One is worth a thousand – a thousand is not worth one
megh gah hazar gahrzeh – Hazar gah megh chahrzehr
One is worth a thousand – a thousand is not worth one
There is a story that illustrates this Armenian proverb.
A guru who had many disciples was getting old. Due to his fame as an honest, humble and very merciful holy man, many persons flocked to him to become his disciple. He was concerned about teaching his disciples humility and the importance of cooperating amongst themselves to follow his instructions. He could see, however, that ambition for power was manifesting in some of his disciples who realized that the guru could die at any time. These prominent disciples began to ask him questions about the succession of his movement and the management structure of the future.
The undercurrents of a power struggle were beginning to manifest. This caused the guru great discomfort. He devised a plan test the insincere disciples who were self- motivated by personal ambition rather than sincere obedience to his instructions. Human nature has the seeds of good and potential evil. Although by nature people are good, they have a tendency to be corrupted by bad association and eventually lose control of their better sense. Anyone that has been corrupted may be corrected if they submit to proper training and avoid bad company and influences. Progressive acts of evil that increase in horror may so corrupt a person that it may be impossible to correct in this life. The guru did not want an escalation of competition of his ambitious disciples that could end with envy or violence.
The guru was prepared to lose most or even all his disciples if they did not pass his test.
He wanted to only keep the genuinely sincere and dedicated ones. They didn’t know the guru was going to test their obedience and sincerity.
One day he called his eight prominent disciples and revealed to them that he had a valuable jewel. He asked them to guess its worth. The disciples were all of the opinion that it was priceless. He handed it to the first disciple and ordered him to smash it to pieces. He refused claiming that he did not want to destroy the property of his guru. The guru handed it to the next. The first seven disciples refused to break the diamond to pieces. The guru praised each disciple and rewarded them with a gift. They all felt they made the right decision.
The last disciple looked carefully at the guru who handed him the jewel and deeply considered his order to smash it. He remembered the guru’s words about following his instructions. He shrugged off the desire to follow the other leading disciples and didn’t consider the peer pressure of conforming to them. He immediately smashed the precious jewel to pieces. He held the guru’s order sacrosanct. As a disciple, he could not refuse his guru’s explicit order. Although the other disciples were rewarded by the guru, the last disciple was determined to follow the guru’s order. He didn’t try to imitate the others, but by remembering the guru’s previous instructions, he understood that the disciple must always carry out the guru’s order.
The others were shocked by the violence he manifested in smashing the valuable jewel. The guru was not alarmed. He asked the others to leave the room. When they exited, he addressed the one that followed his order. He said,
“My son, you have understood my teaching. Please remain loyal to me and do not waver in your determination to follow my instructions. Pleasing your teacher by obedient and thoughtful service will be to your eternal credit. Throughout life we receive theoretical knowledge. Life presents us with many challenging situations to apply that knowledge either correctly or wrongly. A disciple is not a robot. He must be able to correctly apply the knowledge to practical situations with outcomes that make people happy and satisfied to remain on the spiritual path. Personal ambition for accumulating power, prestige and material assets can destroy one’s ability to act correctly for the welfare of all. Always remain humble, respect the service of others, and strictly follow my instructions for spiritual advancement.”
The disciple was overwhelmed by the powerful words of his guru. He fell at his feet and begged him to always correct his faults and guide him to act properly so that he could serve him in his mission.
The guru called an assembly of all his disciples and announced that he would visit a large city that was a long distance from his ashram in the mountains. All the disciples were perplexed because the guru had spoken strongly about avoiding large cities which were places of sin. He had never left his mountain retreat which was so peaceful and spiritual.
They left the next day on foot. The disciples carried the guru in a palanquin. It took them two weeks to reach the city. They stopped in villages on the way. The guru was honored and lodged in each village along with his disciples. When they reached the city, the guru asked top be taken to the red light district. He stopped in front of the house of the most famous courtesan of the city. He descended from the palanquin and proceed to knock on the door. A servant of the courtesan opened the door and asked what he wanted. The guru asked for the Madam. She came and fell at his feet with tears in her eyes. He walked past her into the house and asked that she close the door. Inside, he waited until she calmed down. She was the daughter of one of his disciples who had passed away. She was very fond of him, but was ashamed of her livelihood. She never expected that he would visit her. She cried and begged for his mercy. The guru asked her if he could stay the night in her house. He requested that she not conduct any activity in the house and retire early.
She was not sure what to make of it. Then he requested that she fetch a bottle of wine and two glasses. When she came back with the wine, he walked toward the window looking out on the street where his disciples were waiting. He asked her to open the curtain and stand with him near the window in view of street so that his disciples could observe them. She was holding a plate with the glasses and the bottle. He held one side of the plate and motioned that she pour the wine into the two glasses. Then he closed the curtain. She was perplexed but dared not say anything. The guru asked her to show him his room. He thanked her for her hospitality and requested that she close all the lights of the house and retire for the night.
Outside, the disciples were in complete disarray. They couldn’t understand the guru’s strange behavior. Some spoke openly that the guru had misled them to believe he was a genuine person. Now it was apparent that he was a fallen debauchee who was bereft of morals and shame. Arguments broke out and the disciples divided into groups of those who refused to hear criticism of the guru and those who were convinced he was a charlatan. The were many heated exchanges with each side trying to convince the other that they were wrong. But, as the night was long, the number of disciples who rejected the guru grew. By morning, all of the disciples except one left in disgust. They were convinced that a genuine guru would not stay in the house of a famous prostitute and drink her wine.
Later, in the morning, the guru thanked the courtesan for her hospitality. She begged him for his mercy. He instructed her to immediately stop her sinful profession and take up spiritual life seriously. He gave her specific instructions how to live and at the same time perform spiritual practices to purify her heart and mind. Because she considered him like a loving father, she took his advice seriously and changed her life. She became a saintly woman. When the guru stepped out of the house, he noticed that only one disciple remained. He looked at him and asked, â€œWhy did you not leave with the rest of them?â€
The disciple’s eyes were red with fatigue and wet. He began to cry and spoke softly. He said, “Dear Master, If I leave your shelter, I have no where to go. I have accepted you as my life’s guide. I love you like a father. You have instructed me to serve you and God rather than serve my own lust and greed. I have always been happy and satisfied following your instructions. You have never misled me nor in any way given me false information about spiritual life and practice. I may not understand the reasons why you stayed in this house last night. It is not my position to question your motives. There is some mystery that you will reveal to me when the time in right. For now, I am content to wait patiently and pray that you engage me always in your service. You are the representative of God in this world of illusion who has the grave responsibility to lead fallen souls like me back to God. My only prayer is that you never reject me and always keep me close to you so that I may render service to you. By serving you, I am sure that my offering is directed to pleasing God. Without you I have no connection to God. Therefore, I will always wait patiently for your instructions, without which I am completely lost in this world.”
The guru was very pleased by the sincere words of his disciple. He said, “Come my son, we have many tasks to perform together in the service of God.”