The Benevolent Master

Any person capable of angering you becomes your master;

he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.

– Epictetus

I was having a chat over ice-cream with a young, inquisitive Gen Z. Out of the blue she asked if I could share something about my master and how he taught. That brought back a flood of memories, especially since I was taught 27 years ago. The incident that came to my mind was about humbleness, having absolute faith and trust, and most importantly, applying the lessons learned all the time.

My master was on a short holiday with his family. There were no lessons for us, who were a group of his senior students. One day, one of the chaps in the group invited me to join him for lunch. I had a lot of respect for him because he was a quick learner, humble, and was sort of a guide for the others when my master was not around. I felt honoured that he asked me out for lunch.

During lunch, we discussed about some of the philosophies that we had learned and the practical application of it. There was one part where I was surprised that he explained the philosophy in a totally opposite way than I had thought it was to be interpreted in. I humbly corrected him but he insisted he was right. Then it became a heated argument. He said something that totally pissed me off. He scolded me using profanities and ridiculed me saying that he learned longer from our master so he knew more than me and that I should just shut the f**k up. I walked off without saying a word but I was truly mad.

When my master returned, I met up with him and complained to him about what happened. As I told him about it, my anger and frustration was still there remembering the incident. After I finished, my master looked at me and said that he was not my master and that he had failed me as my teacher. I was shocked.

He said that my “real” masters were my ego, my anger, my frustration, my ability to find fault, my ability to tell a story to make it look to favour me, and worst of all my judgemental nature. I was stunned. I tried to explain but with a firm, solemn voice he looked at me and thundered, “Silence!”

He proceeded to tell me that he was ALWAYS teaching. He had recognized the thick ego that I had and wanted me to see it for myself. I always prided myself as someone who “knew” stuff about Nature, life, the principles of Nature’s Laws, etc. However, he said that I had failed to follow his teachings and apply it where it mattered the most.

He said my focus was mostly on the behaviour and words uttered by the chap I complained about. He said I had forgotten that the basic of everything is, if something happens, it is the will of Nature. It is teaching something important. If it evokes anger and other negative emotions it meant that I was no longer seeking the lessons but was now getting involved with the drama of the emotions. Not only had I not learnt the lesson, but I made it worse by finding fault in the chap and complaining about him. The truth is I complained about his behaviour to others as well.

Then, my master proceeded to explain in detail about what the chap and I were arguing about and, lo and behold, the chap was right; it was I who misunderstood the philosophy in its entirety! I was so ashamed and felt remorseful. I didn’t know what to say or do. Tears were flowing down my cheeks and it dawned upon me what a first- class idiot I was for thinking I was the smartest among them.

Elango sharing his experiences during ET Youth LIVE Talkshow.

Then he proceeded to tell me something else that shocked me to the core. He said that it was him who instructed the chap to do what he did! My master said the chap followed his instruction without any question or whatsoever; even though my master knew it would be difficult for him to do it, because truthfully he is a nice guy and had built a reputation as being the wisest among all his students. He still did it trusting the words of the one who was teaching him. He did not worry about his reputation and what others would think of him. As far as he was concerned, the master was teaching him something and he just followed the instructions.

My master proceeded to dismiss me and said that I was not fit to be his student and asked me to go and serve my “real” masters. I profusely apologized; he still sent me away. I was totally dejected. I turned up each day after that to see him to apologize for my folly and my ignorance. But he refused to meet me. Nothing else mattered to me. Each day was filled with so much of grief, as if I lost my Heart. I continued to go see him every day, only to be sent away. After the seventh day, when I went to see him yet again, I was allowed in. He looked at me in the eye and said that he was giving me one last opportunity. Only then I felt alive again. That lesson still remains with me until today.

The young one, who was having her ice-cream and listening ardently, said quietly, “The master is always teaching”. I said, “Yes, even when he is no more around”. Quietly, I thanked again in my heart to the wise one who took the effort to teach me even though there was no rhyme or reason for him to do so except for the instructions of his heart.

Love & Light

Elango Thiyagu

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