Sri Ramakrishna would say that to progress in spiritual life one should be constantly alert and ever willing to learn. If one is keen and humble, it is possible to learn from ever so many teachers. To illustrate the idea he would narrate incidents from the life of a proverbial Avadhuta who is supposed to have had 24 Gurus or teachers.

Stork in Rice Field

One day the Avadhuta was walking along when he saw a stork walking slowly on a marshland to catch fish. Behind the bird there was a hunter aiming an arrow at its body. But the bird was totally unaware and unmindful of this fact. The Avadhuta saluted the stork and said, “When I sit for meditation let me follow your example and never turn back to see who is behind me.

In the incident quoted, the bird was so focused and one-pointed in its effort that it was not even aware of the death trap.

On another occasion, the Avadhuta found a Guru in a bee. The bee had been storing up honey assiduously for a long period of time. One day a man suddenly came from nowhere and broke the beehive and drained up the entire collection of honey. The bee was not destined to enjoy the fruit of its long and assiduous labour.

On seeing this the Avadhuta said, “Lord! Thou art my Guru. From thy I learn what is the ultimate end of accumulating riches.” People accumulate so much in the world hoping that they would enjoy, but the majority of them ultimately are never able to enjoy such accumulations.

Either death or destruction or some other occurrence comes in between and prevents them from doing so. Thus it is extremely important to develop a sense of detachment and dispassion or Vairagya towards worldly possessions. Such an attitude is very essential for progressing in spiritual life.

-by Swami Shantatmananda, published in the Sunday Guardian, 31st May 2014.

(photo courtesy: Laura Stolfi)

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