A famous preacher of Vedanta had a pupil of sixteen years who, under his instruction, acquired a very fine knowledge of the philosophy. He did not teach him rhetoric, as he did not consider that the boy would make a good speaker.
One day however the master suddenly became ill just before he had to address a gathering. On an impulse, he sent the boy to speak in his place, telling him to explain the circumstances, and then try to give a plain exposition of the fundamentals, as he had been taught.
To his surprise, it was reported to him that the speech by his pupil had been a great success. A little later, kindly friends hinted that it had even been said that the pupil was a better speaker than his master. (‘Absurd, of course, but we felt you ought to know.’)
The preacher pondered for a little while, and then set the pupil to re-make the garden of the house and build a shed in it, telling him that he should know about ordinary life as the layman lived it, and not only about abstractions. On another occasion when the master was again ill, he simply sent an excuse by the hand of the boy, who passed it on and returned at once.
After three months of this, the preacher noticed that his pupil, who had seemed rather downcast, had recovered his serenity and cheerfulness.
‘It has been a test for him/ he confided to a close friend, a man of spiritual discernment. ‘He must have been very disappointed, but he has overcome that now. He has done well in this test.’
‘And how do you think you have done?’ asked the friend.