In the ChandogyaUpanishad, Satyakama comes for initiation and he demonstrates his love of truth and the teacher gives him a single initiation and sends him away with a herd of cows to look after them. And he thinks I will come back when there are a thousand of them and he is there for several years. So he has this one initiation in which the truth has been spoken to him. He lives with that, constantly in service of his teacher. Swami Rama Tirtha, too, it is said, achieved the whole path on a single initiation because there was so much intensity behind it. When the cows become a thousand, nature begins to speak to the disciple. The bull of the herd declares to him the glory of Brahman. Then a swan declares to him the infinity of Brahman. A bird declares to him the light [of Brahman.] There is another declaration and then he takes the herd back and when he comes back the teacher looks at him and says, ” Satyakama, you shine like one who knows Brahman. Who has been teaching you?” He says, “Not men. But I desire to hear this all from you, as my teacher”. Then the teacher taught him the same things, – the Upanishads said they were exactly the same – but he followed the tradition that it should be handed on through teacher to disciple.
These are examples given. It is the intensity of the enquiry but the teacher is always there and it is in the presence of the teacher, even though he may be at a distance which enables the transformation to take place. It is not unknown in other traditions. In Buddhism there is a tradition that a learned Brahmin who was dissatisfied – he only knew ritualism but he was very learned in the sacrificial skills – came to the Buddha and he said, “What do you teach?” And the Buddha said nothing. He sat there in silence. The Brahmin stood – great Brahmin – then he bowed and he went away satisfied. Ananda, who was Buddha’s attendant – and it was always popularly supposed that because he was the Buddha’s attendant he must be full of the wisdom of the Buddha and actually it was not so; he was the only disciple who did not attain realisation in the Buddha’s lifetime, but only afterwards – Ananda said to the Buddha, “What did he get? You did not tell him anything”. The Buddha is said to have replied, “The good horse goes at even the shadow of the whip”.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Word Clouds and Realities
Recap of experimental verification argument: Vedanta is supported by very carefully reasoned arguments