Teacher and disciple confront the river

By Paulo Coelho

A disciple had such faith in the powers of the guru Sanjai that he once asked to meet him beside the river.

‘Master, everything I have learned from you has changed my life. I was able to save my marriage, sort out the family business and help my neighbours. Everything I ever asked for in your name and in good faith I have received.’

Sanjai looked at his disciple, and his heart swelled with pride.

The disciple walked down to the edge of the river.

‘Such is my faith in your teachings and in your divinity that I have only to say your name and I will be able to walk on the waters.’

Before the teacher could say anything, his disciple had entered the river, crying:

‘All praise to Sanjai! All praise to Sanjai!’

He took one step.Then another.

And a third step. His body began to levitate and the young man managed to reach the other side of the river without even getting his feet wet.

Sanjai looked in surprise at the disciple, who was standing on the other shore waving at him and smiling.

‘Perhaps I am more enlightened than I thought I was. I could have the most famous monastery in the region! I could rise to the same heights as the great saints and gurus!’

Determined to repeat his disciple’s success, he too walked down to the shore and, as he stepped into the river, he began to cry:

‘All praise to Sanjai! All praise to Sanjai!’

He took one step and a second step, but by the third he was already being swept away by the current. Since he did not know how to swim, his disciple had to dive into the water to save him from certain death.

When both men reached the shore, exhausted, Sanjai remained silent for a long time. Finally, he said:

‘I hope you can draw a wise lesson from what happened today. All that I taught you were the scriptures and the correct way to behave. However, none of that would have been enough if you had not added what was missing: the faith that such teachings could improve your life.

I taught you because my teachers taught me. But while I thought and studied, you put into practice what you had learned. Thank you for helping me to understand that one does not always believe in what one wants others to believe.’

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