Long, long ago there was an old sadhu who lived with his young disciple. The disciple had such a wonderful memory that he could retain in his mind lectures and facts he had heard only once. His guru was very famous and travelled about giving lectures to big crowds. He was always accompanied by his disciple who would attentively listen to each speech and keep it in his mind.
Many years passed and the disciple became very proud, thinking that he could give speeches like his guru. In fact, he believed he could give better speeches and that the people would like him much more than they liked the guru. He was young and was looking very nice, whereas his guru was becoming old. He would surely get lots of respect from the people and could easily become guru.
While the disciple was thinking like this, his guru was of course well aware of everything that was happening in his disciple's mind. So the guru decided to teach his chela a good lesson. He called him and said, 'I am too old now and I can't manage this guru-ship anymore. You are young and you look so nice. I think it would be better if you were the guru and I were the disciple. You think about this seriously and give me your opinion tomorrow.'
The next morning the disciple went to his guru and said, 'Oh Gurudev, what you said is right. I would like to take over the guru-ship but everyone knows that you are guru and I am disciple. How will the people be able to accept me as guru?' The guru replied, 'It is very simple, if we go to a place where no one knows us, how will they know that I am guru and you are really the disciple? You will behave like a guru and I will behave just like your disciple.' So the disciple agreed to his guru's plan and they decided to leave the hermitage the next morning.
The young guru and his old disciple travelled to a large village about twenty miles from their hermitage where they were not known. They were warmly welcomed by the villagers who immediately began organising a program for the young guru. Hundreds of people from all the surrounding villages were invited to attend the program. A large group assembled and with great interest they waited to hear the young swami's speech. Amongst the members of the audience there were only a few people who knew that the young guru had previously been the disciple.
The proud young swami stood up from his seat with great confidence while the old disciple remained seated silently behind him. The swami impressed the audience with a very inspiring speech and the people showed him great respect. Then they began to ask him questions and he answered the first ten beautifully. But when they continued to ask him more questions he had no answers. He felt very uneasy and kept turning to his guru, hoping he would give some help.
The guru could see that his disciple was becoming very nervous, so mentally he instructed him to say, 'I have answered ten of your questions, now my disciple will answer the rest.' The old disciple rose from his seat and without any effort he gave an instant reply to every question. The people in the audience were not foolish. They began to wonder why the young guru was unable to answer their simple questions but the old disciple was able to give very wise replies. The people who knew the disciple as guru and the guru as disciple thought it was very strange that the two had changed roles.
Suddenly the young guru rushed to his disciple and bowed low at his feet and prayed to him, 'Guruji, please forgive me. I will never think about becoming guru again. I want only to be your humble disciple.' So the old guru and his disciple left the village immediately and returned to their hermitage.
A real guru always knows what his disciple is thinking and is able to correct his misconceptions. Some disciples are so eager to gain respect from others that they neglect their duties toward their guru. They become envious of the respect given to their guru and feel that they are also entitled to it. They fail to realise that the guru has mastered the spiritual path and that they have only just stepped upon it. Pride and ambition often blind the disciple and prevent him from understanding that the guru is always preparing his disciple for the time when he will be ready to give spiritual leadership without personal motive. A disciple's progress must be slow and steady and if he becomes impatient, he will surely fail, just like the young guru in this story.