The Master’s Test

“I am poor and weak,” said one day a master to his pupils, “but you are young, and I teach you: it is therefore your duty to find the money which your old teacher needs to live.”

“How can we do so?” asked the pupils. “The people of this town are so little generous that it would be vain to ask them for help.”

“My sons,” replied the teacher, “there is a way to gain money, not by asking, but by taking. It would be no sin for us to steal, for we deserve money more than others. But alas! I am too old and weak to do it.”

“We are young,” replied the pupils; “we can do it. There is nothing we would not do for you, dear master. Tell us only how to act and we will obey.”

“Young men you are,” said the master; “it would be nothing to you to seize a rich mans’s purse.  This is the way to do it: choose a quiet spot where no one watches, then catch hold of a passer-by and take his money, but do not do him harm.”

“Straightway we go,” said all the pupils except one, who had been silent, his eyes cast downward.

The teacher looked at this youth and said, : “My other pupils are courageous and eager to help, but little do you mind your teacher’s suffering.”

“Forgive me, master,” he replied, ” The plan you have explained seems to me impossible; that is the reason of my silence.”

“Why is it impossible?” asked the master.

“Because there is no place wherein no one is watching,” replied the pupil; “even when I am quite alone my self is watching. I would rather take a bowl and beg than allow my self to see me stealing.”

At these words the master’s face lighted up with joy. He took the young pupil in his arms and embraced him.

“Happy am I,” he said, “if among my pupils one has understood my words.”

His other pupils, seeing that their master had meant to test them, bent their heads in shame.

And after that day, whenever an unworthy thought  came to their minds,, they remembered their companion’s words: “My self is watching.”

Thus they became great men, and they all lived happy ever after.

From “Twenty Jatakas Tales” retold by Noor Inayat Khan

[‘Jatakas’ tales are simple stories with a moral message, from very ancient traditions.  Gautama Buddha told many such stories, but they were already well-known in his time.  Noor or Noorunnisa, eldest child of Hazrat Inayat Khan, retold some; in this one, the test of the master is similar to the story in which the master instructs his student to kill a chicken ‘where no-one can see.’  At the end of the day, the chicken remains alive, and the master is satisfied with the student’s understanding.]

One Reply to “The Master’s Test”

  1. Juan Amin Betancur

    Este es uno de los cuentos que más recuerdo y aprecio, pues me lleva a los primeros años del sufismo en Colombia, y el bello libro de los cuentos Jataka, que Nawab nos compartió. Muchas gracias al espíritu de Noorunissa Inayat Khan y a todo el linaje que los ha transmitido de corazón a corazón.


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