Once upon a time a bigoted Hindu priest with a grizzly beard and a fierce face presided over a temple. He was hopelessly and violently dogmatic, as he had been trained by his deceased teacher. Having acquired the prosperous temple of Sabarmati, he ascribed all his good fortune to his teacher’s grace, and thus vowed to train his disciples similarly with severe discipline and unquestioning obedience.
Every day he harangued the members of his temple in a stentorian voice, and beseeched them to be implicitly obedient to him. With his uncontrolled imagination, he described the fires of Hades consuming all spiritual dissenters and rebels. Being ignorant, he did not like to be questioned as to his beliefs and statements. He especially disliked intelligent disciples because his untested dogmas melted like butter before the flames of their bright minds. Because the intelligent ones saw through his obviously barren soul, he branded all of them as “infidels.”
Nonetheless, the ignorant priest was magnetic enough to attract to himself a group of assorted illiterates and others with dogma-hardened brains, who always agreed with him and were ready to launch stones of dogma at the wise, and to pelt into silence any signs of wisdom. Bye and bye the priest found himself the proud leader of a band of idiots who did nothing but agree with him. It so happened that one day his students asked, “Honored priest, will you please show us the true way to pray and the absolutely certain method of contacting God?”
The priest, certain of meeting no scrutiny from his blind unquestioning followers, replied, “My most loyal Heaven-loved children. That is easy. I can teach you how to pray and how to contact God, provided you do exactly as I do after I start teaching you.”
His followers responded as a group, “Hosanna, Hallelujah! Heaven bless our great teacher-priest. We solemnly swear to do exactly as you do until doomsday if you will only teach us.”
The priest beckoned and said, “All right, my children. Follow me to the temple and sit around me and, after that, do exactly as I do.” The priest sat on a cushion in the middle of the temple, which was half-lighted by the morning sun. The dogma-stuffed students sat around him drenched with devotion, all ready to follow whatever the master-priest did.
The priest braced up and said, “Sit upright.” The two hundred devout ones howled, “Sit upright.” The priest, at this unexpected display of idiocy, looked around, and the disciples, seeing the master look around, also looked around. In disgust, the master-priest sat bolt upright, closed his eyes and prayed, “O Spirit, benign Lord.” The disciples all sat upright and shouted in unison, “O Spirit, benign Lord.”
The priest exclaimed again, “Benign Lord of the universe, bless us with the knowledge which will make us obey our master implicitly.” The students, with increased devotion, repeated the words which the master-priest uttered. The priest noticed a little draft coming through a temple window and began to feel an uncontrollable, tickling sensation in his throat. Before he could utter more words of prayer, he coughed. All of the disciples coughed too. By now, the master was aghast at the behavior of his disciples, resulting from his blind training.
Nonetheless, as he coughed again and sneezed, all his disciples coughed and sneezed. The master, now livid with anger, shouted, “Shut up, you ripe idiots! Don’t cough, and don’t imitate me!” The disciples shouted together, “Shut up, you ripe idiots. Don’t cough, and don’t imitate me!”
The priest, now purple with rage, stood up and shouted at the top of his voice, “This outrageous idiocy must stop.” The matchless two hundred best products of his training stood up and shouted, “This outrageous idiocy must stop.”
By now, the priest, feeling helpless and beside himself with wrath, forgot the dignity of his position and, with a resounding slap, forcefully slapped the cheek of one of his assorted idiots. His two hundred devout disciples followed suit and repeatedly slapped one another, and also the master, until their cheeks began to grow hot and redder than fire.
The priest, mad with agony and his face burning with the fire of the unending blows, rushed out of the temple crying, “Water, water.” The disciples followed him shouting, “Water, water,” slapping one another all the time.
The master-priest, knowing no other way of escape, jumped into the well to cool his burning cheeks. Well, you know what happened then. The two hundred dogma-drugged disciples jumped into the well on top of the master-priest, and all were drowned.
The foregoing story has a two-fold message. One, it shows why theology-stuffed dogmatists, who follow untested beliefs, will ultimately, like the blind following the blind, be drowned in the same pit of ignorance. Ignorant students should not cling to ignorant spiritual teachers, for they drag each other down, to sink in ignorance.
The second message relates to the influence of your subconscious mind, which can torture you with bad habits.
Do you know that your subconscious habits are just like scores of young idiots imitating the priest of your wrong-judgment? If by mistake you choose a wrong action, your subconscious mind imitates the wrong action of your conscious mind and keeps on repeating it until the wrong action grows into a bad habit. Your subconscious mind is the blind imitator of your conscious mind. If your conscious mind becomes dogmatic and unreasonable, like the priest in the story, then your subconscious mind will do likewise. A dogmatic subconscious mind strengthens the dogma of the conscious mind
If the priest in the story had been wise, he would not have attracted ignorant, mimicking disciples and he would not have expired. A wise conscious mind builds a wise subconscious mind. The subconscious wisdom-accustomed mind, in turn, strengthens an already-wise conscious mind.
The above story specially illustrates that you must be constantly watchful about how you train your conscious mind. Good habits insure easy performance of good actions, while bad habits compel you to do evil against your will. So be careful what you choose to do consciously, lest you form bad habits through the power of the subconscious mind.
This article was great fun to read. Thank you, Naidhruva, for researching and publishing these instructional stories from Paramhansa Yogananda.