Sri Ramakrishna would explain to his devotees the power of associating with anything holy. He would say that such associations are capable of bringing about a transformation in one’s character. He would explain this idea using a custom prevalent in rural Bengal. In the villages of Bengal there is a tradition of Bahurupi, a professional impersonator, who would dress and disguise himself in various ways and entertain people. Normally, such people dress themselves as various gods and goddesses, particularly during religious festivals, fairs, etc. Of course, they also disguise themselves using various masks of animals.
Once a Bahurupi disguised himself as Shiva and was entertaining an assembly of curious onlookers. After the performance, without removing his dress he visited a house. The master of the house wanted to give him some cash in appreciation of his performance. But the Bahurupi refused to accept it. The gentleman who offered money was quite surprised. He knew that the Bahurupi was poor and depended on such gifts for his sustenance. Then he went home, removed the costume of Shiva and came back to the gentleman. He asked for the cash which the gentleman had offered earlier. The latter asked him why he did not accept it before. The Bahurupi replied that he was impersonating Shiva, a sanyasi. Renunciation was the hallmark of any monk and hence he could not touch money at that time.
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would explain that even a fake association with holiness would bring about some idea of spiritual evolution in the person concerned. He would add that if it would be so, how much more a sadhaka would benefit if he truly adopted the life of genuine holiness. Genuine and lasting spiritual transformation was a certainty in such aspirants. That is the way to blessedness in spiritual life.
– by Swami Shantatmanandaji, published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 20th Jul 2013