Sadhguru on Gurus: Ribhu Maharishi and the Wayward Disciple
“A yogi is one who is perfectly in tune with life – so tuned in with life that he can dismantle and put it back together again. If you can completely dismantle the fundamental life that is you, and put it back, only then are you a yogi.”
In this installment of the “Sadhguru on Gurus” series, Sadhguru tells the story of Ribhu Maharishi and his wayward disciple.
As we approach Guru Purnima on July 9, we look back at the historical tradition of this nation which revered the Guru – a culture which is unfortunately almost lost in modern times. Though Guru Purnima today is seldom noted, this celebration was once cherished throughout the country. To revive this culture of respect, we present a collection of inspiring stories from the lives of Gurus past, narrated by Sadhguru, which illustrate the unique methods each teacher employed to bring transformation to his disciples.
In this installment, Sadhguru tells us the story of Ribhu Maharishi and his disciple Nidhaga, and how each master has his own devices to take someone forward.
Sadhguru: The yogic tradition has seen thousands of realized masters. No other tradition in the world, no other spiritual culture in the world, has seen such a galaxy of realized beings. Many methods and systems have been evolved to take a human being to his ultimate potential. Each master delivered his teaching in his own way, and employed his own methods and devices as were suitable for people around him.
Fundamentally, the very process of yoga is to realize who you really are. Each master made it happen to people in many strange ways. Because every master expresses himself in his own way, each one of them faces different types of resistance in society. The social norm is such. Society knows one guru, a hundred years ago, was doing something in a certain way. Another one comes today and starts doing things in a totally different way. Now, society has to denounce either that man or this man. They cannot see that there are a number of ways to make the same thing happen.
Ribhu and Nidhaga
This reminds me of a great sage in our tradition whose name was Ribhu. He was known as Ribhu Maharishi. Ribhu had a wayward disciple whose name was Nidhaga. Ribhu Maharishi had a very special love for this particular disciple, though he was not as focused as the others. So, naturally, among the other disciples there was a little problem: “Nidhaga is so unfocused, but why is the guru so loving to him, and not to us?” These things always happen because a guru is not someone who is looking at you for what you are today. He is looking at you for what you are capable of tomorrow – the possibility that you carry within you. What you have done till now is of no importance to him. What you are today is of some importance to him, but what you can be tomorrow is of utmost importance to him.
Once, Nidhaga left and went away. Ribhu Maharishi made trips to see his disciple wherever he was. But Nidhaga was not too receptive. So Ribhu always went in disguise just to bless and guide him.
One day, Ribhu Maharishi dressed himself as a village rustic and went where Nidhaga was. A king’s procession was passing by on the street. Nidhaga was watching the procession intently. So Ribhu Maharishi, disguised as a rustic, went and stood beside Nidhaga and asked, “What are you looking at?”
Nidhaga looked at him in disdain, thinking to himself, “Everybody is looking at the procession. This fool doesn’t even know what we are looking at.”
He said, “I’m looking at the king’s procession.”
Ribhu Maharishi asked, “Where is the king?”
“Can’t you see? He’s sitting on the elephant.”
“Oh, but which one is the king?”
Now Nidhaga got really angry and said, “Can’t you see, you fool? The man who is sitting above is the king; the animal below is the elephant.”
“Oh, what is this above and below? I don’t understand.” Nidhaga became really furious. He said, “You fool, you don’t know what is above and below? It looks like what you see and what you hear doesn’t get into you. You need some action.”
He bent Ribhu Maharishi forcefully down and stood on his shoulders. “Now do you see? Now I am above, you are below; I am the king, you are the animal. Did you get it?”
“Not really! Now I can understand what is man, and what is elephant. Now I can understand what is above, what is below. But what is this ‘you’ and ‘me’ you are talking about?”
Suddenly the basic questions of “Who am I? Who are you?” struck Nidhaga. He fell at Ribhu’s feet as he realized that it could not be anyone other than his master, and he attained self-realization in that moment.
Each master employed his own ways and methods to do things. Some were subtle, some created dramatic situations. There are various kinds of methods.
No Ethics or Morals
Usually, when people think of someone on the spiritual path, they think of people within a certain kind of framework – in terms of a certain kind of behavior, dress or speech. But India has not been a land of that kind of spiritual person. The kind that fits into your ways of understanding have been here. But there have been many more who are utterly wild, whom you can never recognize as spiritual. But these are people who have touched the very peaks of existence.
When we say “a yogi”, we do not mean someone of a certain behavior, morality or ethics. A yogi is one who is perfectly in tune with life – so tuned in with life that he can dismantle and put it back together again. If you can completely dismantle the fundamental life that is you, and put it back, only then are you a yogi. This doesn’t come with ethics, morality or good behavior. Those things will earn you merit in society, but they will not get you anywhere when it comes to existence.
There have been many such incredible human beings. Some of them – as far as the world was concerned – were utter drunkards, drug addicts or highly abusive people, but they were yogis. There are many who abuse every other path and guru in the world. This is not out of some inner compulsion. They did these things very consciously. They are doing this because if you think, “Yes, I am walking this path, but maybe that path is better”, you are not going to walk this path a hundred percent. Unless you see your guru is the best guru, you can’t involve yourself and give yourself to the process. It is from this understanding that these people are coming. It may not make logical sense to lots of people, but the very fact that they attained and lived gloriously shows that it worked.
Editor’s Note: Celebrate Guru Purnima by joining Satsang with Sadhguru at Isha Yoga Center. Pre-register here. Learn more about Guru Purnima and how you can prepare yourself for the immense possibility that the night offers.