Today, December 8, 2012, is my grandfather, Acharya Ratnananda’s 88th birthday. I fondly recollect my childhood and growing up with him. His stories enriched our imagination and values. His example continues to inspire us to walk a path of love and service, in a humble yet joyous manner.
– By Acharya Ratnananda
“Give way! Get away!” shouted a disciple, while another screamed, “The Master is coming, everyone give way!” Most people on the way complied. However, one rather unclean looking man and his company of dogs declined to budge, and stayed right in the middle of the path. The disciples accompanying the Master were quite upset with the behavior of this man and his barking dogs.
The Master also perceived the obstinacy of the obstacle and said in anguish, “Are you deaf? Did you not hear my disciples? Take yourself away from my path.” The man just laughed, increasing the discomfiture of the Master and the anger of his disciples.
He calmly looked at the Master and asked, “Whom do you want me to take away from your path? The Soul, which is in you and me, and is non-dual, or this body, which according to your teachings is a product of maya (illusion). How can you or I take either of them away from you or me?”
The disciples were shocked and stunned at these words from an unclean and uncouth specimen of humanity. However, they were prepared by now, to forcibly lift the man out of the way of the Master.
Even the Master was surprised. He realized that the concept of Advaita or one reality was thrown back at him in such a simple manner, by such a simple looking person.
He calmed his angry disciples and forbade them from harming the man. He folded his hands in obeisance and said, “My dear sir, you have educated the educator by polishing my knowledge with your experience. I bow to thee as my preceptor. Please could you tell me who you really are?”
“Reality is just one, and all our concepts could ultimately lead us to less than two, though it appears with a multitude of names and forms, qualities and qualifications, virtues and vices.”
“I am teaching this truth to others, but today I also learn this reality from you,” said the Master turned student.
The great Master was none other than Adi Shankaracharya, while the outwardly uncouth and unclean person was none other than the unmanifest Divinity in a manifest form.
This story teaches us to expect wisdom from even unexpected situations, and the true, non-dual nature of existence.