was surprised and said, “What methods?”

The saint said, “All that cleaning by water, and that meditation.” Sri Charan said, “Nobody told me or taught me any of those things. I started doing these things by myself. I don’t even know what they are for. But I feel very clean and pure inside afterwards, and when I sit in meditation I totally forget my body and see only a light in my forehead.” He raised his head and looked into the eyes of the saint. His whole body began to feel as if an electric current were passing through it.

The saint said, “My child, you are a very gifted person in Yoga. You did Yoga in your past birth and that learning pulled you to do the same in this birth. No one teaches anyone. We learn everything by ourselves. All the methods you are doing are perfect.”

Sri Charan grabbed the saint’s feet and began to weep with much love and devotion. He said, “Sir, I have a great desire to live with you and learn more from you.”

The saint said, “My child, I have already accepted you. I’ll tell you a few methods, but you have to live separately and do them by yourself. If you live with me, you will be dependent on me and your practice will not advance. But I give you my word that when I feel you need some change in your method, I’ll meet you. A small tree can’t flourish under a big tree. So do it by yourself and live freely wherever you want to live.” The saint crossed the river and disappeared.

It had become very late and it was Sri Charan’s turn to cook food. He was afraid that the boys and the teacher would be very angry with him. Sri Charan rushed to the ashram and saw that the boys had already cooked and served the food. No one told Sri Charan to sit and take food. No one asked why he was late. No one asked where he had been.

As it happened, when it got late the boys had complained to the teacher that Sri Charan was not obeying the rules. They were jealous of him. The teacher loved Sri Charan, but he was uncomfortable having someone there who could do asanas better than he could. So, after taking food, the teacher stood up; without washing his mouth or hands, he said, “Sri Charan, I don’t want you here any more. You can go anywhere you like.”

Sri Charan had nothing to say in his own support. He bowed to his teacher and all the friends, and left.

After leaving the ashram, Sri Charan met several holy men . . . some were good and some were bad. But always he would live separately from them and would do his practices according to the saint who had accepted him as a disciple. One day, while he was roaming in the jungle, he saw a little hut on high ground, just two hundred feet away from a small river. He went inside the hut and saw an old saint wearing thick eyeglasses. Sri Charan tried to ask a few questions, but the saint seemed to be deaf and could not hear, or he would not listen. Instead, he showed different kinds of magic, like starting a fire without a match, simply by blowing through his mouth, or changing a rock into a flower. He told Sri Charan that if he would dig under a tree, which was three hundred yards north of his hut, he would find a large precious stone. Out of curiosity, Sri Charan went to the tree and dug in the ground. And there he really found a bright, shining stone. He took the stone to the hut and asked by gestures how the saint could know everything hidden under the ground. The saint said, “These are all powers given to me by God. I can see the future of the world.”

Sri Charan was much impressed by this saint and decided to live nearby in a separate hut. One day the saint said, “Sri Charan, go and tell people about me—that I can liberate the human being from worldly pain, that I can forecast the coming of danger.” Sri Charan went to the village to get food, and there he told about the miracles of the saint. Slowly the villagers began to visit the saint, and they were very impressed with his miracles.

Once, while all the villagers were collected there, the saint said, “In this Kali Yuga, the greatest sin is sitting on one’s gold. I’ll make a sacred fire, and all should offer their gold to the fire in order to get rid of their sins.” Hundreds of men and women started coming to the saint and they would offer gold ornaments to the fire. In this way, they would feel that their sins were burnt up and that God would give them peace.

Some days later, while Sri Charan was still meditating in his hut, he heard people talking and yelling. “He was a cheat! He was a cheat! He ran away with the gold! Where is the boy who is his agent? We will beat him!” Sri Charan came out of his hut and saw that there was no sacred fire. The ash had been carefully collected and taken away. He went inside the hut and saw that the saint was not there. He could not understand what was happening.

A few boys pushed him and hit him. Sri Charan was in his blooming age and so he could not tolerate this misbehavior. He pushed one boy so hard that he dashed against three or four others. Everyone was in a rage and wanted to beat Sri Charan. Sri Charan-was also full of anger and stood in front of them like an angry cobra.

An old man said, “Listen, all of you! If this boy had been in partnership with that cheat, he would have gone with him. He would not sit here to get beaten up by people.”

Then Sri Charan said, “I really don’t know what is happening here. Where is the saint? Where is the sacred fire? Who did all of this?”

The old man said, “The man was not a saint. He was a cheat. He bluffed us all. He collected all of the gold we offered on the fire and ran away. You are innocent . . . we understand that now. But you should not live with such people.”

For the first time in his life, Sri Charan saw how one can cheat others. But his faith in God remained unshaken. He said, “I tell you all, I’ll stay at this place as long as I want. I don’t expect anything from you, but I won’t ignore any one of you either. God will give me food right here, I have faith in God.”

The villagers begged him to forgive them for their misdeeds, and they left for their villages.

That same night, when Sri Charan was sitting in his hut, the saint who had accepted him as a disciple came and sat down. Sri Charan bowed to him with much love, but at the same time he had doubts as to whether he was being trapped again. The saint at once guessed his inner thoughts and said, “Tell me what is bothering you so much. Your mind is not in peace.” Sri Charan related the whole story and told how he had become very angry at the villagers and had also pushed them very badly.

The saint said, “Sri Charan, you are a yogi. You should control anger. Now I will tell you the easiest method to control anger: 1) don’t talk to anyone by mouth; 2) don’t invite anyone to come to you; 3) don’t tell anyone to go away; 4) reply only when someone asks a question. Otherwise sit in a peaceful mood. This is your next sadhana. I’ll meet you when I feel you need my help.” The old saint, who was the real master of Sri Charan, went out of the hut and disappeared in the dark.

Villagers started coming once again to Sri Charan. He had stopped talking. Whenever anyone would ask anything, he would write a short reply with his finger on the ground. He reduced his needs to a minimum: one blanket, one loincloth, and milk to drink if anyone brought it. He stopped eating grains, fruits, and all other things.

The villagers were much attracted to Sri Charan, so they would bring milk even if it were raining or snowing—they would feel it was their duty to feed Sri Charan. And Sri Charan was getting more and more detached from everything.

There was one old man whose only son had died when he was just nineteen years old. Suffering from the shock of his son’s death, he would come to Sri Charan every day and bring milk. It gave him much pain to see Sri Charan sitting in the cold, eating nothing, talking to no one. He began to love him as his own son, and he would try to take great care of him.

Sri Charan now had a little beard, delicate moustache and long, matted hair hanging to his waist. Everyone respected him as a saint . . . he was no longer a boy in the eyes of the villagers. So that no one would disturb him, he would meditate at night and sleep in the day. His faith and devotion began to grow day by day, and he had no anger, hate or jealousy for anyone. The villagers built a huge hut for him where he could sit with people while they chanted spiritual songs.

One night his master came. Sri Charan bowed to him and said, “My master, I have no one else whom I can love. Whenever I meet you, my heart fills with joy. Why don’t you allow me to live with you?”

The saint said, “Sri Charan, you have to realize the truth by yourself. I can cook for you, but I can’t eat for you. Your faith in me is your master.”

Having spoken, the master put his hand on Sri Charan’s head. At once, Sri Charan felt an electric current running from the tip of his spine to the top of his head. He could not see a thing—only a brilliant light shone everywhere. He could not hear a thing—only the sound of Om…m…m…reverberated.

For several hours, he remained like this. When he came to his senses, he fell on the feet of his master with much love, thanking him for giving him such experiences. The saint said, “Sri Charan, it is already in you. I have done nothing. It is your faith that has done this.”

Next morning, Sri Charan sat outside facing the rising sun. He was in peace. The bereaved old man came at his regular time with the milk. He saw Sri Charan sitting on the ground in the cold. He went near him and put his hand on his head. Sri Charan at once felt the same energy . . . same light . . . same sound. He became unconscious.

When he returned to consciousness, he saw the milk man sitting in front of him with tears in his eyes, saying, “What happened to you? I simply put my hand on your head and you fell to the ground!”

Sri Charan said, “Was it your hand?” Now he realized that his own faith was the cause of his bliss. He said to himself, “My master is always inside me.” And he never desired to live with his master again.


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