Six Blind Boys and an Elephant
Master enjoyed telling the fable, after so many years now well known in this country, of six blind brothers who received from their father the task of washing an elephant. Each boy was assigned to a different part of the beast: the tusks, the trunk, the ears, the sides, the legs, the tail. Each of them, unable to see the whole elephant, thought he could describe the animal from the part he was washing. Comparing their experience afterward, one of the boys said, “The elephant is like two long bones.”
“How can you say that, brother?” protested the second. “The elephant is like a long rope hanging down from the sky.”
“Ah, no!” expostulated the third. “The elephant is like a couple of large fans.”
“I don’t know how you can make such ridiculous statements,” cried the fourth, “when the elephant so clearly resembles a large wall.”
“Absurd!” shouted the fifth. “I know from experience that the elephant is four sturdy pillars.”
“Brothers! Brothers!” complained the sixth, “I can tell you are all making fun of me. I know from my own experience that the animal you’re making out to be such a marvel of complexity is like nothing but a piece of string dangling from heaven.”
At this point their father entered the room. Hearing the altercation, he cried, “Boys! Boys! You are quarreling over nothing. All of you are right, and all of you at the same time are wrong.”
“Respected father, how,” they demanded, “can we be both?”
“I am able to see the whole elephant. Each of you has been washing only one part of it. You’ve been speaking from experience, I grant you, and to that extent all of you are right. But your experience is limited. It is only by pooling your knowledge, not by using what you know against one another, that you will arrive at an understanding of what the elephant really looks like.”
Looking back over my years in SRF, I am forced to the conclusion that all of us were like those six boys. Each of us saw one, or perhaps even several, aspects of Master’s work without comprehending its entire scope.
Tara’s influence on Daya Mata, and through Daya on SRF, increased steadily-determinedly, on Tara’s part. In the process, it gradually neutralized my own influence. She telephoned Daya almost daily and instructed her, speaking as a senior disciple, in the attitudes her junior must hold as president. If Daya demurred, Tara would accuse her of disloyalty.
“She can dish it out,” Daya commented to me one day, “but she can’t take it.” Tara was resolved that her own view of the work be accepted as the proper view, to the exclusion of all other views. Tara even said to me once, “I’ve come to realize that those who are against me are against Master. And that means, they are against God.”
Daya Mata had only me to influence her toward a people-oriented mission. In this position I see now that I stood virtually alone. True, Meera Mata did agree with me, but her agreement didn’t amount to active participation. Practically speaking, she sat on the sidelines. The resistance to my philosophy was growing on the part of certain other disciples who had lived with Master more years than I. It was like a seesaw: Daya Mata at the fulcrum point; I at one end, never realizing that I was alone; the others grouped at varying distances on the other side of the fulcrum. Tara, the heavyweight in this analogy, sat firmly at the opposite end; she represented the polar south to my north.
Tara’s influence stiffened a predilection already growing in the work. There had been a tendency anyway, seldom voiced of course, to consider public teaching and lecturing as a dance with delusion. The monks, whose responsibility it was to go out and teach, were generally looked upon by the nuns as second-class citizens, spiritually speaking. Daya Mata actually said once to Brother Anandamoy and me, “Let’s face it, women are more spiritual than men.” To remain behind the scenes, guiding and developing the organization through correspondence, and by sending out the lessons by mail, seemed to most of the renunciate disciples more in keeping with the deep-seated desire I suppose we all felt to devote ourselves to communing with God in meditation. If our role in this life was to serve Master’s work, then the best way, surely, was to do it as much as possible from a position of obscurity.
Often, when a person feels duty-bound to do something that goes against his natural grain, he will hurl himself into it with even greater zeal than if such an action were natural to him. The one who pursues wealth out of personal desire will be less likely to deprive himself of other natural interests such as home, family, social position, and innocent pleasures. It is the one who doesn’t want money, but feels in some way obligated to devote himself to its pursuit, who is the most likely in the process to become one-sided. This is all the more likely to happen if the assigned duty involves serving God.
Much as I wanted to cooperate with Daya Mata and to go along with the understanding Master’s closest disciples had of his wishes for the work, I couldn’t dismiss from my mind the things he had told me, personally. And I couldn’t help becoming growingly aware that there was a discrepancy somewhere. My natural reaction was to question my own understanding of his wishes. Yet I knew what he had said. And I couldn’t help wondering why he had encouraged me in a way so opposite to their priorities if there was a chance that I would fundamentally misunderstand his true wishes for me. I had never asked for that encouragement.
“Walter, you have a great work to do.” On all but one of the occasions on which he said this to me, we were alone. On that single exception, the other person was a man who never really figured in the development of the work, and who later left it. When Rajarsi said to me, “Master has a great work to do through you, Walter, and he will give you the strength to do it,” there were other monks present, but Rajarsi spoke so softly that even I had to strain to hear him. He uttered those words when I approached him for his blessing. (We were taking turns doing so.) It never dawned on me on any of these occasions that this information was being given to me privately for a reason. Yet the fact that it was so given has emboldened leaders in SRF to comment in recent times, “Kriyananda has a ‘great work’ to do, all right-on himself!”
“Your work is writing and lecturing.” Considering the fact that Tara wasn’t even getting out Master’s books, what chance had I of getting any of my own works published through SRF? Everything that was intended for publication had necessarily to pass through her hands, and was editorially screened by her.
“Apart from Saint Lynn, every man has disappointed me. And you mustn’t disappoint me!” I never quoted these words to others. Had I done so, it would have given the women disciples only one more reason to look down on the men disciples, though what Master was pleading with me was to understand and accept an aspect of the work that the women, even more than the men, had always ignored.
“No more moods, now. Otherwise, how will you be able to help people?” Were the others to try to reconstruct his advice for my benefit or for anyone else’s, they would phrase it quite differently, probably something like this: “No more moods, now, or you’ll get out of tune.” Their advice would be directed inward, in other words, not outward. Master knew that I’d be motivated more easily by an appeal to my desire to help others.
Though he encouraged me to meditate, it was on serving others that he placed his main emphasis. “Your life,” he told me, “is one of intense activity and meditation.” The tone of his voice, as well as the secondary placement of meditation in the sentence, suggested that meditation was not his primary emphasis for me. Thus, perhaps I had misunderstood him when he announced, or Divine Mother announced through him, during the all-day Christmas meditation in 1949: “Walter, you must try hard, for God will bless you very much.” After redoubling my meditative efforts for several months, I approached him and asked, “Sir, I keep trying, but I don’t seem to be getting results.” “You are trying too hard,” he replied. “It becomes nervous. That is why, in the beginning, it is better to emphasize relaxation.” His admonishment to “try hard,” then, may have been intended to urge me toward the “intense activity” that he later predicted for me.
I am aware that this inference might be argued from more than one point of view. Yet it was evident that he wanted me to “try hard” also, even if not primarily, in the field of action. And it was in my efforts to obey him in this field that I ran afoul of others’ demands of me. What they wanted of me was that I “slow down,” not be so eager, wait to be told what to do and not keep coming to them with endless ideas for expansive ways of serving people. Novelty was not welcome to them. Every time I came up with a new proposal, their first reaction was, “Study other organizations and see how they’ve handled this problem.”
Master also told me, “God won’t come to you until the end of life. Death itself is the final sacrifice you will have to make.” This must mean he saw my life primarily in terms of sacrifice. And what of “death itself” as a sacrifice? Did he mean martyrdom?
In answer to my question, “Will I find God in this life?” he replied, “Yes … but don’t think about it.” The unspoken, though guessed-at, inference from this statement was, “Meanwhile, you have a lot of work to do.”
“Remember,” he told me once, “you won’t be safe until you achieve nirbikalpa samadhi.” These words were, I take it, a warning that I was destined to walk through minefields of temptation in my service to him. Thus, his reference to a life of sacrifice assumes special significance for me. How many times, since leaving SRF, have I had to “enter the camp of the enemy,” keeping my mind sympathetically open to ways of thinking that were not my own in the hope of learning how to persuade other people to embrace higher ways.
My life of service to others has not given me much time to think of my own spiritual development. Again and again I have had to “shelve” that primary aspiration in order to obey a deep-seated impulse, as well as Master’s directions to me, to bring others along with me. I find consolation at least in the fact that this apparent sacrifice has kept me from thinking very much about myself and my own needs. And it has brought me to the point of not knowing whether I even have any such needs. At any rate, I am aware of none.
To others, Master said, “Follow Faye.” He never gave such counsel to me, though I worked more with her than with the others. To me, rather, his counsel one day regarding her was simply to maintain a certain distance.
“Sir,” I had asked him previously, because my work brought me into frequent contact with her, “may I go to her for counseling when I can’t come to you?”
He gave reluctant consent, then added, “But don’t talk to her about sex.”
“Oh, Sir,” I remonstrated, shocked, “I wouldn’t! And even if I did, she wouldn’t.”
“I wanted to say,” he explained, “where the monks are concerned.”
In retrospect, I realize that he saw my sphere of action as lying far from the activities of SRF. Once he tested me to make sure of my loyalty. A certain minister of SRF had left the work and was giving lectures and classes in the city of Long Beach, presenting Master’s teachings as though they were his own. Master sent me to listen to his talks and report back. I think his wish was to see whether there lurked in my subconscious mind any ripple of attraction to what that minister was doing. There was none. I knew I could never be disloyal. Master indicated his satisfaction with me days before he left his body. Gazing into my eyes lovingly, he said, “You have pleased me very much. I want you to know that.”