I heard this story in 1950 when I was living briefly in the holy twin cities of Mathura-Vrindavan.
Before the western banking system took over in India there used to be banking houses in which the business went on from generation to generation. They were true power houses of the city.
The story is about a scion of one such banking house in Mathura. He was known as Lala Babu. He was spiritually inclined and the Guru claimed him.
Slowly, slowly, as is usual with the Gurus, he was dragged over the hot coals of purification. After his duties were done for his family he began the process of renunciation, spending his time in spiritual pursuits and meditation.
He built himself a small mendicant’s hut and lived like a monk begging for alms for his daily food.
All this, because he kept on asking his Guru for the next steps for his progress, and each time he was told ‘you are not ready. You have not done the required ascetic practices’, but, as it often is with the Gurus, no practices were defined!
So the poor disciple was left to his own devices, devising his own level of asceticism and renunciation, perhaps keeping only one set of clothes instead of two. Perhaps eating once a day instead of twice or whatever.
Like all disciples he kept racking his brain as to what more purification or ascetic practices were required of him.
You see, there had been two powerful rival banking houses in the city, and they were not on speaking terms with each other.
When Lala Babu took to the life of an ascetic mendicant begging for his alms for daily food, he begged at all homes but that of the owner of the rival banking house. How could he appear at the door of the owners of the rival banking house begging for food!
After a long hard struggle he finally decided to renounce this last bit of arrogance and pride and one fine morning he actually went and begged at this home.
He was, of course, received not as a scion of a rival banking home but as a mendicant and given all due honours.
That not only ended the rivalry but that afternoon the Guru came to the disciple’s hut and said “Son, you have passed all the tests. You are now ready for the next initiation”.
That’s a true story I heard.
Swami Veda Bharati
18 April, 2015