Pundit and Peasant

Once during a visit to the Ashram in the 1940s I was sitting outside the Old Hall with many devotees, facing Sri Bhagavan who was reclining on a couch. A group of learned pundits were discussing certain passages from the Upanishads with great enthusiasm and profundity. All, including Bhagavan, appeared to be attentively listening to this interesting discussion when, all of a sudden, Bhagavan rose from his couch, walked thirty meters to the north, and stood before a villager who was standing there looking lowly with palms joined.

Immediately the discussion stopped and all eyes were turned to Bhagavan and the villager standing at a distance. They appeared to be conversing, but at such a distance no one could tell about what. Soon Bhagavan returned to his couch and the discussion resumed.

I was curious about this villager and why Bhagavan had gone out of his way to meet him. So, while the discussion continued I slipped away and caught up with him before he left the Ashram. I asked the villager what he and Bhagavan had talked about. He said that Bhagavan had asked him why he was standing there so far away. "I told Bhagavan, 'I am only an ignorant, poor villager. How am I to approach you who are God incarnate?'"

"What did the Maharshi say then?" I asked.

"He asked me my name, what village I was from, what work I did and how many children I had, etc."

"Did you ask Him anything?"

"I asked Him how I could be saved and how I could earn His blessings."

"What did He tell you?"

"He asked me if there was a temple in my village. I told him there was. He wanted to know the name of the deity of that temple. I told Him the name. He then said that I should go on repeating the name of that deity and I would receive all the blessings needed."

I came back to Bhagavan's presence and sat among the devotees listening to the learned discussion, in which I had now lost all interest, realizing that the simple humility and devotion of this peasant had evoked a far greater response from our Master than any amount of learning. I then decided that, though a scholar by profession, I should always remain a humble, ignorant peasant at heart, and pray, like that villager, for Bhagavan's grace and blessings.

- Professor K. Swaminathan