( Story told by Swami Vivekananda )
This is a story from one of the books of India, called “Lives of Saints”. There was a young man, a Brahmin by birth, in a certain village. The man fell in love with a bad woman in another village. There was a big river between the two villages, and this man, every day, used to go to that girl, crossing this river in a ferry boat.
Now, one day he had to perform the obsequies of his father, and so, although he was longing, almost dying to go to the girl, he could not. The ceremonies had to be performed, and all those things had to be undergone; it is absolutely necessary in Hindu society. He was fretting and fuming and all that, but could not help it. At last the ceremony ended, and night came, and with the night, a tremendous howling storm arose. The rain was pouring down, and the river was lashed into gigantic waves. It was very dangerous to cross. Yet he went to the bank of the river. There was no ferry boat. The ferrymen were afraid to cross, but he would go; his heart was becoming mad with love for the girl, so he would go. There was a log floating down, and he got that, and with the help of it, crossed the river, and getting to the other side dragged the log up, threw it on the bank, and went to the house.
The doors were closed. He knocked at the door, but the wind was howling, and nobody heard him. So he went round the walls and at last found what he thought to be a rope, hanging from the wall. He clutched at it, saying to himself, “Oh, my love has left a rope for me to climb.” By the help of that rope he climbed over the wall, got to the other side, missed his footing, and fell, and noise aroused the inmates of the house, and the came out and found the man there in a faint.
She revived him, and noticing that he was smelling very unpleasantly, she said, “What is the matter with you? Why this stench on your body? How did you come into the house?” He said, “Why, did not my love put that rope there?” She smiled, and said, “What love? We are for money, and do you think that I let down a rope for you, fool that you are? How did you cross the river?” “Why, I got hold of a log of wood.” “Let us go and see,” said the girl. The rope was a cobra, a tremendously poisonous serpent, whose least touch is death. It had its head in a hole, and was getting in when the man caught hold of its tail, and he thought it was a rope. The madness of love made him do it. When the serpent has its head in its hole, and its body out, and you catch hold of it, it will not let its head come out; so the man climbed up by it, but the force of the pull killed the serpent. “Where did you get the log?” “It was floating down the river.” It was a festering dead body; the stream had washed it down and that he took for a log, which explained why he had such an unpleasant odour.
The woman looked at him and said, “I never believed in love; we never do; but, if this is not love, the Lord have mercy on me. We do not know what love is. But, my friend, why do you give that heart to a woman like me? Why do you not give it to God? You will be perfect.” It was a thunderbolt to the man’s brain. He got a glimpse of the beyond for a moment. “Is there a God?” “Yes, yes, my friend, there is,” said the woman. And the man walked on, went into a forest, began to weep and pray. “I want Thee, Oh Lord! This tide of my love cannot find a receptacle in little human beings. I want to love where this mighty river of my love can go, the ocean of love; this rushing tremendous river of my love cannot enter into little pools, it wants the infinite ocean. Thou art there; come Thou to me.” So he remained there for years.
After years he thought he had succeeded, he became a Sannyasin and he came into the cities. One day he was sitting on the bank of a river, at one of the bathing places, and a beautiful young girl, the wife of a merchant of the city, with her servant, came and passed the place. The old man was again up in him, the beautiful face again attracted him. The Yogi looked and looked, stood up and followed the girl to her home.
Presently the husband came by, and seeing the Sannyasin in the yellow garb he said to him, “Come in, sir, what can I do for you?” The Yogi said, “I will ask you a terrible thing.” “Ask anything, sir, I am a Grihastha (householder), and anything that one asks I am ready to give.” “I want to see your wife.” The man said, “Lord, what is this! Well, I am pure, and my wife is pure, and the Lord is a protection to all. Welcome; come in sir.” He came in, and the husband introduced him to his wife. “What can I do for you?” asked the lady. He looked and looked, and then said, “Mother, will you give me two pins from your hair?” “Here they are.” He thrust them into his two eyes saying “Get away, you rascals! Henceforth no fleshy things for you. If you are to see, see the Shepherd of the groves of Vrindaban with the eyes of the soul. Those are all the eyes you have.” So he went back into the forest. There again he wept and wept and wept. It was all that great flow of love in the man that was struggling to get at the truth, and at last he succeeded; he gave his soul, the river of his love, the right direction, and it came to the Shepherd. The story goes that he saw God in the form of Krishna.
Then, for once, he was sorry that he had lost his eyes, and that he could only have the internal vision. He wrote some beautiful poems of love. In all Sanskrit books, the writers first of all salute their Gurus. So he saluted that girl as his first Guru.