Please Ask the Gardener

27th August 2015 • Active Meditations

Mother Srimati

Once upon a time, a very erudite and cultured sannyasi disciple of a very reputed Gaudiya Vaisnava guru came to spend the month of Karttika with his Guru Maharaja. It was a very rare and cherished opportunity, and the disciple was very much looking forward to receiving personal guidance from his mentor and having his many questions appropriately answered.

He arrived at the math timely, and immediately approached his Guru Maharaja and paid him his full obeisances. His Gurudeva warmly embraced him, and had his servant show him his room and the general layout of the property. He also asked him to explain the temple program to the visiting sannyasi and make sure he honored maha-prasada to his full satisfaction. Very soon, the visiting sannyasi was feeling much at home, and spent the afternoon meeting his god-brothers and seeking advice from them how best to attract the mercy of his Gurudeva. Everyone gave the same answer, “Gurudeva is always very kind, but he is also very, very perceptive. You can’t hide anything from him. He knows your heart better than you do.” The visiting sannyasi felt very comfortable with this reply and busied himself with thoughts of how to best approach his mentor with his many questions.

The first opportunity came after his Guru Maharaja gave Srimad-Bhagavatam the next morning, The eager sannyasi hurried up to the vyasasana while his Guru Maharaja was still sitting on it and said “Gurudeva, may I ask you a question?” His mentor smiled gently and replied, “Please ask the gardener.” His disciple was a little surprised, but very patiently and submissively said, “Yes, Guru Maharaja”. Every day for a week, the visiting sannyasi received this reply whenever he tried to ask his Guru Maharaja a question. But he never even approached the gardener, let alone asked him any philosophical questions. Finally, he approached his Guru Maharaja and asked him, “Guru Maharaja, have I offended you in some way? Is that why you are continually avoiding my questions and telling me to ask the gardener?”

His Guru Maharaja turned to his servant and asked him to call the gardener. He soon came. He was a simple looking middle-aged man dressed in brahmacari cloth and covered with dirt and grass cuttings. He immediately paid his full obeisances to his Gurudeva, who then asked him a very esoteric yet technical philosophical question. This very much surprised the visiting sannyasi; not only because a gardener was being asked such an erudite question, but more so because it was one of the questions he had planned to ask his Guru Maharaja. The gardener began to answer the question in a most expert and detailed way. This further bewildered the visiting sannyasi. His Guru Maharaja proceeded to ask the gardener many questions; all of the questions the sannyasi had planned to ask him. And the gardener very expertly answered all of them. The Guru then thanked the gardener and sent him back to his service. He then turned to his visiting disciple and said, “This gardener is no ordinary gardener. He has been under my shelter since he was eight years old and he is now forty seven. Without fail he attends my morning and evening classes. He is a very sincere and attentive listener. He is illiterate and simple, but he knows and can explain our philosophy better than any of my sannyasi disciples. That is why I told you to ask him. Give up your false pride and prejudice, and take his association as much as possible this Karttika. His answers are as good as mine – I can promise you that.”

Humbled, the visiting sannyasi fell at his feet of his Guru Maharaja and paid his full obeisances. He took his leave and eagerly sought out the gardener. Daily they plucked weeds and watered the garden together while discussing the most esoteric and sacred teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The visiting sannyasi was so enlivened that he sought his Gurudeva’s permission to stay at the math to assist the gardener. And his mentor very happily gave him his full blessings.


Success in spiritual life is based on such a simple principle: hear from your Guru Maharaja and other sadhus regularly with faith and attention, follow their instructions and teachings, render some steady meaningful service to them and maintain simplicity and humility. Sometimes our pride and prejudice hides very wonderful association and service from our vision. Better to give up our limitations rather than such wonderful opportunities.