This part is taken from Various Stories & Tales in “Spiritual Stories” as Told by Ramana Maharshi

A devotee told Bhagavan about his ill-health, treatment by doctors and services rendered to him by his servants. Bhagavan did not immediately reply to him, but in the evening, when the devotees all gathered, he began massaging his own legs with oil. Looking at the questioner with a smile, he said, “We are our own doctors and our own servants.” The questioner then said, “What are we to do if we do not have strength like Bhagavan to attend to our own work?” Bhagavan’s reply was, “If we have strength to eat, why should we not have strength to do this?” The questioner could not say anything and so kept silent with his head bent. Just then the post arrived. After looking through the letters, Bhagavan narrated the following story.

Once a certain sanyasi was anxious to be the head of a Mutt. He had to have disciples, you see and he tried his level best to secure some. Anyone who came, soon found out the limited knowledge of the person and so went away. No one stayed on. What could he do?

One day he had to go to a city. There he had to keep up his position; but he had no disciple. No one must know this. His bundle of clothes, etc., was on his head. So, he thought he would place the bundle in some house unobserved and then pretend to go there afterwards. He wandered throughout the place. Whenever he tried to step into a house, he found a number of people in front of it. Poor chap! What could he do? It was almost evening. He was tired. At last he found a house with no one in front. The door was open. Greatly relieved, he placed the bundle in one corner of the house and then sat in the verandah.

After a while the lady of the house came out and enquired who he was. “Me! I am the head of a Mutt in such and such a place. I came to this city on some work. I heard that you were good householders. I therefore sent my belongings through my disciple to put them in your house thinking that we could put up with you for the night and go away next morning. Has he done so?” “No one has come sir”, she said. “No, please. I asked him to put the bundle here, go to the bazaar and get some things. Kindly see if he has put it in any corner”, he said. When the lady searched this side and that, she saw the bundle in one corner. Thereupon she and her husband welcomed him and gave him food, etc.

Rather late in the night, they asked, “How is it, sir your disciple has not come yet?” He said, “Perhaps that useless fellow has eaten something in the bazaar and is wandering about. You please go to bed. If he comes, I will open the door for him.”

That couple had by then understood the sanyasi’s true position. They thought they would see further fun and so went into the house to lie down. Then the person started his acting. He opened the door and closed it, making a loud noise so as to be heard by the members of the household. He then said loudly, “Why! What have you been doing so long? Take care – if you do it again, I shall beat you black and blue. Be careful henceforth.” Changing his tone thereafter, he said in a plaintive voice, “Swami, Swami, please excuse me. I shall not do it again.” Assuming the original tone, he said, “All right. Come here, massage my legs here. No, there. Please hit lightly with your fists. Yes a little more.” So saying, he massaged his own legs and then said, “Enough. It is rather late. Go to bed.” So saying he went to sleep. There was a hole in the wall of the room where the couple were staying and through it they saw the whole farce.

In the early morning the sanyasi again began repeating the evening’s performance, saying, “You lazy fellow! The cocks have begun to crow. Go to so and so’s house and come back after doing such and such work.” So saying, he opened the door, pretended to send him away and went back to bed. The couple saw this also.

In the morning he bundled up his belongings, put the bundle in a corner, and went to a tank nearby for bathing, etc. The couple took the bundle and hid it somewhere. The sannyasi returned and searched the whole room but the bundle was not found anywhere. So he asked the lady of the house, “Where is my bundle?” The couple then replied, “Sir, your disciple came here and took away the bundle saying you wanted him to bring it to you. It is the same person who massaged your legs last night. He must be round the corner. Please see, Swami.” What could he do then? He kept his mouth shut and started going home.

This is what happens if a disciple serves you. Just like me, we are our own servants.

So saying, Bhagavan pretended to massage his legs with his hands and his fists.