Sequestered in the hills of the Himalayas there lived a practical saint named Ramaka. He was often visited by a wealthy, worldly man who showed great outward devotion, but who was at one time a great sinner. Though presently reformed, the rich man kept company with this great saint mostly for the purpose of concealing his old traits by making it appear that he was becoming religious.
After some time, the rich hypocrite, pretending great devotion to the saint, decided to seek spiritual instruction from him. Accompanied by his wife and two servants, he went to demand spiritual instruction.
The saint, upon beholding these four people desirous of taking lessons from him, addressed them as follows: “Hello, Mr. Rich Man and your companions. I want you to know that I only make disciples of those who pass my spiritual tests.”
With great braggadocio, the rich man and the two servants shouted in unison, “Of course, we will be glad to go through your tests and will be sure to win.” The humble wife remained silent. Then she meekly said, “Only if God blesses my efforts may I be successful.”
Suddenly the saint was possessed with the desire to roam through his banana grove and he soon returned with eight bananas. He handed two of the bananas to each of the four persons — the husband, the wife, and the two servants. Then the saint said, “Will you please, each of you, go out singly to the loneliest spot that you can find and secretly eat the bananas, then come back to me. Remember, if you aspire to pass my test, you must not be seen by anyone while you are eating the bananas, and you must surely return by evening.”
The rich husband, over-confident and proud, went to a private bathroom in a friend’s house and brought forth the two bananas he had hidden in his pocket. Then, in haste, he swallowed the bananas, skins and all, and soon returned to the saint. He said, “Honored sir, it is done.” The saint only smiled and replied, “It is strange that you could within such a short time find a really lonely place free from the presence of anyone.”
The two servants, after a long search, finally went into a deep forest and found different caves where they ate their fruit and returned to the saint. The saint, on seeing them, said, “Oh, I am astonished to find that you think you found the best hiding places and were able to eat the bananas without being secretly watched by anyone. How do you know that no one was watching while you were eating the two bananas?”
The servants replied, “No, sir. Nobody could see into the dark caves where we ate the bananas. Even we could not see the bananas while we were eating them.”
The Saint enigmatically smiled and gently remarked, “Just the same, you never can tell who might be watching you eat the bananas.”
At last, when evening came, the humble wife of the rich man returned very tired and depressed. Placing her two bananas in front of the saint, she said, “Honored sage, I am sorry I cannot pass your test. All day long I have tried to find a secret place –– in closed rooms; in the man-forsaken wild gardens of nature; in deep valleys, forests, ravines, and dark mountain caves; and in the secret temple of my mind –– where I could eat the bananas –– but I couldn’t find it.
“When I went into the vast fields, I saw a Silent Being nodding in the blades of grass. I tried the garden of wild flowers, and there I saw Somebody smiling at me through the opened lips of petals, mocking my fruitless attempt to find a lonely place. I tried the valleys and ravines, and Somebody’s tall stony mountain neck quivered, and I knew I was being watched. Then, at last, desperate and dreaming, I tried the dark mountain caves, and as I tried to eat the bananas, I felt an Invisible Presence.
“I seemed to hear laughter and Someone saying, ‘Look, I am the light which shineth even in the midst of utmost darkness and in the gloom of mountain breasts.’ I ignored the laughing voice, and yet, as I tried to eat the bananas, the darkness shivered and threw a streak of light, revealing the fruit in my hand. I closed my eyes and made up my mind to eat the bananas without paying any attention to the light which fell on them.
“Suddenly I saw all my thoughts awakened in the dark temple of my mind, and they rebuked me, seeming to say, ‘You can’t eat the bananas alone. We are all watching you, and our Supreme Father, who gave us birth, is ever with us, invisibly yet most tangibly watching you lest you be deluded into thinking you can find a spot where He does not live — a spot free from His all-pervading gaze where you could secretly eat the bananas.’ So I gave up and now, holy sir, I am at your feet unable to go through your test.”
The saint, with gleaming eyes, at last spoke, “Sacred lady, it is you alone, by your humbleness and calmness who have really understood the purpose of my test, and have most honorably and admirably succeeded in taking it.” Turning to the proud husband and his servants, he commanded, “Behold, she is your Guru-Preceptor. You must take lessons from her; and whatever lesson she gives you — that will be the first lesson I shall give you when you come again to see me.”