Observe and Serve

–       By Acharya Ratnananda

Sage Kautilya (also known as Chanakya) was a great scholar and exponent of the laws of human relationships. He had many disciples, one of whom later became the emperor of India.

Gurudev, as he was reverentially called, would often say, “Observe before you serve. Only then service becomes more fulfilling. Avoid serving unworthy causes, for it becomes “Apatra Dhaana” i.e. charity misplaced.”

Many of his disciples were unable to understand the depth of his wisdom for they had learnt from tradition that charity should pour like rain upon all, and should not be selective for a few.

One day, a crafty fellow from a neighboring town came to the Master and said, “Sir, I have heard that you are a great exponent of wit and wisdom. I seek your help in making me wealthy beyond compare!” When the other disciples heard this, they were startled and angry at the man’s insolence and wanted to throw him out.

The Master just smiled and said, “Young man, wealth is of two types, spiritual and material. I will teach you the variety you deserve. Before that I will give you a small test. From the sand mass in front of you, pick up two pebbles, one white and one black and put them in your bag. I will then ask one of my disciples to pick up one of the pebbles from your bag. If he picks up a white pebble, I will teach you spiritual wealth. If he picks up a black pebble, then I will teach you how to become materially wealthy.”

The crafty fellow agreed, and smiled mischievously. Without anybody’s notice, he picked up and bagged two black pebbles only, feeling sure that he outwitted the great sage. He wanted only material wealth, and now he had ensured that whichever pebble the disciple took out, it would only be black. The Master would be forced to teach him how to become materially rich.

What he did not know, however, was the fact that the Master and another observant disciple had seen his trick. After he signaled that he was ready, the Master turned to the observant disciple and said, “Please pick up one of the pebbles and we will fulfill his wish.” The other disciples smiled in faith, and the crafty chap smiled in mischief.

The disciple put his hand into the bag, took out a pebble and before anyone could see, he dropped it on the sand mass, as if by mistake. He then profusely apologized to the Master for his clumsiness.

The others watched with curiosity and the craft fellow with confusion. But the Master just smiled and said, “It does not matter if you have dropped one pebble. As the seeker had collected one black and one white pebble, per my instructions, the one that is left in the bag will reveal your initial choice. So, take out the other pebble in the bag.”

“So,” the Master said, “my disciple has taken out the while pebble, though he dropped it later. Hence, I take it that you require spiritual wealth and will give it to you.”

Upon observing that his evil action was punished without public exposure, the crafty fellow was shocked and stricken with remorse and regret. He fell at the Master’s feet, and revealed his crooked scheme and requested for forgiveness. He sought the Master’s guidance to reform himself and pleaded Sage Kautilya to accept him as a disciple.

To the amazed disciples, the Master smilingly said, “When this fellow came for help, I utilized the opportunity and gave him and also all of you a test to observe his action and expected that you would do it. But none of you except Chandragupta, the observant one, were able to see through the fellow’s trickery. We wanted to help this man, and hence we remained silent and later taught him what he really needed – honesty, integrity, and sobriety in life – more than money.”

“This incident gives you a clear observation that you have to observe before you serve anyone, so that you render to the person, the best of services that he deserves, though he may not desire it.”

This story was adapted from Acharya Ratnananda’s More Light on Less Known, Volume III

Advertisements