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A Young Woman and her Bangles - the Twentieth Guru of Dattatreya

A young woman whom I met when I was begging for alms is the twentieth Guru. She told me to wait while she prepared a meal. Her bracelets jangled as she cooked, so she removed one. But the noise continued, so she took off all her bracelets, one by one, until only one remained. Then there was silence. Thus, I learned that wherever there is a crowed, there is noise, disagreement, and dissension. Peace can be expected only in solitude.

Another interpretation

The twentieth guru was a young girl who was alone at home when she had unexpected visitors. Brought up in a tradition where the unexpected guest, atithi, is regarded as divine, she seated them with respect and then went into the inner room to prepare food for them. While pounding the rice her glass bangles made a noise knocking against each other. One by one she broke them so that the noise would not disturb her guests, until she had just two on her arm. When these too made a noise she broke one so that she had just one.

In a flash Dattatreya understood that one should walk alone on the spiritual path. Even a close, silent companion can create mental noise that prevents the great silence from taking place.

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