Sri Ramakrishna would often talk about the tremendous powers of faith to his devotees. At the same time he would also warn them about the destructive qualities of egotism. To illustrate this idea he used to narrate the following story.
In times of yore there was a young man who had some spiritual tendencies. He came to know about a Guru who possessed great powers. He went in search of him and in the process reached a river bank. Finally, he saw the Guru standing on the other shore of the river. From this shore he shouted to the Guru expressing his earnest desire to become his disciple. The Guru advised him to cross the river and come near. The young man was puzzled since he neither knew swimming nor was there any boat available to cross the river at that time. When he expressed his helplessness, the Guru advised him to walk over the river uttering his name (Guru’s). The young man, who had deep spiritual inclinations and hence had firm faith in the infinite power of Guru, just walked over the river by simply uttering the name. The Guru was simply amazed by this feat of his disciple. He thought, if his name has so much power, he himself must be much greater and far more powerful. So thinking, he too tried to walk over the river saying, ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’. No sooner did he step into the water, than he sank down and was soon drowned, for the poor man didn’t even know how to swim.
Sri Ramakrishna used to point out that the disciple could cross the river not because the name of the Guru had any magical powers, but it was the power of faith of the disciple that resulted in the extraordinary act. On the other hand the Guru, although he was pretending to be a spiritual teacher, yet was vain and egotistic, which resulted in his destruction.