The Story of Sage Kaushik & the Butcher Guru

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Great Masters / Storytelling


Can a butcher be a Guru? Sadhguru tells us that any job you do can become spiritual. He shares a story of Sage Kaushik and his first meeting with his Guru, a butcher, to impress upon this point.


Duration: 11 min


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7 min read

The Story of Sage Kaushik & the Butcher Guru

The following is an unedited transcript of Sadhguru's video. For better readability, breaks and highlights have been added by the editors.

Questioner: I am a criminal lawyer. The nature of my job forces me to take positions against others. How then, can I be loving towards everyone around me?

Sadhguru: Let me tell you, there was a sage who is very famous in India, ancient sage called Kaushik. When Kaushik was yet to become famous, a young sanyasi, he had a dip in the river and sat under a tree for his morning practice. With a slightly upturned face, he sat. A bird was in the tree. It does its things. So it’s not its fault, there is gravity, and it came and landed straight on his face, an upturned face, you know. It’s a dangerous way to sit under a tree.

So he got so furious. Just now he had a dip in the river and he’s trying to meditate and this bird splashed in his face. Out of anger he just looked at the bird like this – the bird just caught fire and burnt up, turned into ashes. So he felt really nice, “Okay, this is good, working.” Then he finished his practice and everything and for the day’s meal, because people on the spiritual path are not supposed to earn their living, they are supposed to beg and eat, so he went. So he went to the town, stood in front of a house and said, “Bhikshamdehi,” that means “I have come for alms.”

Generally, in the tradition, if a person who is on the spiritual path comes and asks for food, even if your children have not eaten, first thing is give it to him, because he doesn’t own anything, he doesn’t have anything and he is on higher pursuit, so he must be fed. That is the culture. So he said, “Bhikshamdehi.” From inside a lady’s voice said, “I’m coming, please wait.” He raised his voice and said, “Bhikshamdehi.” Because just today morning the bird, you know, it’s given him a little kind of oomph to his spiritual process. She said, “Please wait, I’m coming.” He raised his voice further, “Bhikshamdehi,” he shouted. She said, “Wait for a few minutes, I’m coming” but he went on shouting.

Then the lady came and he yelled, “How dare you keep me waiting like this! I’m a sanyasi, how can you keep me waiting like this?” And he glared at her. She said, “Don’t you glare at me, I’m not a little bird.” So then he, because it happened only today morning, it’s not been in the newspapers. And those days nobody could tweet except the birds, and the bird is dead. So he said, “How do you know?” She said, “It doesn’t matter, don’t glare at me. I was serving my husband who is blind of vision. I was feeding him, so I asked you to wait. What is the big hurry for you? I said I will come.” He said, “But how do you know?” She said, “It doesn’t matter. In your kind of mode, the way you are right now, you cannot know all this.”

Then he begged her, “Please take me as your disciple. I want to learn from you.” She said, “I am a housewife, I don’t take disciples. You can go to my guru if you want. I’ll give you the address.” So she gave the address, she told him where to go. Then he followed the instructions and went. It went into the market place and deeper into the market place, and then went into the butchers’ lane. He is a Brahmin, to be even seen in the butchers’ lane is a crime. He looked all over, meat hanging. He just thought, “Maybe it’s a mistake,” but it’s the correct address. He enquired, people pointed in this direction and he went.

Then he asked around, people said, “Okay, this is the man there.” And he’s all blood splattered and cutting meat. He thought, “For sure there must be a mistake. This is not it. Even if it’s true, I’m not willing to learn from a butcher. What is there for me to learn from a butcher? I’m a Brahmin.” He was about to turn away, the butcher said, he called him by the name and he said, “Come, I know she sent you.” Now he went and stood there. This whole blood and gore, he couldn’t stand it but he just stood there amazed.

Now he went there, that woman knew about the bird, he comes here, this guy already knows about this woman sending. He waited. The butcher said, “Wait, just, I’ll just finish this work and I’ll come and see you.” He just stood there. Then he finished his work, closed it and then he walked. He walked three feet away from him, because walking next to a butcher, a butcher whose actually he’s seen him chopping. Then the butcher talking to him. He said, “Just come, let me take you home, we will talk there.” He went with him. He made him sit down and went inside, showered, changed, came and he said, “Just give me some time, I have sick parents, I need to serve them, I need to take care of them first.” So he went in and took care of these old parents and then came back and sat down.

Then he asked, “I want to know how to know this, what you know. Morning that lady knew about the bird, before I come you know about me. How is this? I want to know this.” He said, “Just learn to take care of something with absolute involvement. Something, it doesn’t matter what. She takes care of her blind husband, I take care of my old parents, and when I chop these animals, I chop it with minimizing their suffering to whatever. I have chosen to be a butcher because if somebody else becomes a butcher, he may hurt the animals. I’ve become a butcher because I thought I could do it best. If I leave it to somebody else, they may do it somehow.”

So not very different – criminal lawyer – do it compassionately, what’s the problem? You may do lawyer’s work, you may do some other work, it doesn’t matter. All kinds of things needs to be done in the world, you have to do it. But essentially, if you see that “I’m just life,” life will reverberate with everything else. Love is not a policy, it’s an experience. You’re trying to make it a policy. As a policy it’s quite a stupid policy, really.

If you look around and feel one with everything, it’s a great feeling. You telling yourself, ‘I am you, you are me, you are me, I am you, it leads to a completely different rubbish. Don’t like anybody, don’t dislike anybody, just be with them. As you can be with the trees and the clouds and the mountains and everything else. Suppose you say “I love my children,” what do you do? You do whatever is needed. Yes, or no? Isn’t that what love is about? You do only what’s needed, you are not prejudiced.

So prejudice happens because you’re identified with something or the other. When I say prejudice, you need to understand, the moment the mind gets identified with something, you have a certain kind of prejudice. If you say, “I’m a man,” you have a very male kind of prejudice, which is, you won’t know. Others think you’re something else, you know. They have bad names for this. The moment you say, “I’m Indian” you have an Indian kind of prejudice. Whatever identity you take, your mind works only around that and it makes it look like it’s all right, that particular thing, whatever you’re identified with – everything else looks different.

So essentially spiritual process means not identifying with something new, learning to live here without any sense of identity, learning to live here just as life because that’s what you really are, isn’t it? So right now, you’re in the court – it is not the nature of your job, it is your identity which doesn’t allow you to reverberate. Right now you may be working towards getting a death-sentence for somebody, okay? Even if you’re working to get a death sentence, you can do this job well, without being against the man. So it doesn’t matter what is the nature of your job. Even if your job is that of a hangman, you can still do it compassionately. People have done even such extreme jobs compassionately, isn’t it?

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