As a young man I thought I had perfected myself and that I didn't need any further teaching or study. I felt there was no swami in India as advanced as myself because I seemed to be more intellectually knowledgeable than others, and I was myself teaching many swamis. When I conveyed to my master this inflated opinion of myself, he looked at me and asked, "Are you drugged? What do you mean?" I said,
"No, really. This is the way I feel".
He returned to the subject a few days later.
"You are still a child. You only know how to attend college. You have not mastered four things. Master them and then you will have attained something. "Have a desire to meet and know God. But have no selfish desire to acquire things for yourself. Give up all anger, greed and attachment. Practice meditation regularly. Only when you have done these four things will you become perfect".
Then he told me to visit certain sages. They were his friends who had known me from my young age because I had been with my master when he visited them. I had been quite mischievous. Whenever they came to visit my master they would ask,
"Is he still with you?”
First I went to see a swami who was renowned for his silence. He had withdrawn from worldly concerns. No matter what happened around him, he never looked up. He was lying on a hillock under a banyan tree, smiling, with his eyes closed. He never wore anything. When I first saw him lying that way, I thought, at least he should have a little decency". Then I thought,
"My master told me to visit him and I know my master would not waste my time. I am only seeing his body". I touched his feet. He was not sensitive to external stimuli; he was somewhere else. Three or four times I said,
"Hello, sir; How are you?” But he did not respond. Then I started to massage his feet. I thought he would be pleased but he kicked me. That kick was so powerful that I was thrown backward all the way down the hill and I ended up with many painful bruises. I was vindictive.
"What reason has he to do this? I came to him in reverence, started massaging his feet - and he kicked me! He's not a sage. I'll teach him; I'll break both his legs!” I decided that perhaps my master sent me to teach him a lesson.
When I returned to the hill to vent my anger, he was sitting up and smiling. He said,
"How are you, my son?" I said,
"How am I? After kicking me and knocking me down the hill, you're asking how I am." He said,
”Your master told you to master four things but you have even destroyed one. I kicked you to test your control of anger. Now you are so angry that you cannot learn anything here. You are not tranquil. You are still very immature. You don't follow the spiritual teachings of your master, who is so selfless. What could you possibly learn from me? You are not prepared for my teachings. Go away".
Nobody had ever talked to me like that. When I thought about what he said, I realised that it was true; I was completely possessed by my anger. He said,
"People ordinarily recognise you only by your face - but the face of the sage is not here; it is with his lord. People find only feet here, so they bow to the feet. You should have that humility when touching someone's feet. You will have to go".
A few days ago I thought I was perfect, but surely I am not. Then I said," Sir, I will come back to you when I have conquered my ego." And I departed. All the kicks and blows of life teach us something. No matter whence they come, they are blessings in disguise if we but learn their lesson. Buddha said," For a wise man, there is nothing to be called bad. Any adversity of life provides a step for his growth, provided he knows how to utilise it." I visited another swami and determined that no matter what he did, I would not get angry. He had a beautiful farm. He said," I'll give you this farm. Would you like it?" I said, “Of course." He smiled. "Your master told you not to be attached, and yet you are very quick to tie yourself to a farm". I felt very small.
Later I was sent to another swami. He knew that I was coming. There was a small natural fountain on the way where we used to go and wash. He left some gold coins there. I stopped there and found three of them. For a second I entertained the thought of picking them up. I did so, and tucked them inside my loin cloth. Then I reconsidered: "But these coins aren't mine. Why do I need them? This is not good". I put them back. When I went to the swami, he was annoyed. I bowed before him and he said," Why did you pick up those coins? Do you still have lust for Gold" Get out. This is not the place for you." I protested, "But I left them there". He said," You left them later on. The problem is that you were attracted to them and picked them up in the first place". From the experiences these sages gave me I began to realize the difference between book knowledge and experiential knowledge. I began to see many weaknesses, and I did not find it pleasant. Finally, I returned to may master. He asked," What have you learned?" "I have learned that I have intellectual knowledge, but I do not behave in accord with that knowledge". He said, “This is the problem all intellectuals have. They become overly proud of their knowledge. Now I will teach you how to practice, so that you will know." A human being knows enough, but that knowledge needs to be brought into daily life. If this is not done, the knowledge remains limited within the boundaries of knowing only. We all know what to do and what not to do, but it is very difficult to learn how to be.