A holy man of God was once invited by a wealthy merchant to come and have lunch at his new house. When the saint arrived at the gates of his palatial residence, he was driven away by the guards who thought he was a beggar.
A few minutes later, the holy man returned, wrapped up in an expensive silk and gold shawl. This attire gained him instant admittance into the merchant's house.
"Your servants would not let me enter the house when I came in my ochre robes," the saint remarked to the merchant. "That is only natural Swamiji," said the merchant smilingly. "The elite of the town are present here today, and it is entirely proper that they should see you at your best!. Now they know that you are a force ro reckon with, a grand, impressive figure in that resplendent shawl!"
The saint smiled, and did not utter a word in reply.
When they were seated at the table, a grand feast was laid before them. The wealthy guests began to eat hastily. They did not want to miss out on any of the delicious dishes offered to them.
As for the saint, he quietly took away the shawl that covered him. Underneath, he still wore his ochre robes. He laid the shawl on the table, and began to put food on it. Hot, steaming vegetables, creamy kheer, fragrant rice, soft rotis, luscious mithai and deserts – everything was heaped on to the shawl.
"Swamiji!" thundered his host, red-faced with anger. "What are you doing?"
"My friend, I realize that I am not the guest you invited to dine with you," the saint replied. "When I came in my own person, I was refused admittance. It is this shawl which made you welcome me and seat me at this table with your honoured guests. And so, it is this shawl which is your guest, and it is this shawl which should be the real recipient of your lavish hospitality. As for the real me in my poor ochre robes – I not deserve to eat anything at your grand feast!"