AN earnest devotee asked Sri Bhagavan about the method to realise the Self. As usual, Sri Bhagavan told him to find out who is the ‘I’ in his question. After a few more questions in this strain the devotee asked, “Instead of enquiring ‘Who am I?’, can I put the question to myself ‘Who are you?’ since then, my mind may be fixed on you whom I consider to be God in the form of Guru.”
Sri Bhagavan replied, “Whatever form your enquiry may take, you must finally come to the one ‘I’, the Self. All these distinctions made between ‘I’ and ‘you’, master and disciple, are merely a sign of one’s ignorance.” Thereupon Sri Bhagavan told the following story of Sage Ribhu and his disciple Nidagha.
Although Ribhu taught his disciple the Supreme Truth of the One Brahman without a second, Nidagha, in spite of his erudition and understanding, did not get sufficient conviction to adopt and follow the path of jnana, but settled down in his native town.
But the sage loved his disciple as deeply would himself go to his disciple in the town, just to see how far the latter had outgrown his ritualism.
On one such occasion Ribhu, who had put on the disguise of a rustic, found Nidagha intently watching a royal procession. Unrecognised by the town-dweller Nidagha, the village rustic enquired what the bustle was all about, and was told that the king was going in procession.
“Oh! It is the king. But where is he?” asked the rustic. “There, on the elephant,” said Nidagha.
“You say the king is on the elephant. Yes, I see the two,” said the rustic, “But which is the king and which is the elephant?”
“What!” exclaimed Nidagha. “You see the two, but do not know that the man above is the king and the animal below is the elephant? “But you said ‘above’ and ‘below’ – what do they mean?” You want to know what is meant by ‘above’ and ‘below’?” burst out Nidagha. “Bend forward, and you will know it all too well.”
The rustic did as he was told. Nidagha got on his shoulders and said, “Know it now. I am above as the king, you are below as the elephant?” “No, not yet,” was the rustic’s quiet reply. “You say you are above like the king, and I am below like the elephant. The ‘king’, the ‘elephant’, ‘above’ and ‘below’ – so far it is clear. But, tell me what you mean by ‘I’ and ‘you’?”
When Nidagha was confronted with the mighty problem of defining the ‘you’ apart from the ‘I’, light dawned on his mind.
At once he jumped down and fell at his Master’s feet saying, “Who else but my venerable Master, Ribhu, could have thus drawn my mind from the superficialities of physical existence to the true Being of the Self? Oh! Benign Master, I crave thy blessings.”
— Ramana Maharshi