Once a thief was caught stealing, red handed in a village. The angry people thrashed him so badly that he fell unconscious. Some of the older people advised the younger ones not to beat him further but as a punishment brand his forehead with a mark. The irate young men in the crowd, immediately obeyed and branded his forehead with a red hot iron rod. In the process some one even chopped off his nose with a sharp knife. Writhing with pain the thief ran away to a jungle. A permanent mark had been formed on his forehead and he had a half cut nose now. The thief did not return to the village, but continued to stay in a jungle far away, since with a mark on his forehead and chopped nostrils, made him feel insulted.

It was winter, but he did not have any warm clothes. Wandering around in the jungle he found a lion’s skin and wrapped it around him to warm. To ward off the biting cold, he collected some wood and lighted a fire. Now it looked like a ascetic’s setting,- a person sitting along fire, wearing a lion skin, with a mark on his forehead. The crooked mind of the thief thought of a plan. With some artistic touch he shaped the mark on his forehead to look like the ‘third eye’. He started breathing aloud moving his chopped nostrils, as if he was performing some special pranayam.

The gullible villagers (of some other village) were impressed. He came to be regarded as a saint. Some simple young men formed a group as his followers. The rouge was enjoying life to the fullest now. Without any effort he was getting, in abundance, all comforts and material, for which he had earlier been indulging in the risky profession-of a thief. All he had to do now was, to use his slashed nostrils to pose like a yogi doing special pranayams, with his eyes turned upwards. The innocent people were made to believe that in such a state he was communicating with God.

The increasing fame of Babaji lead to increased following. Hundreds thronged his Dhuni every day. The Baba also kept on inventing new ways of impressing them.

Over a short time, hundreds of people became his devotees. These included some really inquisitive ones also. Such devotees would often request him to enable them also to have the Darshan of God, but he would evade them on pretext or the other. How could he enable others, when he himself was nowhere near even the path to godliness, leave aside the Darshan of God.

One such inquisitive devotee approached him with a request. “Babaji, please let me also have the darshan of God.”

“No !” Said Babaji. “It is very difficult. You are not prepared for it yet”.
“Please prepare me then. I will do anything you ask me to do.”
“Go home “, said Babaji.” It is a tough job. It may take even years”.
‘Does not matter”, the devotee was adamant “ I will stay at your feet for years if needed.”

Babaji was worried. “This man seems to be a tough one. He would not budge. I will have to do something.” He thought. Soon a plan came to his crafty mind.

“Alright “, he said. “Come to me at midnight, when no one is around. I will grant you Deeksha (spiritual initiation) and you will be able to have darshan of the God”.

The devotee reached at the appointed time. After some useless talk, Babaji made him drink a glass of milk laced with some intoxicating herb. When the herb showed its effect, Babaji branded the centre of the devotee’s forehead with a red hot rod, and chopped off his nose with a sharp knife. Unable to bear the excruciating pain, the devotee became nearly unconscious. Babaji drowned his cries into loud chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivay’. Along with chanting, Babaji kept shouting into his ears. “Look Lord Shiva himself is standing in front of you. Have his Darshan to your fill”. The devotee was totally nonplussed. The intoxication and the pain, along with the shouting of Babaji dazed him completely. All he could hear was Babaji’s repeated chants “Look Lord Shiva is standing before you. Bow before him. Touch His feet.”

In the morning when the devotee came to his senses, he found his nose chopped, and his forehead branded with a mark.

“You have now been initiated into the our fold, with a chopped nose and a mark on the forehead. This is a serious and tough initiation meant only for the brave ones like you. Now forget all shame and doubts. Believe and make others believe that like Guruji, that is me, you have had lord Shiva’s Darshan. That is the only way out for you. If you do not say that, you are bound to face shame and ignominy.

The new disciple was convinced. The profitable way out for him was to follow what the Guruji had said. In the beginning some doubts did trouble him, but slowly self gratification and fame , that he received as the ‘accomplished one’, got the better of him. He started enjoying his newfound exalted status. Soon, many others were lured, and a whole sect was formed of ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’ ones.

If you are on a physical journey to some place, say, Mumbai, you will have to board one of the trains, particularly meant to go there. A Train which you and all others will be able to see, experience and feel. You and all others will experience the motion of the train. You will be alive to all the places you pass through . The loud noises at Mumbai station will announce your arrival at Mumbai, even to those who are fast asleep. In short, the physical journey is the one which can be seen, felt and experienced the same way by every one.

However, the subtle inward journey is drastically different. No one else can make you experience this journey. In fact it is a matter beyond the mind, the intellect and even the senses. Truly such a path does exist and sadly, this fact is being exploited by the flourishing sect of ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’ ones.

There are some characteristics of these ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’ ones. You can easily assume the position of a accomplished sadguru, if you are dexterous at putting across your views vociferously in a dramatic manner. If you are able to vent your wrath at the opportune time on a poor weakling, you can easily project yourself as person of great tejas (Radiance). You can easily project yourself as a great mahatma if you follow some ostensibly strict discipline like-

– Never looking at women- though all your chores are performed by women sevikas.
– Not touching money – though the devotees are allowed to place money under your aasana, under your feet or even huge amounts in your Bank Accounts.
– Sitting only on your own aasana- though you may be content to place this aasana conveniently on soft cushions.
– Eating food cooked separately, different from the food cooked for others (only then can you have food to the command of your taste buds).

Along with these elite rules if you have some knowledge about music, then no one can stop you from becoming a tremendous crowd pulling babaji. All you need then is a group of dedicated ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’ type of followers-cum-preachers. Some ‘fashionable’ discourses can easily place you in the league of great mahatmas.. It is not uncommon these days to find many such mahatmas use their popularity to realize their political ambitions or some politicians adding sheen to their profession by doubling as mahatmas.

Not able to earn fame or money honestly? Not to worry. Just try being a shrewd babaji. Name and fame will follow in no time, not to mention big Ashrams and Cars that will be yours without any effort. Do not worry about the delivery – of meaningful discourses on parmartha (the ultimate aim). All you have to know is, the art of smart talk. A few confidants will be an added support.

An underground Samadhi for a few days is helpful in bracing up your reputation as a true babaji- though it may be supported by an underground pipe for delivery of eatables water and air etc.

Flying in the sky is also a handy add-on – care being taken to ensure that only your confidants see you flying at the dead of night. Others are only required to believe what the trusted ones have seen and described.

If you are past seventy years of age, you are well within your privileged right, as babaji, to announce a date and even time at which you will transform into a 16 year old. Such announcements are enough for the credulous followers to build up a grand zealous run-up for the appointed day with splendid offerings pouring in. The best part of the whole thing is that gullible dedicated ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’ ones will still not disbelieve the babaji even when he wriggles out of the announced commitment on the appointed day, on some smart pretext.

You can carve out the choicest adjectives to describe your Guruji( seen by no one in the world except you). These may range from ‘The thousand year old young man’ and the ‘Siddha Shariri’ to ‘The one who can fly in the high heavens’ etc. No one will disbelieve you. On the contrary your sect will shine more than ever.

Just cram up some Sentences, shlokas etc. from the scriptures. Develop the art of reciting these in flowery speeches. It is not necessary to have real knowledge or experience. The ‘art of spiritual oration’ is all that is required.

What you have read in the preceding lines are, the features of ones with ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’. The major preachings of these sects are – Our Guru is the not only the greatest but also the only one. The preaching of all the rest is not only incomplete but also incorrect.

So intense is the excellence of this sect that it is impossible to see through the turbulence rampant in their hearts, spread over as they are with the multitudes of gullible followers, shrouded as they are with mysteries and the webs of cunningly conceived tricks passed off as ‘miracles’.

However, thankfully, there is a solution to every problem, So there is one way of identifying a ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’ one. That is – to develop in your self a sincere quest to realise the ultimate, the God; make yourself worthy of treading the path of liberation. Developing the ability to analyse the teachings of true saints on the touchstone of scriptures, awakening the power of inquisitiveness will be an added asset.

Do not restrict your self like a frog in the well of a particular sect or tradition. March forward on the strength of devotion, analytic ability, Investigative inquisitiveness and your own experiences. Even then if you find yourself entangled in the ‘Chopped nose –branded forehead’ mesh, do not hesitate to break free from it. You are sure to reach the Path of truth- just take care that your aim should be much above the mundane – Fame Money and Sensual pleasure. It should be nothing less than the Darshan of God, Realisation of the true self.