There is a funny story told by a very renowned swami from India. One time there was a guru, or master, and his disciple. They both were swamis, renunciants. The master taught the disciple informally. He didn’t read texts, and he didn’t elaborate on commentaries or holy scripture. Instead he taught informally through gestures and examples. The guru always told the disciple, “Don’t become somebody. Never become somebody.” That was his message. The disciple said that he understood that. One day they set off on a pilgrimage. They traveled together, and the guru took him to a royal palace. It was quite a long journey, and when they finally arrived they both were exhausted. In the garden of the palace there were cottages. The guru entered one of the cottages and immediately fell asleep. The disciple, imitating his teacher, went to another cottage and fell asleep. They slept peacefully for about a half hour, and then the king arrived with his entourage. The king saw these two strange people sleeping in his cottages, and he was furious. First he went to the disciple and demanded, “Who are you?” The disciple woke up and saw the wrathful expression on the king’s face. He was terrified, and he said, “I am a swami.” The king said, “You are such a crazy swami!” He grabbed a whip from one of his servants, started beating the disciple, and threw him out of the cottage. Then the king approached the guru. Again he was very furious and demanded, “Who are you?” The guru said, “Hmmmm.” He didn’t answer. The king shouted loudly, “I asked, who are you?” Again, the guru didn’t say anything except “Hmmmm.” The king said, “He is a half-wit. He is obviously an idiot. Just take him out of here.” Finally, the guru and the disciple met up with each other. The disciple was moaning and groaning. He had pain everywhere because he was injured from the beating. The guru said, “I told you, don’t become anybody. You forgot my message and look what has happened to you. I didn’t become anybody so I am perfectly fine. You became somebody. You became a swami in that royal cottage and you were punished for that.”
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
This is the first of your three free articles this month. Subscribe today to gain access to our award-winning publication plus all of our online offerings, including films, video dharma talks, e-books, and more.Subscribe Now
Already a subscriber? Log in.