The Magistrate5 min read

A TEACHER of the Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita came to the district and set up a school in a village there. When this was reported to the local magistrate (the chief administrative officer for the district), he was displeased. He was a follower of a Western philosopher who held that traditional religion and its compulsive morality was the cause of many of the ills of man. The magistrate had a great love for the people of the district, and worked night and day to bring them to what he saw as modern and progressive views. He therefore put many obstacles in the way of the Yoga teacher, and for a time was successful in turning public opinion against him.

When he heard that the school was also teaching secular subjects to the local children (admittedly poorly served by the present arrangements, because of the poverty of the district) he briefed the school inspector to apply the most stringent tests to the teaching methods. The latter however reported favourably, and in fact two of the Yoga teacher’s disciples had been school teachers, and were teaching very ably for a tiny salary. In five years, three of the pupils of this school obtained State scholarships to go on to a high school in the capital, and then to the university. Such a thing had never happened before.

The magistrate’s attitude began to soften. Though he never even came to meet the Yoga master, he used his influence to help him in various ways, and indirectly conveyed to the group that if they were in difficulties, they could approach him through a designated intermediary. The disciples concluded that though the magistrate could hardly reverse his previous stance, he had in fact become a religious devotee in private.

After some years, he fell ill. He went to the capital for a major operation, but returned little better, and it was generally assumed that he had come home to die. The teacher sent a disciple, with no instructions except to present himself. He was refused admission. He sat down on the ground in an inconspicuous place not far from the door. As night came on, his body shivered in the cold, and a servant who saw him brought a mat and a straw coat; he then reported to his master that the disciple was still waiting.

Late in the night, the master asked: “Is he still there?”

“Yes,” was the answer. “I gave him some food.”

“Well, let him in,” ordered the sick man. “I have decided to see him.”

As the disciple bowed on the threshold, the magistrate said irritably: “You’ve come to preach to me I suppose.”

“I won’t say a word unless you tell me to,” promised the brahmachari.

“Well, I have decided that I may as well tell you – in fact, I must tell you in fairness – that I have never believed that superstitious stuff you are propagating among the people. And I don’t believe it now. But I have seen that your teacher could get people to co-operate, and to work and study, on the basis of pleasing God; and I had found that they just couldn’t see clearly enough when I explained to them the same things, on the basis of enlightened self-interest. And I concluded that perhaps the religious phase is a necessary one, to get them moving. Afterwards as they become better informed, they will discard it. So I gave some help to your efforts; the dogmas do seem to be of some immediate benefit to the people, and ultimately they are bound to destroy themselves.

“Now I’ve told you. I felt suddenly that your master was entitled to know, to prevent any misunderstandings later. I hope it isn’t too much of a shock to you: I don’t suppose you have any text to cover this case, have you?”

“My Lord, we have,” the disciple told him. “It is in the Gita, where the Lord says that in whatever form people worship Him, that same faith He makes unwavering.”

There was a long silence.

The magistrate said feebly: “Is there any other text that comes to your mind?”

The brahmachari replied softly: “Yes -‘He sees, who sees the Lord standing in all beings, the undying in the dying.”‘ Another silence.

“Anything else?” The magistrate’s voice was very weak. The brahmachari came and knelt by the bed with his palms joined. “O my Lord, you cannot tease me any more. I see you clearly now.”

A great surprise came over the magistrate’s face; then he died.

The brahmachari called the servant, and told him: “Your master is gone now, and well gone.” The servant stood in the doorway looking towards the dead man for a little. Then he said in a choked voice: “He was a great man. Yes, and he was a good man too. They said he was strict and hard. Well, he was; he was strict and hard. I should know that: I served him for twelve years. But it was for our own good, and I know that too. And he was much stricter with himself, and much harder on himself. He was so anxious that he shouldn’t leave anything undone, so anxious. I don’t think I ever saw him smile, he was so anxious.”

He took a step towards the bed, and peered towards the face. “But tell me – I’m not seeing very well just now – that’s a smile there, isn’t it?” He caught the brahmachari’s arm. “It’s true, isn’t it? He’s smiling now, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” the brahmachari told him. “He’s smiling now.”

T.P.L.

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