I am reading the book "Where Are You Going?: A Guide to the Spiritual Journey" by Swami Muktananda. He has a story about a holy man and a prostitute that is both instructive and a warning for those who believe they do the right thing. The second story is about two monks and a prostitute. It is based on a story I read several years ago.
The Holy Man and the Prostitute
In a certain town in India lived a sadhu, a holy man. He was very well respected, and among his disciples were many kings, artists, scientists, and other important people. The sadhu maintained very strict rules of purity. He at neither meat nor fish. He stayed away from garlic and onions. He neither drank nor smoked. He prayed three times a day. He always appeared to be repeating the mantra with his eyes closed, opening them only when he had to see someone.
The sadhu lived on the first floor of his building, and on the same floor inn the opposite building lived a prostitute. Every day the prostitute practiced her profession, singing and dancing and doing all the things that prostitutes do. And although the sadhu was celibate and physically pure, he was obsessed with her. He would watch her constantly, thinking, “Hey, that’s the second fellow who has gone to her today. Now there’s the third. There goes the fourth. Look, she’s hugging him!” All day long, he watched the prostitute, thinking how wicked and sinful she was. “Why does a pure being like me have to live across the street from a wretched prostitute?” he would ponder.
But when the prostitute would have some spare time, she would look toward the sadhu and be filled with remorse. She would think, “What a pure and holy being he is. And look at me, what a bad state I’m in. Alas, alas! There is no hope for me.”
Many years went by like this, and one day both of the died. The sadhu died surrounded by his disciples, and his funeral rites were performed with great honor. Precious materials were put on his body; sandalwood and incense were burned. The prostitute, however, died alone, and nobody knew of her death until the body started to stink. Finally, the city officials came and sprinkled DDT in the house. Then they dragged the body out and buried her without any ceremony.
The souls of the sadhu and the prostitute went to the next world to be examined at the passport office of dharma, righteousness. Their files were checked, and both were given slips of paper indicating where they were to go. The prostitute’s slip of paper said “heaven” and he sadhu’s paper said “hell.”
The sadhu was terribly upset. He cried, “Is this justice? You send a wretched prostitute to heaven and a pure person like me to hell? How do you explain this?
The passport official said, “Come this way.” He pulled out the files and showed them to the sadhu. “It is true that you kept your body very pure, that you performed many religious rites and rituals,” he explained. “That is why, when you died, your body was treated with the highest respect and buried with the greatest honors. But this is an account of what you thought about. Day after day, you kept thinking, “She is a wretched creature. She is so wicked. Look at all those men who are coming to her.”
Then the passport official pulled out the prostitute’s file. “This is what she thought about,” he said. “Every day she said to herself, “O sadhu, you are so pure and sublime. O sadhu, holy man, save me. Deliver me.” Of course, her body performed impure actions, and as a result it was treated disrespectfully and given a pauper’s burial. But her thoughts were high and pure, she has been sent to heaven, and because you thought about sin and wickedness, you have to go to hell.”
The Two Monks and the Prostitute
Two monks were making a holy journey to a distant city. At the beginning of the day they came upon a river swollen with rain water. The small bridge had been covered by the temporary rapids. A scantily clad prostitute sat on the bank, distraught that she could not cross the river. To forge the river would ruin her clothes and prevent her from her trade.
Warily, the prostitute ask the monks if they could assist her. The younger monk wished to move on, not wanting to taint himself with the desirable but profane woman. To touch or speak to such a person would be an stain to the monks' holy trek. To the young monks’ surprise the older monk scooped up the prostitute and put her on his back. Her legs straddled high on the monks' hips and her breasts pressed upon his neck as she hunched over to keep balance. The young monk was shocked by sinful closeness of the older monk and the prostitute. The three crossed the river without a word spoken. The monks exited drenched and the prostitute was dry. She bid them curt thanks and went on her way into the local town.
The older monk said nothing as the two holy men continued their long journey. Morning shifted to afternoon and then afternoon gave way to evening. All the while the indignation built in the younger monk. He thought of the woman’s smooth thin legs wrapped around his companions hips and those firm breasts pressed to the elder’s neck and back. The young monk thought about the prostitute's fruit rightfully forbidden to holy people like himself. Only the most crass and sinful tasted her goods. The young monk’s rage climbed as he pondered the absolute animalistic carnal nature of the encounter.
No longer able to contain himself, the young monk chastised the older monk during their dinner. “How could you avail yourself to her? How could you even speak to her? She is impure and should have been avoided” he shouted. “You might as well turn back, for you are no longer worthy of our journey. Shame on you, for you should know better!” The older monk turned to his companion, looking him squarely in the eyes. Quietly the elder said, “I put the prostitute back on the ground this morning, leaving her to practice what she will. You picked her back up and have lustfully carried her the entire day.”