A disciple who loved and admired his teacher decided to observe his behaviour minutely, believing that if he did everything that his teacher did, then he would also acquire his teacher’s wisdom.
The teacher always wore white, and so his disciple did the same.
The teacher was a vegetarian, and so his disciple stopped eating meat and replaced it with a diet of vegetables and herbs.
The teacher was an austere man, and so the disciple decided to devote himself to self-sacrifice and started sleeping on a straw mattress.
After some time, the teacher noticed these changes in his disciple’s behaviour and asked him why.
‘I am climbing the steps of initiation,’ came the reply. ‘The white of my clothes shows the simplicity of my search, the vegetarian food purifies my body, and the lack of comfort makes me think only of spiritual things.’
Smiling, the teacher took him to a field where a horse was grazing.
‘You have spent all this time looking outside yourself, which is what matters least,’ he said.
‘Do you see that creature there? He has white skin, eats only grass and sleeps in a stable on a straw bed.
Do you think he has the face of a saint or will one day become a real teacher?’