Stories and Anecdotes from the Hindu Scriptures and the Life of Saints

Selected, translated from Hindi and presented by Jacques Vigne





The inspiration to give this title to the following collection of stories and anecdotes came from the name of the fundamental book on T'chan and Zen teaching "The Transmission of Mind" (Translated by Lu Kuan Yu, Rider, 3 volumes). In these volumes are collected words, answers, anecdotes from the masters of the different T'chan schools during the early Middle Ages, before the year 1000 roughly speaking. Monks used to engrave them on barks and carry them to other communities for the instruction of their brothers. The present collection has the same purpose: I speak about the "spirit" more than about the mind, since what is at stake in these accounts is pure consciousness beyond the mind, what we usually term "spirit" in the West. The Chinese have of course their own terminology which is difficult to translate exactly.

Transmission definitely seems easier and more universal with the Internet than with pieces of bark; but we should not be too proud too quickly: when members of a monastic community had only a few dozen stories engraved on bark, they had time to meditate on them deeply and to assimilate them. Moreover, the person who was bringing them lived near the masters who were spoken of in these stories and they had achieved a transformation of consciousness through direct contact, and this transformation was the real seal of authenticity accompanying the transmission of the stories. All these factors are obviously missing in the brave new world of the Internet.

I translated most of the stories from Hindi; as a basis I had a 700 pages collection published long time ago (January 1956) as a special issue of "Kalyan", the journal of Gita Press, Gorakhpur, which is still published monthly nowadays, with a quarter million issues every time; this means many more readers, since in a country like India which is not so affluent you can be sure that a copy of a journal or newspaper will be perused by several people each time. In the current publication, I have used only half of the book. So, if my sadhana does not keep me away from writing at times, there should be a second series coming in the future. A few other stories have been told be contemporary sages; I give the title of their books, this time in English, in the bibliography at the end of this introduction. I have often condensed the version given in their books which were usually noted down from their talks so that this booklet does not become too big.

I was lucky enough to hear a number of stories firsthand, or even only in satsang (a meeting with an elder religious man or woman). When the stories in Hindi were from the life of a saint, I followed rather closely the text, since they are supposedly historical and so should not be modified according to translator's convenience. For the other stories, however, I took some liberty to condense them or to rewrite them a little since the Hindi version I had was already a rewriting of some scriptures or of oral tradition. I dropped several stories which, I felt, were well known and told in many other books. I also did not include quite a few interesting stories, which I told in my book "The Indian Teaching Tradition" which will soon be available, or is already available on my website (cf bibliography). I saved the reader from many bhakti stories based on the same somewhat naïve structure: some devotee was in some way at some place in trouble, his chosen deity appeared, made a miracle and he was saved from which the reader should conclude that this given deity is the best and that one should believe in him. In fact, this expectation of miracles is an obstacle with contemporary sages as well and often prevents a genuine progress. The devotees hang around their guru and instead of asking deep questions (pariprashna, as advised in the Bhagavad-Gita)) and doing real sadhana, they just wait for the miracle to come. True, sometimes miracles happen if the faith is intense, but we could remember in this context some words of Ma Anandamayi, who was actually surrounded by an atmosphere of miracles during her entire life; in spite of this, she used to say: "Kripa(grace) means 'karo, pao', (do, find)".

Stories with similar themes have been arranged somewhat together, although no rigid classification was attempted. Stories are like individuals, each of them has its own multifaceted personality; there is no use trying to limit them to one meaning only. In the beginning, there are a few stories on transmission of knowledge and non-dualism, after a small story on humility and the mastery of anger, two qualities which are important from beginning to end on the spiritual path, and then a larger series on renunciation. In a booklet which hopes to transmit at least a fragrance of the spirit of India, they must be included. Without detachment, the highest spiritual states will not be reached, and even if they are slightly touched, they will not possibly be maintained. To continue on love, there are a few nice stories of bhaktas who, whatever the hardships which they had to endure, finally merge in their beloved deity, and to conclude on non-duality, there are a series of vedantic stories.

Historians say that the civilizations first developed along rivers and streams, which acted as axles of communication. The oral tradition of stories, by its flow from generation to generation is indeed a stream from which a culture is nurtured, and on which banks we can come to bathe and wash our polluted mind. The reference collection of stories in Hinduism is indeed called "Katha-sarita-sar" "The essential of the river of stories". The most popular book of fables, the Pancha-tantra, was composed to educate the sons of a king who were particularly naughty. The father was desperate due to his own failure and that of all the preceptors whom he had hired to teach them, when a pandit came and proposed his help. The new teacher let them do whatever they wanted but when he felt that the circumstances were favorable (samyog), he used to tell a story related to an incident or event which had just happened in the life of the king's children. After a few months of this method, the rebellious boys were again on the right track. Our mind is a boy in revolt. If only we had a story to tell it every time he commits a blunder, he would soon become much wiser.

There was recently a study in the Saint-Olaf College in Holland in which a group of students was told interesting and instructing stories. Even without being especially aware of their bodies, they went quickly in a state of relaxation which is quite beneficial for physical and mental heath. A further study in another college confirmed these findings. Beyond physical well-being, the main impact of a story is of course the mind, and even beyond it; a story is an arrow going from author's mind to reader's mind, and in the best cases from the "no-mind" of the teller to the "no-mind"of the listener. Behind an often naïve presentation, stories and anecdotes awaken powerful symbols and archetypes. India has never forgotten this fact, the West is rediscovering it through many publications and also associations for the knowledge of mythology, tales and legends (see end of this introduction)

Usually stories can be condensed into a formula (or a short stanza, as regularly done in the Jatakas), and the formula into an image. This is why they are easily remembered. They are like the pebbles which roll on and on from the cliff of a canyon and in the end directly plunge with a plop into the water of the river, i.e., into the heart of the listener. They feed the mind in a non-linear way, that which is needed in the West where linear thinking, I would say sadly, is dominant in academic and power circles and even in the psychological habits of the general population. Stories are like formulae or theorems. They can be used as keys to solve intricate problems rapidly. They dwell in the subconscious mind like genes in the nucleus of a cell, ready to be activated if needed. They are like the filament in the bulb: when the current of consciousness-energy flows through them, they become suddenly illuminated and illuminating. They shed light in the space around them, i.e., into all these situations present in the memory, which bear a similarity, a structural analogy with the circumstances of the story.

By now in the West quite a few Sufi stories have been published: historical anecdotes of derviches like in the "Life of Saints" by Farid-ud-din Attar, or fresh but significant creations in other books by the same author (The Conference of the Birds, the Divine Book, the Book of the Trial·) and many other writers. In our century, most of Idries Shah's books are in the form of stories, including the collections of humorous anecdotes of Mullah Nasrudin. 'Esopic fable' in Greece has indeed been a generic name for a whole oral tradition of tales which spread to Persia and had been recast in French by the 17th century poet La Fontaine. In Judaism, Hassidic tradition formed a powerful vehicle of transmission using anecdotes from the life of the founders, and Zen stories are now well known in the West; but Hinduism has also a mine of stories and anecdotes conveying lofty spiritual truths and this booklet is an attempt to give a taste of them. They have long flowed within the stream of an oral tradition which has been partially written in the course of time. Now that one starts putting them on the Internet, they are going to be carried by another stream, made of other, subtler waves. May they irrigate new gardens, fertilize new hearts, may they reach new oceans.


Sat-katha ank (Hindi), Kalyan, Gorakhpur Press, Gorakhpur, UP, 1956

Spiritual Stories by Ramana maharshi, Ramanashram, Tiruvanamalai 606603, Tamil Nadu,

Stories by Swami Ramdas, Anandashram,PO 670531 Kanhangad, Kerala,

Tales of Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna Mission, 16 RK Mission Road,Chennai 600004

Tales of Ramatirtha, in complete works, Lucknow

Stories from Mahabharata, by Shivananda, Shivanandashram, Rishikesh 249192, Dst Tehri UP, India

Inspiring Stories "

Two collections of stories are well known also

The Panchatantra

Indian Saints English translation of the Bhaktavijaya of Mahapati in Marathi by J.Abbot and Pandit Godbole, 1933 (Pune edition) and Motilal Banarsidas, Delhi, 1995

The reader will find quite a few interesting stories, especially on the guru-disciple relationship, in J,Vigne's book The Indian Teaching Tradition, BRPC, Delhi, 1996, which is already or will soon be online on his site <>

And do not forget to visit on the Internet the "Centre Europeen des Mythes et Legendes" at; this an association based in South France (Carcassonne) and devoted to the spreading of knowledge through tales and mythologies from all over the world. They have also a specialized library of seven thousand books.




1) Transmitting Knowledge

2) The Fourth Yogi Was God

3) The Brahman Punished For Not Having Imparted His Learning

4) What Does the Absolute Eat, and Where Does He Rest?

5) Duality Is Agitation, Unity Satisfaction

6) From Conversion to Non-Duality

7) The Good Side of Receiving Sputum on the Head

8) The Pot Which Was Not Well Cooked

9) Effacing Name, Effacing Fame

10) Transitory Body, Transitory Emotions

11) Of Temples and Brothels

12) Seeing Beauty in a Corpse

13) Forgiveness Makes an Enemy a Friend

14) Patience Transforms Blood Into Milk

15) Tukaram's Non-Dual Viewpoint

16) From Thief to Saint

17) Draupadi's Forgiveness

18) Independence

19) Anger Overcome

20) Free From God and Guru, But Not From Wife·

21) Teacher versus Prostitute

22) Ups And Downs of An Ungrateful Dog

23) Lofty Beginnings, Tragic End

24) The Time for Maturity

25) "Even If Mithila Burns, The Self Remains the Same"

26) King Before And After, But With A Difference

27) No More Fish, Much More Peace

28) On Frogs and the Birth of Capitalism

29) Real Dispassion, A Sudden Flood

30) "At Your Level, This Is A Sin"

31) How Shankaracharya Took Sannyas

32) Tulsidas' Renunciation

33) Worse Than Myself

34) Shukdev Early Renunciation

35) Who Is the Mother of Sins?

36) Next Time, I Will Surely Renounce

37) Shivaji, the King Who Inside Became a Monk

38) Small Slip, Big Fall

39) A Bumpy Spiritual Path

40) Enough of This Dancing

41) Big Greed, Quick Death

42) Ten Paises, the Supreme Boon

43) Never Too Late

44) Even the Last Tree Is Enough

45) Just Wait For the Donkey To Come Out

46) Going Beyond the Pride Of Virtue

47) "Where There Is Dharma, There Is Victory"

48) Entering

49) Going Around, But Of What or Whom?

50) The Hole in the Ceiling

51) Of Mirrors and Marriages

52) Everything and Nothing

53) Recognition

54) Seeing Everything as Oneself

56) Some People Prefer the Formless Brahman

57) Of Clouds and Maya

58) "Not In My Newspaper"

59) Bereavement And Sadness Are Constructions Of The Mind

60) Two Points of View

61) Power of the Merged Mind

62) Desire Hides Reality

63) The Hall Of Mirrors

64) Seeing the Other As Oneself, For The Better And The Worse

65) Time To Put Oneself Aside

66) I and You

67) Getting One Is Getting All



Ramanuja was the great exponent of Vishishtadvaita, the "mitigated non-dualism"; he lived in Tamil-Nadu in the Middle Ages. One day his guru initiated him into the eight letter mantra (Om namo Narayanaya, one of the principal vaishanava mantra; here, only the consonants count as 'letters') and added these explanations: "O, my son! This sacrosanct mantra, should it fall even once in the ear of somebody, will destroy all his sins; at the hour of death, he will depart for the divine mansion, Vaikhunta. He won't fall back in the bondage of birth and death. This mantra is very secret. Don't disclose it to anyone who is not prepared for it (adhikari)" From that time, Ramanuja's mind was caught in a dilemna: "Through hearing this mantra only once, grievous sinners are freed from their sins and fit for paradise: Why then should living beings continue to be in the shackles of death? Why should one not disclose this sacrosanct mantra to them? But at the same time violating Guru's order is a great sin, which nobody can redeem." This conflict went on and on when he had gone to bed until finally sleep overcame him. It was night, everyone was sleeping but Ramanuja woke up, went out of his bed and climbed on the thatched roof of the small house and started to shout: "Om namo Narayanaya! Om namo Narayanaya!·"

All people of the neighborhood woke up with a pounding heart: "What is happening?' Gurudev requested Ramanuja to come down from the roof immediately and asked him: "What on earth are you doing?" He answered: "Gurudev! I violated your orders, and this is indeed a great sin, for which I will go to hell! This is no suffering for me; but now all these living beings around have heard the mantra that you taught me, and thus they will go to paradise." Gurudev's eyes were filled with tears; he hugged Ramanuja and said: "You are indeed a real disciple. He who cares so much for people's salvation will become the savior of the people!"


Saroyogi, (who also was called Poyagay) Alvar, Bhutalvar and Peyalvar, were all wonderful jnanis and Vishnu's bhakta as well. They were devoid of greed and ever immersed in the singing of the Lord's praise. Had they wanted, they could have got a fathomless wealth from king's treasure, but from their point of view, what on earth would have they done with it? They met for the first time in Tirukoilur. Saroyogi had been to the night puja, and then had laid down in a very small hut offered by a devotee for the night. He was meditating on God when he heard someone calling from outside: "May I get shelter inside for this night?" The saint promptly replied: "Of course, why not? There is enough room in this hut; when one man can lie down, two can easily sit! Come in, we will sit together." The newcomer entered, and they started discussing about God.

Then, again, a voice was heard: "May I get shelter inside from this night?" Sarayogi replied: "Of course, why not? There is so much room in this hut that, if one can lie down and two can sit, why can three not stand?" The three of them actually stood inside and started to meditate on God. At this juncture, it seemed to them that a fourth person was present. They opened their eyes, but nobody was there. Then, they looked again with the eye of Knowledge, and they saw the Lord himself standing in their midst. The three of them had their life long wish fulfilled with the Lord's darshan (vision). He requested them to ask for a boon. They said: "O Lord, the whole day we are singing your praise. May we never leave this noble work!" The Lord declared: "Dear devotees! I am so much caught and trapped in your love that where else could I go leaving you here?" Following this episode, each of the three Yogis wrote one hundred verses to Lord's glory, which are known as "Jnan ka pradip" (Light of Knowledge).


This is a story dating back to the time when Ramanuja was studying with his first vidyaguru (teacher of traditional knowledge), Yadavprakash, who started to feel jealous of his wonderfully gifted disciple. In these days, the daughter of the king of Kanchipuram (the 'golden City', in Tamil-Nadu near Madras) became possessed by an evil spirit. Quite a few mantra specialists were invited to cure her but to no avail. Being summoned by the king Yadavprakash reached Kanchipuram along with his disciples. No sooner had he started to recite his mantras that the evil spirit started talking through the princess' mouth: "However much mantra chanting you may do, even for your whole life, it won't disturb me at all! And by the way, should you wish so, I can make this house collapse! I'm not an ordinary ghost, easy to frighten. I'm the spirit of a brahman!" Flabbergasted, the guru retreated. Then, Ramanuja came to the front and asked: "Brahman! Why did you get this painful rebirth?" Brahman's spirit said wailing: "I was a scholar, but I kept my learning hidden. I didn't offered to anyone the "gift of knowledge" (vidya-dan, which is the sacred duty of every learned brahman), that's why I became a ghost! You're powerful. Pour on me the boon of fearlessness, and I will be released from this pitiable state!" Shri Ramanuja put his hand on the princess' head and remembered God. Immediately, the evil spirit left her, because the brahman himself had been liberated from this painful rebirth.


Madhur Kavi (lit.'the sweet poet') was born in the house of a Tirukovilur brahman who knew by heart the Sama-veda. He himself also knew the Vedas well, but he had understood that all this knowledge was useless without devotion to the Lord. He had a keen longing for God's Realization. One day, he was strolling on the banks of the Ganges when he saw a light appearing in the sky in the South. For three days it came back, and he was so attracted by it that he was finally bound to set out, as if hypnotized, in this direction. On inquiry, he finally heard that a yogi was staying further ahead. Near an old temple, in the hollow of a tamarind tree, he had the darshan of the sage, who was in samadhi. He waited for a teaching, but the yogi would not come out of his ecstasy. In spite of his repeated calls, entreaties and clap of hands, there was no answer. He threw stones on the wall of the temple, but to no avail. Bewildered, Madhu Kavi went in front of the hollow and said in a loud voice: "There is a question which I wanted to ask you! If Being (sat) comes to manifest itself in non-Being (asat, the illusory ego identified with the body), what will he eat and where will he rest?" At that very moment, the yogi broke his silence and said in a low tone: " Being will eat it, and therein, he will rest." Madhur Kavi suddenly realized who was his guru, who he had been searching for so long. He was present as the 'sat', the Absolute, in his own relative body."


Once upon a time there was a king of Mithila called Nami. He was much attracted by sense pleasures. But one day he started to suffer from a violent onset of fever which did not want to abate even at night and which went on for a long time. His 'pleasure body' had become a mere bag of sufferings. His ayur-vedic doctor prescribed an ointment of sandal. The queens of the palace decided to themselves grind the sandal into a paste to prepare the cream. In this way they wanted to express their will for the recovery of their king and lord. While working, they noticed that he could not even stand the clinking of their bangles (thin bracelets of glass, shell or metal) produced by the movement of their hands when they were making the paste. Finally, they removed all of them except one on each wrist, and thus they were able to work without noise at all. Nami asked: "What happened? Did you stop working?" "No, but we put only one bangle to avoid the clinking" Then, suddenly, the king realized that conflict and agitation comes from the duality between desire and reality, and that only in unity, the silence of mind as well as the everlasting peace could be found. He could not stay anymore in his palace of enjoyment and went to the forest to practice the yoga of fulfillment.


"Once more, you forgot to put salt into the vegetables!" Bahiram Bhatta said to his wife in an irritated voice. Bahiram was a learned brahman. His wife cut his complaints short: "After seven years of married life and so much study, still you don't control your senses!" Bahiram became very annoyed by this kind of teasing which he took very seriously. He decided to leave and embrace a life of renunciation, and so he did. But after a few days, he felt that sannyas life was too much of a hardship for him. At the same time he did not want to face the humiliation of coming back home. Suddenly, a good idea flashed in his mind: "I will convert to Islam!" So he went to the local Cadi, recited the needed formulas, was circumcised and became Bahiram Khan; but still, he was feeling miserable. One day, as he was weeping on the banks of the Ganges, the local brahmans asked him the reason of his sorrow. "No problem, they said after hearing his sad tale, we will reconvert you to Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Law, the name by which Hinduism designates itself). No sooner said than done, and the ceremony of shraddha (purification) was performed by the priests. When the Muslims heard the news, they came, furious, and scolded the brahmans: "You, rascal, you've stolen our "miyan" (brother)!" "No, you're the first to start this game!" and so on·Bahiram, who was already somewhat disturbed, felt very bad to be in the center of this conflict and lost completely his mental balance. He began to roam from place to place like a mad man asking each and everyone: "Who am I? Have pity, tell me who I am! Beforehand, I had only a hole in the ear (the sign of his Hindu community), now I am circumcised as well. Tell me who I am!" After a long rambling, he finally reached the camp of a famous guru, Nagnath, who was about to start a very important ritual with his disciples. He felt: "Now, this is sure enough, this saint will know the answer!" So he asked his question. The guru was too busy with his ritual to answer, so he just took a stick, gave a sound stroke on Bahiram's head and knocked him down. After some time, he regained his consciousness and saw that Nagnath was gazing at him and asking him: "Who are you?" Bahiram's mind was completely still, he just couldn't answer. The guru put his hands on his head as a blessing, and the non-dual knowledge dawned in Bahiram's heart.


This anecdote is attributed to a Maharashtrian sage from the Middle Ages, probably Eknath. (The same kind of story is told about a 20th century sannyasi of Banaras as well). It was a festival day, and the sage was going to take his bath in the holy river Godavari. The path was passing just below the terrace of a wayside inn, where a brutal Pathan was residing. It seemed that his main hobby was to persecute Hindus. When he saw the radiant face of Eknath, it multiplied his resentment tenfold. He pretended to wash his mouth on the edge of the terrace, and when the sage passed by, he spat the whole thing on his shaven head. Quietly and without comment, Eknath went to wash himself in the Godavari. Still more furious to see that the sage was not furious, the rude Pathan waited for him to come back and again projected his mouthwash on his head. Again, Eknath went to the river for another bath. The story goes that the same scene was repeated eighteen times. When the Pathan saw the peaceful bather coming back for the nineteenth time, his anger suddenly collapsed and he asked him in a humble manner: "How on earth could you stand such a provocation so patiently?" Eknath answered: "Which provocation? Today is a festival day and you gave me the opportunity to become holier by taking eighteen baths in the sacred river Godavari!"


Jnanashwar came with a group to the house of Gora, the potter. Namdev was present as well. Jnandev asked Gora: "You are definitely an expert potter; so tell us who is, among us, the pot which is not so well baked." Gora took his stick and started striking the heads of the saints; all of them remained motionless, except Namdev who began fretting and protesting. Gora just said: "Here is the one who is not so well baked." Humbled, Namdev went back home and complained to God who told him: "True, you are a good devotee of mine, but you still make a difference between "I" and "you"; in this sense, you are not well cooked; without a guru, this feeling of difference can not be erased. Go to Shiva's temple and meet Vithoba Khechar, he will teach you."

When Namdev arrived there, he saw that Vithoba had his feet on the shivalingam itself which is of course very disrespectful. On being asked the reason for such a posture, Vithoba sighed: 'O, Nama! I'm so old and broken! I just can't move anymore. Please, move my feet yourself to a place where there is no shivalingam!" Namdev began to drag the old man's legs here and there, but in every place a new shivalingam was arising. Startled, he fell to the feet of the sage begging for his pardon, and asking for a teaching. Vithoba put his hands on his head and awakened in him the non-dual consciousness. Namdev's feeling of duality completely vanished. The next day when he went back to the gathering of sages, he could say: "Now, this pot has become well baked!"


Bharata was an "emperor of the world" (chakravarti). He thought he was the first ever to have reached this lofty position, and got the idea to climb to the top of the mountain Vrishaba, at the fringe of the known world, on to engrave his name on the rocks. But when he reached the top, the four sides of the rock were filled with the same name, "Chakravarti, Chakravarti,·" There was not even a square inch where he could hope to inscribe his personal "Chakravarti". Distraught, he finally erased an old "Chakravarti" to rewrite his own at the same place. Half satisfied, he went down to his capital. When the high heard the story, he exclaimed: 'Alas! How unfortunate! You destroyed the very basis which enables one to immortalize his name. Now that you started this pernicious tradition of erasing names, anyone will have the possibility to come and efface yours to put his own instead!"


Some pandits of Benares were strongly opposed to Shankaracharya. One day, they excited against him a dangerous dog. On seeing the animal jumping at him, the sage pushed himself quickly on the side. Seeing this, the pandits sneered contemptuously: "Look at yourself, king of advaitins! Why this fear about the body which is anyhow impermanent, and regarding this dog in which the Self also dwells?" The sage replied: "So be it: just as this body is impermanent, even so is the fear of the dog!" The logic of the answer reduced the pandits to silence.


Once upon a time there were two good friends. They used to go together for a period, but afterwards they had to split: one was more interested to go to temples while the other had a strong attraction to brothels. Indeed, when one day the first friend was in the temple, he was saying to himself: "How virtuous am I. I am here praying, while my pal is playing with prostitutes", and he was indeed imagining all the details of the so-called play. Meanwhile, the second friend in the house of ill fame was thinking at the same time. "How vicious I am in this infamous his sanctifying himself in the temple, speaking directly to God. O God, when will I be able to speak to you!" and he started to be intensely focussed on Him. At that very time, fate made both of them die; the boy in the temple went to hell, whereas the boy in the brothel to paradise.


One day Indra the king of Gods, told his court that the prince Naresh was the best among men. Doubting this a devata (a minor deity) wanted to test the prince. He took the shape of a dead dog, which was lying on the side of the road, half-decomposed and strongly stinking. When the ruler passed by, he just exclaimed: "How beautiful its teeth are. It really looks like two rows of pearls." Then the devata took back its original form and said: "You're really the best of men for in every thing and situation, you see the qualities first."


Vishvamitra was a kshatriya (warrior) sage, a raja-rishi who also wanted to get the full knowledge of Brahman, to become a "brahmarishi". He did tremendous austerities for this purpose, and finally God appeared before him and said: "Alright, you're already almost a brahmarishi, but you'll become really one only when Vasishtha will call you so." Vishvamitra became livid. Vasishtha was indeed his worst enemy: he destroyed his whole army to defend his miraculous cow Nandini that Vishvamitra was trying to rob. To avenge his defeat, Vishvamitra arranged for a demon to kill Vasishta's hundred sons. He tried more severe austerities and many other ways to become a brahmarishi, but to no avail. Finally, he decided to go himself to Vasishtha's forest hermitage and to kill him. Hiding himself in the bushes, he came near the Rishi's place and from this shelter could overhear the latter's conversation with his wife, while both of them were resting on a small platform in the open; she was telling him: "Look! How beautiful and immaculate the moonlight is at present!" and Vasishtha answered: "Yes! Quite so! It is as white and brilliant as Vishvamitra's spiritual practices which he performed recently and which illuminated the farthest recesses of the world".

Vishvamitra was all of a sudden invaded by an intense remorse. "Wretched, look at yourself! Possessed by hatred, you came here to murder a sage who speaks good of you to his wife even in private!" On the spot, he dropped both his arms and his furor, went out of hiding and fully prostrated himself at the feet of the sage who said: "Stand up, brahmarishi!"


Mahavir, the founder of Jainism, used to say that our mind was both our best enemy and our best friend. When angry, he was our enemy, when compassionate, our friend. An episode from his life illustrates this truth. There was once an ascetic, Chanda by name, who was bad-tempered. One night he was again trying to explain some matter to one of his disciple who did not understand anything. In a fit of anger, he jumped in his direction to slap him. But because of darkness, he did not see a column, hit it violently with his head and he died on the spot. (violent death is considered to be a bad karma in Hinduism). Anyhow as he had in spite of this acquired some merit due to his austerities, he could be reborn near this very ashram where he had been, enter it again and become its chief. One day he saw a grou;p of kids stealing mangoes from the orchard. Furious, he ran toward them, but blinded by anger, he did not see an open well, fell into it and died. Now, with two violent deaths, he next rebirth was rather bad, as the king of a group of venomous cobras near the ashram, and he killed many people. In these days, Mahavir happened to come to meditate in this very orchard. The king of cobra attacked him but Mahavir did not move an inch. Finally, it bit him on the foot, but instead of blood being shed, milk only poured out. By that time, the sage had realized who the king of cobras was in reality; he called it by his name: "Chanda! Remember who you were! Stop attacking people and from now on, rather teach them fearlessness!" From that time on, the cobra became as peaceful as a lump of clay and indeed taught fearlessness to human beings who were living around. When he died, he was reborn as a devata.


It is a well known fact that Tukaram's wife was bad-tempered, and that she regularly reproached him for not bringing enough money home. One day, the saint had harvested his only sugarcane field and was coming back with a full bullock cart. As he saw a poor beggar on the roadside, his heart melted and he gave him a few sugarcanes. In those days, poverty was endemic in the region and there were many, many other people hungry on the roadside. So, when he reached home, he had only one sugarcane left in his vehicle. He brought it to his wife, explaining the situation; she got so angry that she snatched the cane and broke it into two pieces on Tukaram's back. He just smiled and said: "How nice, the problem is now solved! We're two and there was only one cane, but now there are two of them, one for each of us!"


Once upon a time, two brothers lived in a country, which had very strict laws. People there particularly disliked the cattle thieve. However, it happened that these two brothers stole sheep and were finally caught; so, they had to endure a severe punishment. With red iron, the villagers inscribed on their forehead the two infamous letters, "ST", which means "Sheep's Thief". The first brother, half-dead of shame, ran away into another country; but after some time, curious people enquired about the meaning of those two strange letters on his brow, and when they came to know, there was an outcry in the population and the poor man had to run away again. Thus, from escape to escape, he ended his miserable life alone in a distant land, and had to be buried in a foreign soil. Now, the second brother decided to face the bad name he had got, became quite virtuous, generous and gradually regained the esteem of the people. In the course of time, he even came to be venerated as a great man. When he was quite old, a newcomer arrived in the village. Puzzled by the two letters "ST" that he noticed on the old man's forehead, he inquired about their significance, but nobody could tell him. They just said that they had always seen them. Finally, someone risked an interpretation: "It must probably be an abbreviation for 'Saint'"



Just after the end of the Mahabharata war, the Pandavas left their camp for the night. Ashvattama wanted to avenge his father Dronacharya, who had been killed in a somewhat treacherous way by Krishna and Arjuna. Taking advantage of the night, he sneaked in among the tents and slaughtered the five sons of Draupadi and the Pandavas. The next day Arjuna chased him and finally took hold of him. He brought him tightly bound with a rope to Draupadi, waiting for a mere gesture from her to finish him. There she was, with on one side the beheaded corpses of her five sons and on the other their murderer; but she said after some time: "Now that I have experienced the bereavement of loosing sons, why should I impose it on Ashvattama's mother? Liberate your guru's son! (Drona had been Pandava's archery guru)". Arjuna just removed the pearl, which was on Ashwattama's head and sent him away.


One day, Mahavir was meditating, deeply absorbed in samadhi, under a tree in the countryside, when a shepherd came and told him: "I entrust you my buffaloes, I have an urgent job to do in the village." Mahavir did not react. When the shepherd came back, he severely scolded the sage who did not react more than the first time. Seeing this, Indra, the king of gods, stepped in and scolded the shepherd, telling him that Mahavir was a great saint. The peasant begged his pardon, and Indra proposed to the ascetic to stay near him in order to protect him and keep him from these vicissitudes which no doubt would occur often in the future. At this juncture, the sage came out of his samadhi and broke his silence: "It has never been seen, is never seen and will never be seen that someone attained freedom through the strength, the work or the help of someone else. A spiritual aspirant should reach liberation through his own strength, his own work and without any miraculous help. He does not need to be protected, he is his own protection." Mahavir was considering in an equal way the shepherd who wanted to persecute him and Indra who wished to make him safe. This "yoga of equanimity" is the fundamental mantra for the moral uplift of mankind.


A disciple wanted a higher teaching from his guru, but this one told him: "You're not yet ready; go and meditate in solitude near the river for one year, and then, take a bath and come back to me. The disciple did so; but no sooner had he taken his final bath and put fresh clothes to go and see the guru that he received some dust inadvertently thrown by a sweeper who was working around. Furious, the brahmachari told him: "Look at what you're doing, you rascal! Now I have to start everything again, my bath and the washing of clothes! The guru had observed the scene from far away and when the disciple came to him, he declared: "You're not yet ripe. Go and meditate one year more, take a bath at the end of it and come to see me!" At the completion of this second year, at the end of the final bath it happened that the sweeper was again there, working near the brahmachari. This time, he touched him with his broom. Again, the disciple became wild with the sweeper, and again he was sent for a year more in solitude. After the third final bath, the sweeper had located the bad-tempered brahmachari who had scolded him twice for almost nothing and had the sudden liking to teach him a good lesson. He came with his dustbin and intentionally poured it on his head. But this time, the disciple joined hands and said: "I thank you; you're my master; you taught me how to overcome anger." This time, the guru gave him the higher instructions.



"A poor guru had a disciple who was a rich cloth merchant. He went once to his house to ask him a small piece of cloth to cover one of his sacred books. "Tomorrow, tomorrow" said the rich man whose devotion was rather half-hearted; but his wife had overheard the conversation. At night, she requested him to bring two pieces of cloth of the best quality immediately. The husband did not want to go back to his shop in darkness, so he tried his same old story once more: "Tomorrow, tomorrow!", but the wife cut short his hesitations and insisted on this being done without delay. Seeing her face, he felt another storm in the making and quickly complied with 'his government' orders. The next morning, the lady gave the pieces of cloth to the guru and added with a smile: "Next time, don't waste your time with him, come directly to me." Many worldly people who do not even accept the idea of spiritual discipline make a pretense to be free in this way.



When a teacher with a speck of spiritual power becomes well known, people praise him and say: "How many people come and visit him! Even very important persons are fascinated, hypnotized by him, he dominates them; and he gets such a good money from them, he is so well off!" But could one not make the same comments exactly on a successful prostitute?



A very ascetic guru was living in a deep forest on a scant diet of fruit and roots only. Even the ferocious animals were touched by his benevolence and they used to approach him peacefully. A poor dog was very attached to him, but it was rather frail and skinny due to the difficult conditions of the place. He was not of the fighting type. One day, he was chased by a leopard and ran panicked at the feet of the guru. The guru, by his yogic power, transformed it into a more powerful leopard in the twinkle of an eye. Seeing this, it was the turn of the first leopard to run away for his life. Afterwards, the dog, which had been changed into a leopard was attacked by a tiger. Again, the master transformed him into a stronger tiger. At this point, the former dog stopped its diet of fruit and roots and began to relish the blood of other animals. An elephant, then a lion and at last a sharabha (a fabulous animal with eight legs and eyes all over the forehead) attacked it, but every time it was saved by the guru in the same way. When the dog became the strongest among sharabhas, its pride, greed and cruelty knew no limits. He finally planned to devour the saint. This one read its mind and said: "You, wretch! Is it your way to be grateful to the guru? You were a dog, dog again you will become!" And in no time, he was transformed back into the same skinny, fearful dog which was running every now and then for his life



Svarnakesha was a good sadhu living high in the Himalayas near the source of the Ganges, in the region of Gangotri. He used to stay in a cottage made of straw and was carefree and happy there. After several decades of this natural life, he felt the urge to go down to the plains to start some kind of preaching. When arrived there, he quickly got a following due to his imposing bearing, his magnetic aura and his nice grey hair with some golden hues; from this, his name had come, svarna (gold) kesha (hair). One day, a desperate woman approached him. She had in her arm a dead child. She said: "He is my seventh, the first six passed away, but I am sure that you will have the power to save him." Swami Svarnakesha was rather embarrassed by this queer demand, but in order not to hurt the bereaved mother, he devised a trick: he gave her one of his beautiful golden curl of hair, adding in a confident tone: "Everything will be for the best". And lo and behold, the kid was resuscitated! Needless to say that people, especially women who wanted to have their child blessed by a golden lock of the saint, started flowing into his place, at the beginning as a small stream and then as a huge river. Everyone in the crowd was asking for his due, so the situation became definitely not funny for Swami Svarnakesha. After some time, he tried to escape from the populace by force, but they jumped at him, knocked him down and pulled out all his hair, so true it is that greed generates cruelty. His scalp was bleeding all over, it had become a single wound. Some mud get stuck on it, from mud infection came, from infection, septicemia and from septicemia, death. That was the price to be paid for an easy success.



A learned young brahman began to be considered as a specialist of the Bhagavatam (the medieval scripture devoted to Shri Krishna). He proposed to the king to teach him, but in fact the ruler was more advanced spiritually than he was, so he perceived the young brahman's immaturity. "Not now, not now" he said, "Study your Scripture more deeply". The same scene was repeated several times. At the end, the brahman had his pride piqued, and out of spite he closed himself indoor and really dived deep into his study, discovering hidden meanings and experiencing new states of consciousness. He completely forgot the king, the court and his dream of teaching over there. He had realized the futility of all this. Several years later, the king who wanted to be true to his word came to visit him. When he saw the radiance on his face, he fell at his feet and said; "Now, I am ready to become your disciple if you kindly condescend to accept me as such near you".


Rishi Yajnavalkya used to teach a group of ascetics in his forest hermitage, and Janaka, the King of Mithila, was also regularly present to these sessions. Should he be late, Yajnavalkya waited for him to begin his talk. The ascetics had some ill feelings in their heart about this: "Our master preaches to see all as equal, but he seems to show more regards to the king". They did not express their resentment overtly, but Yajnavalkya perceived it and just waited for the right circumstances (samyog) to come and to teach them a good lesson.

One day, an ashram brahmachari came running: "There is a huge forest fire, flames are progressing quickly towards the huts". All the ascetics immediately rushed to their quarters to save their little belongings, bedding, manuscripts, kamandalu (begging bowl), etc·Only afterwards they came back to listen to the rest of the teaching on the Self. Some time later, a messenger from Mithila came at a gallop; without even coming down, he shouted: "Mithila is burning!" Janaka did not move an inch. Soon later, another envoy from the palace reached: "The fire has attacked your palace!" Janaka went on listening to the teaching. In the end, a third messenger came out of breath and yelled: "Your inner appartments are prey to flames!" At this juncture, Yajnavalkya stopped his talk and glanced in Janaka's direction. The king said: "Even if Mithila, the palace and the inner apartments burn, even if this body is reduced to ashes, the Self remains the same." Now, the Rishi gazed to the ascetic without a word; they suddenly realized who in the audience was the real knower of the Self. (This story is so well known in India that the phrase 'if Mithila burns·' has become a kind of proverb).


Bhagiratha was the sage who thanks to his austerities had been able to make the Ganges come down on earth (until now, the upper Ganges between the source and Deoprayag is called the Bhagirathi). In the Yoga-Vasishtha, it is told that before embracing a life of renunciation, he was a mighty emperor. He wanted to leave this 'profession' which was a source of all kind of headaches for him, but nobody dared to take his succession. Finally, he gave his empire to one of his enemies, a neighboring king, and took to the roads as a renunciate. When he felt that he had strengthened his experience of detachment, he came back to his former capital and started to beg. Nobody recognized him, except one of the palace guard who, overwhelmed with emotion, went to inform the king. He proposed to Bhagiratha to give him back his empire, but the ascetic plainly refused and left with the only alms which he accepted, a small amount of food. Later, for some reasons, he consented to take charge of another kingdom, and finally also got back his former one when his successor died; but all this was not an impediment for his spiritual life anymore, since he had become a Jnani.


Sage Dattatreya, the patron saint of renunciates, used to observe the happenings around him keenly. From different situations that he could witness, he was able to extract the sap of deep teaching. Tradition especially identifies twenty-four events, which it calls "Dattatreya's gurus". Once for instance, he saw a kite who had just taken a fish. Immediately, dozen of crows attacked it to get the poor animal, which was still fretting in the beak of the kite. Wherever the kite flew, it was harassed by the flock of crows. Finally, it gave away the fish and was suddenly left alone. Calmly perched on a nearby branch, it pondered: "No more fish, much more peace". (Ramakrishna likes to tell this story illustrating a fundamental reason for renunciation: getting peace)


Once, a frog got a rupee, which he preciously hid in its hole. A tusker passed by and put one of its feet dangerously near the frog's place. It jumped out and vented his rage on the elephant as if he were ready to bully it: "You, scoundrel, can't you mind your steps?" When people get a little money, it often happens that they just loose the sense of realities.



"I'm worried about my brother, said a lady to her husband, because he tends progressively towards renunciation. He sleeps on a hard mattress, and little by little, he does more spiritual practices." "I'm not worried at all!' the husband exclaimed. "Why?" "Because when true renunciation comes, this is immediate" "How do you know? You're a householder!" Hurt, the man tore his dhoti to make of it a loincloth for brahmacharis, took to the roads and never came back. (Ramakrishna)


In one of his previous births, Lord Buddha was already a wandering ascetic. One day, he sat under a tree near a nice pond, whose surface was studded with superb lotus flowers. Moreover, their delightful scent was wafted along to him by a soft breeze, and he started to enjoy it. "Thief!" exclaimed a voice from within the tree. It was a spirit dwelling there who was scolding him. "You're just stealing a fragrance which is not yours!" The ascetic did not try to enter an argument, but thought that the spirit was rather scrupulous. Some time later, a peasant who look rather boorish came, entered the water splashing it all around and began to tear all the flowers. "Now, you don't say anything?" the ascetic asked the spirit, who replied: "He is a boor, so t his behavior is not surprising; but at your level, just smelling a fragrance, which is not yours is a sin."

(Jataka tales)


In those days, Shankaracharya was still a young adolescent who had just completed his vedic studies. He wanted to take sannyas, but he had not yet done it because he knew that his mother was disagreeing, and did not want to go against her will. One morning, he was taking his bath in the river when suddenly a crocodile took hold of his leg. He shouted to his mother who was watching the scene, paralyzed by terror, from the bank: "If you agree to my sannyas, I will be saved!" She did agree, and the crocodile released its hold. She requested however her son to come back at the time of her death. He readily accepted, was present when she passed away and lit up her funeral pyre, not following the tradition of sannyasis on that point, but answering the last desire of his mother


It is said that as a young man, Tulsidas was much more fascinated, even hypnotized by his sweetheart that by the love of God. It happened that she had to spend some time to her parents' house, across the Ganges from Benares. One night, overcome by desire, Tulsidas decided to go and meet her at all cost. It was night without moonlight, moreover a storm was starting. Of course, there were no boatmen at that late hour, but he saw a form floating on the stream. Taking it for granted that it was a log, he rode it and managed to cross. When he reached the other shore, he realized that the piece of wood was in fact a corpse. In any case, he persevered and arrived in front of the house, where everyone was sound asleep. Wanting to remain as discreet as possible, he caught a fleeting glimpse of a creeper going up towards his beloved's window. He climbed it, but when he reached the embrasure of the window, he realized that it was a big boa, which was taking its night rest by hanging there. Not too proud of himself, he woke up the girl who was much more religious than he was; somewhat shocked by his intrusion, she told him with a stern tone: "Should you have a longing for God as intense as the one you have for me, you would quickly become a great saint!" This spontaneous utterance hit the target, Tulsidas became a sadhu and eventually also a great saint who wrote the Hindi version of the Ramayana, currently the most popular religious scripture in North India.


Once, a disciple came to his guru depressed: "I'm really bad" "Look for someone worse than you, it will give you some kind of encouragement" the master said. The student looked for a long time, but could not find anyone. Suddenly, he saw after going to the toilet his own excrements and thought; "This is definitely worse than myself" At that time, feces started to speak: "How come! Mind what you say! We were delicious food before coming in contact with you, and look what has been the result of our brief association with your body. If one contact only gave this result, what about a second touch? Please, don't come near, get away!" Then, the disciple got real humility, and from there he made considerable spiritual progresses.



Vyasa had composed the four Vedas, and was therefore called "Veda-vyasa", the exponent of the Vedas. Late in his life, he felt the need to have a son. His wife became pregnant, but for years the child did not want to come out. Moreover, he seemed to be already quite learned, because when he was hearing the chanting of Vedas nearby, he used to correct the mistakes from inside the womb. Vyas realized that his son was not an ordinary child he asked him: "Who are you?" " I took 84000 births to reach this womb; now I want final liberation." "Why don't you come out?" "I know that by taking birth in this illusory world, I will forget all my knowledge. So I want to do my practices and reach moksha in this womb itself."

Finally, after many entreaties, Shukdev accepted to come out, and could walk right from the beginning. Vyas told him: "Now, before becoming a renunciate, you should first pass by the three regular brahmanical stages of student, householder and forest-dweller (vanaprastha)". The strange newborn child answered: "If chaste students (brahmacharis) as such could realize the Self, every impotent people could do this. If householders (grihastas) as such could realize the Self, most of the population would reach this stage. If forest dwellers as such could realize the Self, deers and boars will do it!" Thus speaking, Shukdev walked out of the house and embraced a life of renunciation without further delay


Once upon a time there was a young brahman who had studied in Benares and had just come back to his native town. Someone visited him and asked a bizarre question: "Who is the mother of sins?" He searched in his memory, in his sacred books, but nowhere he could find a precise reply to this question. As he was conscientious, he went back to Kashi and interviewed his former teachers, but to no avail. Rather than to be humbled by going back home without any answer, he decided to continue his pilgrimage; but in no place he could find a satisfactory solution to his problem. Finally, he reached a holy small town in the center of India. A devadasi (sacred prostitute attached to a pilgrimage temple) heard of his sad predicament. She send him a message by her servant: "I do have the answer to your question, but you must stay some time around. You're a scholarly man, so I will care myself for your maintenance, I will prepare you good food and even give you some salary while you remain here doing your work." The brahman said to himself: "Of course, this is not recommended to receive so much from such a dubious character, but I am tired, I will be out of money very soon and they say -he did not even want to think much of it - they say she is very beautiful. And who in my town will know about all this story?" So he accepted the offer. She was indeed very beautiful, and the meal she had prepared for him the first day was really gorgeous. Besides, true to her word, she had put in a corner of the tray on which the food was served a heap of gold coins. But when the brahman was stretching his hand to grasp it, she snatched it with a brisk movement, laughed and said: "Now, you have your answer: the mother of sins is greed, this greed which makes you forget all your rules of purity, propriety and decency and accept to be maintained by a person of my condition!"


Once upon a time, a guru had a young brahmachari with him. He had some difficulty to adapt to ashram life, although he was saying that he wanted God realization; so the guru told him: "Never mind, go back to the world, get married and after ten years we'll meet again to continue our work." The disciple readily agreed to this proposal. After ten years, the guru, clad as a religious mendicant, knocked at the door of his disciple who had by now got house and family. The small children opened, were frightened by the look of the poor sadhu and ran crying to their father. He got angry and shouted without even moving from his seat: "I have no time for you, good-to-nothing, get out of here!" But the ascetic insisted, so the father had to come to the door, recognized his guru and remembered his promise. Embarrassed, he went into a lengthy explanation about his young wife and children, how they were dependent on him and so on·The guru understood his state of mind, just smiled and said: "Alright, I will come back after seven years". Relieved, the young father said: "Yes, of course, at that time I will be free!"

But when the guru came back, the not so young father complained: "Who else than me will be able to take care of my daughter's marriage? And who will have the authority to settle the disputes between my new daughter-in-laws? And moreover·" The guru just smiled and said: "Alright, I will pass by after five years." But by that time, the unfortunate disciple had met with an untimely death. However, thanks to his yogic vision, the guru recognized him in the form of the watchdog of the house. The fellow was so attached to his family that he had taken a new birth in this kind of body to protect his nears and dears. The guru smiled and said: "Now, you are free to follow me in my peregrinations. Nobody will object." The dog answered: "How can you say so? There are so many criminals nowadays! Social order is crumbling! The house may be attacked any time, God knows what may happen if I am not there" "Alright, said the guru with a sigh, I'll come back after three years!" This time, the dog was no more, but the guru noticed a snake hidden in the dark hole of the garden and recognized in it the same disciple still stuck to his former household. He warned the people of the family and told them: "See this snake in the hole. Give it a good beating, he is dangerous; but don't kill him, it would be a sin, give it rather to me, I will take it away and you will get rid of it for good." They did so, and the guru hang the snake around his neck, in the manner of Shiva. When he was at a distance and alone on the road, he said: "How do you feel?" The snake disciple answered: "I'm fed up, I don't want to be associated to this house anymore! Now I understand, I wish to stay with you not only in this birth, but also in the next ones!·"


This anecdote dates back to the year 1656. Shivaji, the most famous king of Maharashtra who resisted successfully the Moghols of Delhi, had a guru called Ramdas. One day, he was staying in his apartments inside the fortress of Sitara when he heard a mendicant calling for alms from downstairs. He recognized the voice of his guru and went to greet him and his fellow disciples, who were travelling with him. He then came back inside to find something to give, perhaps food, jewels, gold, · but suddenly an idea flashed in his mind. He went to his desk and wrote a short letter, returned downstairs and put it in Ramdas' bowl. The other disciples protested: "With all your wealth, can't you give us sufficient food for one meal at last, while we're hungry? Why just a piece of paper?" Shivaji smiled and said: "take it out and just read it to our guruji!" On the letter was written: "I give all my kingdom and properties to Samrath Ramdas" and below the royal stamp was placed. The guru said: "And you, what will you do?" 'Your service!" "So, come and beg with us!" After their tour, they took their meal together near the river. Once the meal finished, Ramdas sighed and said: "What's the use of a kingdom for a sannyasi like me? Take it back!" Shivaji quickly replied: "Never!" Ramdas said: "Alright! Don't take it back, but I appoint you as my representative; and as token of this, I give you a cloth of mine to make a new flag, and a pair of shoes, which belongs to me. You'll rule the kingdom in my name." And Shivaji did so until his own death.


Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Magadha, lived a famous ascetic, named Uddharamputra. He had such great siddhis (powers) that he could fly every day from his hermitage in the forest to the royal palace to beg his food. The king himself used to feed him with great respect and due honor. Once, the ruler had to go away from the capital and felt bad: "Nobody in this palace is pure enough to serve food to this yogi of the highest class, how will we manage?" Finally, an idea poped up in his mind: "I will ask Nirmala, my servant's daughter. She's just come of age and has a really pure behavior. She'll be the best!" And so it was decided. When the yogi landed in the palace inner courtyard, only Nirmala was here with the meal ready and served it with much care and affection. Uddharamputra was obliged to acknowledge to himself: "How perfectly beautiful she is! What a radiant face! What a supreme body!" and when at the end of the lunch she asked him with an innocent smile: "Do you want anything more?", he became bewildered and realized that he had fallen in love. "No, ·not now·Surely, I have to go·" But how much he tried, he could never fly again. Facing humiliation before the young beauty as well as before the rest of the palace, he quickly concocted a fake story to save his reputation: "People of this kingdom have been for long time eager to have my darshan, but couldn't do so because I was flying every time; so, today, I condescend to grant them this boon and to come back to my hermitage on foot by the royal road, so that they could see me closely and easily." No need to say that the news spread like wildfire, and the crowds gathered all along the road to have a glimpse of him and acclaim him; outwardly, it was his most glorious day, but inwardly in knew very well it was the most infamous; and never ever, he could fly again.


A brahman called Vipranarayan lived near Rangannath's temple (in Tiruchirapaly, in Tamil-nadu). He was quite devoted to the Lord, and spent his whole day immersed in japa and meditation. In the morning, he used to cull flowers from the garden where was his hut, at lunch he used to go and take the prasad (sacred food) from the temple, and that was his relationship with the outer world. In this very temple a devadasi called Devadevi was living. She had such a beautiful body that even the king was attracted by her. One day, she had a stroll in the garden with her little sister and passed by Vipranarayan's hut. Although he was on the threshold, he just did not even cast a fugitive glance at her. Humiliated, she said to her sister: "Look, how rude this man is, he just does not care for my beauty!" "He's a useless bhakta, no need to waste your time with him!" Devadasi reacted briskly: "I bid you that within six months I will posses him and he will be running after me as a slave!"

Some time later, she came to the door of the hut clad as a sannyasini and started wailing and complaining in a sad voice to the brahman: "My mother wanted to sell my honor, so I ran away and took this garb, now I just have God in my life and I want to serve him only. I wish I could stay near your hut for this purpose, you're a holy man, your very proximity will be a blessing and a protection for me." The simple-minded brahman did not sense the trap and accepted. It was winter. Sometimes, in the evening, she started coming to sit near his fire and one night, when there was a biting cold and it started raining on the top of it, she sneaked inside to lie down very close to him. Then, nature followed its course, and he became her lover, and indeed a very addicted one. Although he had not much wealth, she squeezed him like a lemon, to the last drop. No need to say that by that time, Vipranarayana had dropped even a semblance of spiritual practice.

At this juncture, the Lord decided to play a trick to the couple. He took the form of an old man and came one evening at the door of Devadevi, with a big plate made of gold: "I'm Vipranarayan's new servant, he just told me to bring this present for you." She was delighted to be offered such a valuable item. The next morning, the guards of the temple came to search her house; the whole town was upset because the golden plate for the main puja (ritual) in the temple had disappeared. They finally discovered it, and Devadasi tried to defend herself by accusing Vipra. So they went to the hut, arrested him and brought the couple in fetters at the feet of the king. Although the brahman argued that he was a poor man and that he had never got any personal servant, he was sent to jail awaiting judgement and perhaps a death sentence. As Devadevi, she escaped jail, but with a considerable fine to pay without delay. This very night, the Lord appeared to the King in a dream and explained him the real story. So the next morning, Vipra was set free. Seeing the grace of the Lord in spite of their bad behavior, he and Devadasi started each in his own place to lead a pure life and were in the end completely successful in their spiritual practices.


If there is an intoxication, this is the intoxication of love. Here, we have an example of how a young man was suddenly 'detoxified': Elaichikumar was an adolescent, the only son of a rich merchant called Dhandatta. One day, a dancer-acrobat came to perform near her house. He was very skilled, but for the adolescent, the focus of the performance soon became the artist's daughter, who was of his age and extremely beautiful. When he returned home, he just sat there and declared: "Either I marry this girl, or I commit suicide!" What to do? The father tried everything to persuade his son to change his mind, but to no avail. Finally, he had to meet the dancer and ask for his daughter's hand, although they were from a much lower milieu than his. Girl's father, instead of jumping on this good opportunity, became indignant: "Do you think that I will sell my only daughter like this to an unknown person just for a little money? And your boy does not know even the beginnings of acrobatics! We're poor, but we have our dignity! Keep your gold along with your son and get away from here!" In spite of this rebuttal the father insisted; indeed, he had to, given his son's desperate stubbornness. Finally, the acrobat somehow recanted: "Alright! To be worthy of our daughter, the boy should first learn our occupation, and when he will be such an expert at it that he will get an award by a prince, that very day he will have my daughter in marriage!" So they agreed. The boy dropped everything, nears and dears, wealth, status to follow the dancing family from town to town. After twelve years, he was performing on a high column in front of the Maharaja of Banaras and his court. Fascinated by his art in which he had become a real expert, the monarch said: "O, dancer's son, I'm going to give you an award: ask whatever you want!" But just before that, while performing., Elaichikumar was observing a scene at the door of a house nearby. A saintly ascetic was begging from a beautiful young married woman. Although she had brought plenty of food, the ascetic took only a little bit of it and said: "This is enough, this is quite sufficient!" Just at that moment, king's call "O, dancer's son" rang in his ears. There was a flash in his mind, and he was instantly "detoxicated": he jumped from his column, shouted to the prince and the crowd: "I'm not dancer's son; I am what I am! Enough of this dancing!", and he ran towards the ascetic. This one took him as a disciple, and in the course of time, our dancer's son became free from the "acrobatics of Maya", as well as from the perpetual dance of life, death and rebirth.


In a deep forest, four robbers were evaluating their loot just after robbing a group of rich merchants. It was rather a good one, with many silk clothes and golden coins. Two of them went to the village to buy food for lunch. While they were away, the two other highwaymen had a talk: "When they will seat and start to eat, we'll come from behind and kill them, and the whole loot will be ours!" They did so, and after the murder they sat to feast greedily on the food of four people; but the two other robbers had poisoned the portion of food destined to their accomplice, so within less than one our they died in terrible pains.



Once upon a time, there was near Prayag an old miser. He was so stingy that he was afraid to go and take a bath in the sacred confluence of the Ganges and of theYamuna, lest a brahman priest might corner him there, oblige him to perform the ritual and ask for dakshina (payment) afterwards. Finally, his wife convinced him to go. They chose a lonely beach to take their bath, in the hope of escaping the greed of pandits. Shiva, seeing the whole scene from heaven, took the form of a pandit who just happened to be on this very beach at that time. He almost forced the couple to do the prescribed ritual with him. At the end, he asked for a very cheap emolument, only ten paises. But event that, the old miser was reluctant to give. He apologized: "We're really short of money now; come later to our place and I'll pay you." He was hoping that the pandit might not go all the way for such a negligible amount.

No luck! The next morning, Shiva in pandit's garb was at his door. The wife received him and went upstairs to inform her husband of the arrival of yesterday's pandit. The old man was so crooked that he tried again another means to escape: "Tell him that today Iâm sick, he should come later!" The next day, he was at the door again. Exasperated, he ordered: "Tell him that I'm dead, that's all!" When the pandit at the door was informed, he said: "Alright, no problem! I'll go to the room and perform the last rites!" Finally, in a last bid to escape, the old man had no other means that to ask to be covered with a shroud, placed on the stretcher and be brought to the cremation ground. Once deposited on the pyre, which was then lit up, the liar could not help jumping from there in a rather piteous manner. Then, Shiva burst into a peal of laughter, revealed its true form and said: "I'm pleased by your unusual, really wonderful perseverance; ask me any boon you like!" The old miser exclaimed, without even thinking for a second: "Leave me my ten paises!"


Jalandhari was one of the eighty-four mahasiddhas, sages gifted with extraordinary powers who were living during the Middle Ages in India. He was wandering as a mendicant and one day he asked for shelter in a big farm. The landlady was not so amicable, and sent him to sleep in the cowshed. There, in the darkness, he heard some growl. Directly lying on the straw was an old and crippled man. On inquiry, Jalandhari heard that he was landlady's father, but because he had become an invalid and had lost his authority in front of his daughter and her husband, he had been relegated there by them. He added that he had tried to get solace from prayer and meditation, but he had failed in that also, and he thought it was too late anyhow. He ended his sad tale of woes with a sigh. Jalandhari took pity of him and gave him an awakening of inner energy. The next day, when the daughter came to the cowshed with a scant meal for the old man, she saw him surrounded by an aura of light. She realized suddenly how she had been mistaken about him, and how petty she had been to have sent him away in such a place. She took him back to the main house, where she served him with due honor and love until her death. (Vijayananda)


When the king of the area was coming back alone to his palace one evening, he came across an old man bent under the weight of a big bundle of sticks. He took pity of him and inquired about his situation in life. "Bad, he answered. Good quality wood becomes rare, and there is a lot of competition from young people. I work hard but earn little." The compassionate king requested his assistant to donate him a certain piece of forest near the city. So he did. One year later, the same king came across the same man again, with another big bundle of sticks on his back. He inquired about his welfare and business: "Bad enough, answered the wood-cutter. I have now fell all the tree of your land except one, but still I can hardly make a living of that!" "You clumsy guy, exploded the king, that wood was not an ordinary one, it was made of sandal trees only!" Realizing his mistake, the old man was nonplussed. The king quickly regained his composure and advised him to cut the last tree. 'Still, by selling it, the monarch added, you'll have enough income until your last days." And it happened so. (Ma Amritanandamayee)


People often ask: "How to discriminate between a genuine and a false spiritual master?" A simple answer could be: "By living some time close to him". The truth about him will come out sooner or later through the observation of his daily behavior. The following story from the Jatakas (the tales of Buddha's previous births) goes in this sense.

In a previous birth, the Buddha was already a wandering ascetic. One day, he observed from far away that a peasant from another village had brought his donkey, covered it with a lion skin and let it free to graze in whichever paddy and field it liked in the neighborhood. Children saw the 'lion' from a distance and ran to the village to give the alert. After deliberation, these frightened people decided to let it go away by itself. But the following days, they saw from the fringe of the village that it was still grazing around. Finally, they emboldened themselves, took arms, drums, and cymbals to frighten the animal and marched towards it. When it saw the whole band coming near, the donkey started trembling and could not help emitting a few piteous hee-haws. Then, the peasants realized that there was foul play and gave a sound beating both to the animal and to his cheating owner.



During the Mahabharata war, Dronacharya, the famous archery guru who had to choose the bad side out of duty, was playing havoc in the camp of the Pandavasm who knew that only one thing could put his moral down completely, the news of the death of his dear son, Ashwattama; but the latter was not so easyly killed. Finally, Krishna devised a trick; he just asked the Pandavas to start shouting suddenly: "Ashwattama is dead! Ashwattama is dead!" But the old Dronacharya was not to be cheated so quickly. He said: "I'll only believe this if Yudhisthira, who never tells a lie, announces the news." Of course, Yuddhisthira first refused categorically to commit this lie, but Krishna murmured something into his ear, and after some time he shouted in a loud voice: "Ashwattama is dead! Ashwattama is dead!" and he added immediately in a low tone: "Ashwattama, the elephant!" An elephant called Ashwattama had indeed been killed recently. This time, Dronacharya believed the news, got terribly depressed and let himself be killed without resistance. As to Yudhisthira, he had previously received the boon that his chariot would never touch the ground when moving, as a reward for his truthfulness. But from that day onwards, his vehicle became an ordinary one, heavily and noisily bumping along the uneven roads.

One may wonder why Krishna, who was both guru and god, had pushed Yudhisthira to commit a lie. It may sometimes happen that the master has to break his disciple's 'sattvic ego', namely, in this case, Yudhisthira's pride of his own truthfulness which had lead him to believe that he was superior to others.


Duryodhana ('the wicked warrior', the chief of the wrong side) was fighting the eighteen day war of the Mahabharata. Every morning, he used to come and ask for her mother's blessing. She was indeed a pious lady with a sense of justice. She disagreed with this wrong war that her son had started, but could not disavow him directly. So every morning she used to answer: "Where there is dharma, there is victory!" On the eighteenth and last day of the battle, Duryiodhana was killed



An outcaste was very devoted to a given form of God worshipped in a certain pilgrimage temple. Unfortunately, due to his low social status and the rule of purity prevalent at that time, he could not enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple to see his beloved deity face to face. However, he was expressing his devotion in many other ways, sweeping the path that pilgrims used to enter the temple premises, rendering small services to them, and so on·and over all, constantly keeping his mind attuned to the presence of the Lord. One day, a brahman came to him. He was visibly moved and in a special spiritual mood. "Last night, the Lord appeared to me in a dream, told me that you were a great bhakta of His and that I should take you in the premise of the temple at all cost." The outcaste said: "How come! I'll never be allowed to put even one foot of this hallowed soil!" They pondered over this problem and suddenly found the solution: the brahman would take the outcaste on his shoulders and enter the compound in this manner. They did so, and when they reached in front of the image, a dazzling light came out of it and absorbed the devotee in its lap.

Usually, gurus are brahman by caste. In this context, the harijan represents the dixciple, which can not reach the Lord because of his impurity; but finally he is able to do so by being "carried on the shoulders" of his guru. Or in a slightly different interpretation, "brahman" does not mean a person of a given caste, but "Brahman", the Absolute. (There is no capital in Sanskrit or Hindi). Whatever our impurities are at the beginning, if we follow our sense of the Absolute are carried by it, we will reach the Goal.


Once, Shiva had in his hand a very precious fruit. He told his two sons, Ganesh and Kartikeya: "It will be given to the one who will be the faster at going around the world." Immediately, Kartikeya who was used to battles and military life started running. To him, his fat brother Ganesh with his big belly was definitely no match; but an idea flashed in the mind of the elephant-god. He quietly went around his mother Parvati, who is also the Mother of the universe. When Kartikeya came back, out of breath but triumphant, he was flabbergasted to hear from Shiva: "Ganesh will get the fruit, because he understood the best way to go around the world."


Tyagaraj (lit: 'the king of renunciates') was both a fine musician and a great saint. The raja of the place had tried several times to coax him to come and stay in his court, but to no avail. He answered invariably: "I'm in possession of God's name, why should I care for the empty glamour of your palace life?" and he stayed on in his dilapidated cottage. One night, he was singing melodic variations on the following verse: "O my mind! The way of devotion is easy. You could walk straight on the royal path, why do you go astray into side lanes?" It happened that the king had just come to see Tyagaraj at that moment. He was in disguise, and in order not to disturb the sage, he decided to climb on the roof of the shabby room and to listen to the song through a hole in the ceiling. After some time, Tyagaraj felt a presence above him and asked: "Who is there?" 'I'm the King!" "Why on earth did you come so secretly and at such an odd time?" After some hesitation, the monarch confessed: "It was probably to hear what you were just saying".


Vishnuchitta (lit.'consciousness, memory of Vishnu') was a pious brahman near the temple of Rangannath (Rangannath's main temple is in Tiruchirapally, Tamil-Nadu). One day, he was plucking some flowers in his garden when he heard a whine in a bush of tulsi. He found there a new-born girl.Vishnuchitta took her to his house, named her Andal and adopted her saying to the Lord, "You gave me this girl, she will be entirely devoted to your service." Indeed, when she grew, she was only interested in plucking flowers and preparing garlands for God, in singing His praise and invoking Him as the divine husband. Otherwise, she was hardly seen speaking to anyone. One day, the temple priest came to Vishnuchitta's and complained: "This is not the first time that I find one or two hair in the garland that your daughter prepares for the Lord. So they become impure and they are not fit to be offered to the image. Please, see to it!" A few days later, the father saw through the half-open door of her room Andal seated in front of her mirror, with the garland for puja around her neck. Startled, he told her in a voice full of reproach: "How come, don't you know that by doing this, the garland will be unfit for the ritual?" "I don't think so, father; I'm just preparing myself for the wedding with the Lord. Soon, I will be beautiful enough for it."

Knowing that his daughter had been given by God and was already more or less immersed in His presence, he remained silent. Some time later, he had the vision of the Lord who told him: "Now, Andal is ready for our wedding. Prepare a palanquin and all the paraphernalia for a grand ceremony in the crypt where is my image." It happened that Andal had got the same vision this night, so this encouraged the father to do as instructed. When they were all present in front of the statue for the event, just at the time of tying the necklace around Andal's neck, a powerful light came out of the image and reabsorbed the bride into it.

This second history of absorption in God shows the ease with which, in India, one can shift from duality to non-duality, from the path of Devotion to the path of Knowledge. Looking at herself in the mirror (path of Knowledge, 'Who am I?'), Andal was in fact seeing God (the garland around the neck, like the image in the temple) in spite of her imperfections (the hair in the garland). This way was agreeable to the Lord, who made the vision complete some time later. Ma Anandamayi used to say in her straightforward way: "By knowing yourself you know God, by knowing God you know yourself."


A disciple of Shankaracharya had been serving him for a long time, but without receiving much teaching from him. One day, the master felt a presence behind him and asked: "Who is there?" "It is I" answered the disciple. "If you like so much this I, the master said, either stretch it to the infinite or give it up completely."


Once a father heard a vedic chanting by a group of children. Because they were far away and surrounded by a crowd, he could not know whether his son was taking part in the recitation or not, nor could he distinguish his voice. But when he came near, he recognized it. Such is Brahma-vidya, the knowledge of the Absolute; it is mixed with the world, but those who come near it can recognize it. (This capacity of recognition (pratyabhijna) is an essential element of sadhana for the school of Kashmir Shaivism. The simile is from the Upanishads).


From the non-dual point of view, everything is one, but those who are capable to live up to this level in their day to day life are rare. There is however the story of a staunch Vedantist monk who seemed to have reached that stage, as the following story suggests: one day, he was knocked out by a robber; some of his friends found him on the roadside, massaged him until he began to wake up progressively. Then, to check if he was conscious, one of them gave him some milk to drink and asked: "Who is the one who is giving you milk?" The monk replied: "The one who knocked me out is the one who is giving me milk."



Once, a king asked a yogi to be taught non-duality in a single word. The yogi told him to wait a little, and that this teaching would come unasked when the favorable circumstances (samyog) would be there. Some time later, a magician came to the palace and started to perform in front of the king and his court. At one point, he gazed at the monarch and quickly moved two of his fingers while repeating: "Behold, o king, behold!" The king became fascinated by the speed of the two fingers, to the extent that after some time he saw only one finger. Then, he realized that he had just got his teaching of non-duality in a single word.

(Ramakrishna, probably inspired by Yoga-Vasishtha)


Once upon a time, there was a dyer who kept a mysterious tub to dye clothes in his shop. Whatever the color, which a given client was asking, he was able to provide it by plunging his cloth in the tub, where the same solution always was. Puzzled, some witty onlooker who was watching the scene from a distance approached the shopkeeper with a cloth too, and requested him to dye it. When he was asked: "What color do you want?", he just answered, "the one which is in the tub!"



Once, a sincere sadhu was doing an intense sadhana in the nahavat-khana (the concert hall) of the Dakshineshwar temple near Calcutta, where Ramakrishna was pujari. One day, the clear sky suddenly became cast with dark clouds, a strong wind blew and again the sky became completely clear. The sadhu went out of his room dancing in joy. When Ramakrishna asked him why he was acting in this way, since he was usually quite composed and self-contained, he replied: "Such is the play of Maya: suddenly, everything seems dark, and then it becomes clear again."



The intellectual approach to religion and God leads to partiality, even to the denial of certain obvious inner experiences. One day, a westernized Bengali saw a friend of his rushing into his house: "I just saw a building collapsing nearby!" The intellectual man answered: "Wait a minute! I must check in my newspaper!" After some time, he came with the daily in his hand: "The news isn't in it, so I can't believe you!"



Two boys left their family to stay abroad. After some time, news came that they had met with an accident and that one of them had died. The family of the dead son went into a terrible bereavement, while that of the survivor could hardly hide their joy that their child had escaped an untimely death. One year later, the 'dead' boy came back home and said: "you're mistaken, wrongly informed; it was the other boy who perished in the accident."


Once the king Dhritarashtra asked his son Duryodhana (the chief of the bad party in the Mahabharata war) to go around the world and to find a good person. After a long time, he came home empty handed: "I looked well in every corner, but couldn't find any good person!" Thus, the old king asked his nephew Yudhisthira (the chief of the good side in the war) to go around the world to find a bad person. He also came back empty handed. Each of them had seen the world through the screen of their own mind.


Once, a queen fell in love with a valiant officer of her husband's army. Unfortunately for them, they were caught red-handed and the king, beside himself with anger, sentenced them to be tortured together in public. But whatever the pains, which were inflicted to them, they were so much fascinated by each other that they did not show any sign of suffering· Such is the power of the merged mind.

(Ramana Maharshi)


A boy was writing a letter to his best friend. He was so engrossed by what he wanted to tell him that he forgot the outer world completely. At the end, he looked up and saw this very friend just in front of him. "What a surprise! For how long have you been here?" "For half an hour at least, but I saw you so absorbed in your writing that I did not want to disturb you".



Once, a dog entered a hall whose floor, ceiling and walls where entirely made of mirrors. Seeing all of a sudden so many dogs around, it became aggressive to fend off its territory, and all the other dogs became threatening as well. So, he started barking, and the whole band began to do so, moreover at the top of their voice. Panicked, it barked as much as it could to save its life, but the result was the contrary: he finally died of exhaustion. It was removed from the hall, and the next day, by chance, a sage came in. Seeing so many sages around, he smiled. Observing so many beautiful smiles, he was overwhelmed by joy; and by remaining on and on in this joy, he became spontaneously absorbed in samadhi.



Once a saint was suddenly overwhelmed by samadhi, and was lying in another state of consciousness just on the roadside. A thief saw him and immediately quickened his pace, saying to himself: "This man may be a criminal who's been knocked down in a row. The police will certainly come soon, better not to be in the area at that time." A tipsy drunkard passed by and laughed at the saint: "This fellow really went too far with the bottle!" and he continued his uncertain way. A sage arrived, recognized the high state of the saint who was lying there, waited for his exit of his ecstasy and then started to speak of God with him deeply.



There was a knock on the door. The father of the family went to open, and was flabbergasted to see a childhood friend standing there. Without even announcing himself, he had come after decades. Overwhelmed by emotion, the father, remaining in the very middle of the threshold, was hugging his friend and telling: "Come in! Please, come in!" But because he was not putting himself aside, the friend could never enter the house·



The sage Ribhu loved his diciple Nidagha very much, although the latter had some difficulty in understanding the non -dual teaching of Vedanta. Finally, he went to the capital and married there. Many years later, he was watching the King's procession when a poor old peasant approached him: "Excuse me, this is my first time ever in the capital. Could you kindly explain me what's going on?" "This is the procession of our king with his elephant" "King, elephant·whispered the peasant in a thoughtful voice. But where is the king, and where is the elephant?" "The king is above, the elephant below" answered Nidagha in a slightly irritated tone. "Excuse me, but this is still not very clear to me: where is above, and where is below?" Exasperated by the stupidity of the old man, the disciple told him to go on four legs, rode on his back and said: "I am above, and you are below!" 'Who is I, and who is you?" Startled by this uncommon question, he saw flashing in his mind the face of his guru, recognized him in the old peasant and fell at his feet. From that day on, the fire of non-dual knowledge was ignited in him, this time forever.

(Pauranic story that Ramana Maharshi liked to tell)


Once upon a time, there was a gracious and bountiful raja. On a given day, he decided to open the stores of his palace to his people. Everyone was allowed to come between morning and dusk and to take whatever he or she wanted. No need to say that the crowd was big on that occasion. Indeed, nobody missed that opportunity· nobody, except a poor old lady. And when the next day, the king sent his messengers to the city in order to know if everyone was satisfied, all of them answered positively, except this old lady. She told the messenger: "Ask your master to come." And so, the raja approached her on his elephant, followed by his whole retinue. She requested him to come down, clasped his hand in hers and said: "Now, I'm satisfied! By getting one I got all!" The king immediately grasped the import of what she said, invited her to stay in his palace and cared for her until her last breath, as if she were his own mother.


* * *