The Guru's Counsel

(This is a feeble translation of "Gurumantra", a hilarious story by Munshi Premchand. The objective is merely to acquaint readers with Premchand's stories and to exhort them to read the original or better translations.)

Owing to domestic bickerings and lack of invitations to free meals, Pandit Chintamaniji developed apathy towards life and became an ascetic.

His dearest friend, Pandit Moteram Shashtri, advised him: "Friend! I have known some very great ascetics. When they go door-to-door asking for alms, they don't spread their hands and grovel. They don't give empty and hypocritical blessings like 'May God always provide for all your needs; may you live a happy life.'

"No! That is the manner of the beggar. Saints don't behave that way. When saints stand outside somebody's door, they call out in a booming voice. It startles the people in the house and makes them rush to the door out of curiosity. I know a few slogans that the ascetics use on such occasions; you may adopt any one of them for your own use.

"Gudhdibaba used to say: If anyone were to die, let all five die. On hearing this, people would prostrate at his feet. There was Sidhhababa, who had an excellent slogan: Eat, drink, and make merry. But beware of Babaji's mace. Nangababa's call was: Give if you will, else give me to eat, give me to drink, put me to sleep.

"You must understand this fact that the welcome and respect you receive depends much upon your slogan. What else can I say! Don't ever forget this.

"The two of us have spent many happy days together, and we have attended hundreds of feasts where we exhibited our voracious appetites. I will not be able to display the same eating skills now in your absence. May God always lead you along an aromatic path."

Chintamani wasn't happy with the slogans. "Think up a different catchphrase for me," he requested.

Moteram: All right. How about this, "If you don't give, I will sit on you".

Chintamani: Yes, I like that. But, if you don't mind, I would like to make slight changes.

"Certainly! Go ahead," Moteram said graciously.

Chintamani: Well then, let's put it this way "Give, else I will sit on you".

"Excellent!" Moteram said, leaping up in excitement, "this is an unexampled war cry. Devotion has sharpened your intellect. Say it once again in a booming voice; let's see how you deliver it."

Chintamani plugged his ears with his fingers, took a deep breath, and with all his might yelled, "Give, else I will sit on you." The sound was so deafening that even Moteram was alarmed. There were a few bats, which instantly hid in the trees; the dogs started barking.

Moteram: Friend, your war cry shook me to the core. One doesn't get to hear such a roaring sound; you roar like a lion. Well, now that we have decided upon the catchphrase, I will tell you some essential things; listen carefully. The ascetics speak in a language somewhat different from ours. While speaking with superiors or elders, we address them using respectful terms. But when speaking with younger persons we forgo all formal modes of address. "For the ascetics, everyone is equal; they don't distinguish between rich and poor, superior and inferior, or old and young; they address everyone alike. Make liberal use of the words like mother and father while speaking. Keep in mind one more thing: never speak in a plain and grammatically-correct language, or your secret will be out. In the lingo of the ascetics, it is incorrect to say 'Mother, please give me some food'; instead, you must say something like 'Mother, feed me; you will be great religion.'"


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