During the rainy season swamis do not travel, but stay in one place for four months. People then come and learn the scriptures from them. Although I was still being trained as a swami, I too would teach every day. Students often create problems for a teacher. For instance, the first thing they do is place him high above them so that there is limited communication. My students built a high platform on which I was asked to sit. I was inordinately proud that I had a large following. That happens when you are a neophyte and hanker after name and fame. The more one’s followers increase, the more egotistical one becomes.

I remained under the notion that one particular swami among my students was not very knowledgeable. During my lectures he used to sit quietly in a corner. This swami was actually an advanced adept, although I was not at all aware of it. He came because I used to pray to the Lord, “Lord, enlighten me. Help me, Lord.” I sincerely cried and prayed, so the Lord sent that man to me. And what did I do? I used to give my loincloth to him for washing, and I would order him to do things for me all day. He was with me for two months before deciding to teach me a lesson.

One morning we were both sitting on a rock on a bank of the Ganges. While brushing my teeth, I ordered, “Go and fetch me some water.” He had had enough of my swollen ego. He said, “Go on brushing.” I lost awareness of what was happening to me after that.

Two days later some people found me lying there. My face was horribly swollen. I had dropped the brush but was still rubbing my finger in my mouth continuously. I was doing it unconsciously. My master appeared and said, “Get up!” I opened my eyes but could not lift my face, it was so heavy. My gums were swollen and I could not move my jaw.

Then my master told me, “That swami is a great sage. God sent him to you. You do not know to be humble and behave properly with the men of God. Now I hope you have learned a lesson. Do not commit this mistake again.” Then he said, “Get up; look at the sky and start walking.”

I protested, “If I keep on looking at the sky and continue walking, I will stumble and fall down.” He said, “Bow your head and then you will be able to walk without stumbling. For going through this hazardous journey of life, you should learn to be humble. Ego and pride are two stumbling blocks on this journey. If you are not humble, you cannot learn. Your growth will be stunted.”

When one begins to tread the path of spirituality it is essential to be humble. Ego creates barriers, and the faculty of discrimination is lost. If discrimination is not sharpened, reason does not function properly and there is no clarity of mind. A clouded mind is not a good instrument on the path of enlightenment.

“There must be renunciation, there must be action: in reconciliation of the two, the crown of life resides.” It is not action that ought to be renounced, but the fruit of action. Be sure that the ego has been annihilated in the ocean of consciousness. Be sure that it is not lurking somewhere in the inner dark chamber of your heart. Its ways are various and its forms are numerous. Action greased with love gives a glimpse of eternity and perpetual joy.

Editor’s Note

This is an excerpt from the book – Living with the Himalayan Masters, pp. 115-116, by Swami Rama, published in 1999 by the Himalayan Institute India.