A few people have asked me regarding their options of contacting me and contributing towards the ashram project. Before I answer their question, let me narrate a story I read over twenty years ago in a children’s illustrated book.

A guru and his disciple — an ordained monk — live blissfully on the outskirts of a certain village. After the guru imparts his teachings, he decides to go away and do Tapas (penance) in solitude for a few years. He speaks to his disciple and informs him of his decision. The guru further instructs his disciple regarding the code of conduct reminding him of his vows of Sannyasa (renunciation) and asks him to stay firm in his Nitya Karma, (spiritual discipline)

The guru bids the disciple goodbye and makes tracks towards his destination. The disciple begins to lead a life of righteous conduct, keeping only minimal possessions; a couple of cooking pots, his begging bowl, two sets of ochre robes and two loincloths, being his only material possessions. One day, he is greatly perturbed upon finding a loincloth tattered by mice. When he goes for alms that day, he asks a villager for a piece of cloth so that he may replace his loincloth. The donor obliges. The following day, however, the same thing happens again; mice shred the new loincloth to pieces.

The disciple feels uncomfortable begging for a new loincloth again. Nevertheless, he asks for another. Needs easily overpower self-esteem just like lustful desires can override morality and intelligence. The giver advises him to keep a cat to eliminate the mice. What a plausible idea, thinks the disciple. The very same day he arranges for a cat and as expected, the mice disappear as if they had never existed — much like most material attainments.

A few happy days pass by before the disciple faces another challenge. Truly, such is the nature of the material world; it is so temporary and unstable. He now has to feed the cat. And in order to do that, he has to beg for more food. An intelligent soul suggests that the disciple should keep a cow. He further argues that the cow’s milk could be used to feed the cat as well as supplement the monk’s meal. A noble one in the village promptly donates a cow. The disciple experiences a rush of ecstasy thinking of all the dairy products he will have free access to henceforth.

Another few days go by; the disciple now has a cottage, a cat, and a shed for a cow with the cow in it. Of course, his loincloths are intact now. Feeding, cleaning and milking the cow takes up the most part of his day. He finds himself gasping for time to perform his spiritual practices. After all, if not for the life of an ordained monk, he would not even need to be in a loincloth in the first place. He takes his predicament to a wise householder in the village.

The neo-grey-haired wise man happens to have a daughter of marriageable age. Seeing the simple nature and virtuous qualities of the monk, he offers his daughter’s hand to him. The monk sees little harm and a lot more benefit in this. So, he agrees; a natural reaction. For, in desperation one’s thinking is clouded and all means appear just and right.

The wife turns out to be a noblewoman. They start to lead a happy life. Everything becomes easy for the disciple. His daily needs are met by the loyal and clever wife. She encourages him to procure more land around his cottage and more animals so that they can sell milk and make dairy products, and therefore save more money. They, naturally, add a couple of kids to the family equation.

The monk makes a compromise with his spiritual practices, since he now finds making money and the gaudy life more attractive. Occasionally, he spares a thought for his guru and a sense of guilt overtakes him for relinquishing his vows in the pursuit of a material lifestyle. But, when in youth and rolling in money, the material world seems a place worth living in and living for.

One day, the guru, after his penance of twelve years returns to the village. He looks at the property askance. The place, presently adorned with tens of cows and servants, looks twenty times bigger than what he had left behind.

The guru thinks that some crook must have encroached on the land, evicting the simpleton disciple. He decides to go inside to hex the culprit with the power of his long penance. Signs of fury show on his brow before he is greeted with a dandvata pranama — obeisance offered in the most respectful manner. The guru does not want to believe what he sees: his disciple, in the attire of a householder. Before he can gulp down his emotions, the disciple signals his three children to bow down at the feet of his guru. Shocked, shaken and shattered, the guru somehow manages to stay alive. He pinches himself to confirm that he is not dreaming.

With great dismay and dire inquisitiveness, he takes his disciple aside to understand the situation. “How on earth could you get entangled in all this?” asks the guru, shaking his head in disgust. The disciple lowers his head a little, and further lowering his eyes, shyly utters out in a voice barely audible, “I had to do all this to save my loincloth.”

I hope you get my answers from the story above.

Swami