There was one guy; he was meditating in Ganga, in freezing water for a long time, just to find out the truth of Maya, the illusion, or the relative truth. And finally, one day, God appeared and said, “Why are you meditating on something which is insignificant which you are experiencing and it may not be possible for your intellect to understand it. Why do you want to know?” Then he said, “I would like to know the depth of Maya, illusion.” God said, “In time, you will understand, let time, teach you this lesson.” God disappeared. He was disappointed because he thought that God will give him clarity, but he did not get it. So, while he was sitting there, his children came, he left for his home, and the children took care of him. He was living with his children, but at the same time, he had a deep urge to know the truth of Maya, illusion.
One day, when he was sitting outside on the porch of the house, he heard one beggar singing a song and walking outside on the road. And he had a glimpse of the beggar, he was in tatters. He had no clothes or very little clothes, fully dark and kind of shabby, not at all clean. And he felt a lot of disgust. And also, he felt this is very bad or something like that in his mind, and soon afterwards he died. So, his predominant thought at that time was disgust.
When he was reborn, he was born again, as a beggar. And he had no memory of his past life, and he was walking around, singing songs, just like he had a glimpse in the previous life. He went on like that, he married a woman, but she didn’t live for long. And meanwhile, she had a few children, children also died.
So, he was very sad, he was disoriented and he was wandering all the time. And one day, it so happened that he was wandering through one city and that King of that city had died, and they were trying to find a new king. So, the astrologers or the wise men told that the new king should be chosen by an elephant, by the Royal Palace elephant, a trained one, as it has the power to see who is divine. It was given a garland and the elephant was wandering through the streets, looking for the right person to be the next king. Then he put the garland around the neck of this beggar. Everybody was surprised, but they said this is the decision of God. Then they took this guy, they bathed him and they gave him fresh clothes and they coronated him, he became the king. And he married again, he had a few wives and he had children and all those things.
And he was ruling the country. He had some kind of inclination for a good rule, means without selfishness. He was a good king and he was having a good way to assess the good and the bad and make good decisions. So, everybody liked him. Eight or nine years went on like that. Meanwhile, one day he was walking in the garden outside his palace, and he heard a beggar singing, same like he used to do outside on the road. He immediately called the beggar, and he sat with him and he also started singing. All the palace people, the ministers and the people in the court, they saw this, and they were a bit disappointed. And they were saying, “oh, we did not know the past of this King, we must know.’ They went around their search and they found out that he was born in a beggar’s colony, and he was a beggar himself. This was his story. So, they were very disappointed. A couple of queens committed suicide knowing this. Some ministers also went away and there were so many calamities. This also made him very sad, so he also decided to jump into the fire and die. He jumped into the fire and died.
Suddenly the man who was meditating, or doing penance in the river got up. He realized the illusion, he realized what is untruth. The whole story, that means he’s still alive, but at the same time he saw him dying, him taking birth, him becoming a king; all this happened in about a minute. He realized it was a parallel reality, it was not true. It was a reality. So, God wanted to tell him what is reality and what is illusion.
Was this a reality? While he experienced, everything was real. He had sorrows, he had happiness, and he had everything. But now he realized that he’s not even dead, he’s still there. His sons have not picked him up. So, he was pretty much confused, he did not know what is real, what is untrue, what is not the truth. He was contemplating on it. And then he decided, “Okay, let me do penance again. Let me ask this question to the deity,” whom he was worshipping. And he started doing penance.
And while he was about to do that, one wandering man came to the place where he was sitting. Then he asked, “Who are you, where have you come from?” So, the wandering man said, “I was living in a city, there was a king who was a beggar, but we did not know he was a beggar. So, we coronated him as a king. He was ruling the country well, but later on, we realized that his background was not good, then we had a lot of problems in the country. Because of those problems, I decided to go wandering, because I had no other way to do.”
Then he realized, “This is my story, this is a story which I saw, but I saw all this in one minute. While this man is telling that this really happened. So what is reality? Whether my story is right, whether what I saw is real, or how did I perceive this? It is about me he is talking about, but I have not gone anywhere. I’m sitting here, and I’m experiencing this from another person’s mouth.” Then he decided, “I must get this answer.” He did penance, and the deity came, and the deity said, “Look here, your mind cannot comprehend Maya. It’s not possible. What your intellect, your logic is trying to understand, only some reality is connected to what the brain can understand, but there is much, much more. There are much deeper dimensions to everything, you will not be able to understand’.”
A donkey was tied to a tree. A demon came and untied it. The donkey ran into the fields and began destroying the crop. When the farmer’s wife spotted this, she shot and killed the donkey. The donkey’s owner was so upset that he shot the farmer’s wife.
When the farmer returned to see his wife dead, he stormed off and shot the donkey’s owner. The wife of the owner of the donkey asked her sons to avenge the death of their father, and go and burn down the house of the farmer.
The boys went late evening and gleefully carried out their mother’s orders, assuming that the farmer too would have been burnt alive, along with the house. Sadly for them, that wasn’t the case. When the farmer came back to see the charred remains of his house, he promptly went and shot the wife and the two sons of the donkey’s owner.
Suddenly struck by remorse, the farmer asked the demon why all those terrible things had to happen. The demon replied, “Why, I did nothing at all! Oh, except release the donkey. It was all of you who reacted, overacted and released the inner devil.”
Did you get it?
The devil doesn’t do anything but wake you up by triggering the ego in you that turns into evil intent and goes about harming others. The next time before replying, responding, reporting, rebuking or avenging a revenge – pause and think.
Be careful. Many a time, the only thing the devil needs to do is simply release the donkey wthin us.
Ravana’s problem, his evil nature, was only due to one thing – ego and pride. He wanted to be the best in the world. He wanted the best things for himself. That was the reason why he did all that he did.
During his time, there lived a monkey king called Vali. Vali was very powerful – even more powerful than Ravana. When Ravana heard that Vali was regarded to be more powerful than him, he set out to defeat Vali. Ravana found Vali by the river Ganges, deeply immersed in his daily worship and meditation and accosted him aggressively. Vali, being a monkey, had a tail. He put it to good use by tying Ravana with it, and continued on with his worship. After finishing his worship, he proceeded to various places with Ravana still tied to his tail. When he could bear it no more, Ravana cried out, “Please forgive me. I did not know your strength.” Thus, he was set free.
Rama and Ravana
There is another interesting story. Rama was going to Sri Lanka to claim his wife. He wanted to perform a fire ceremony to ensure his victory. It was a special ritual that only an accomplished priest could do. People asked Rama, “Who is the right priest to do this fire ceremony?” He replied that his enemy Ravana would actually be the perfect priest. Rama said, “Can you go and request Ravana to do this ceremony? That will ensure my victory.” Thus, they went to Ravana and requested him to perform the fire ceremony for Rama’s victory in the war! Ravana replied, “Yes, I will come!”
Ravana came and conducted the fire ceremony, and blessed Rama to be victorious against himself. Rama then said, “I want to give you dakshina. (a voluntary honorarium given to the priest for conducting the ritual)” Ravana replied, “When I am dying, I want you to be near me. I know you are an avatar, you are God. If you will be beside me at the time of my death, I will attain liberation.” Rama replied, “It shall be so.” And it happened in exactly that way.
If you look at this whole story of Ramayana, you will see the deeper dharma (righteousness) at work. You can see how Rama envisaged the kingdom. He named it Rama Rajya, a kingdom where only righteousness prevailed. In today’s world, one only sees adharma. There is no righteousness – people are cheating, stealing, killing, competing and so on. Rama and these stories are examples that are good for all of us to remember.
There is a well-known fable about a guy who gifted a lamb to a friend. He handed him the lamb with much kindness and love, saying, “This will be useful to you.” Feeling happy, the man set out for his home, carrying the lamb. Along the way, four thieves spotted him and there came a desire in their minds to possess the animal. They talked among themselves and decided, “We will get this lamb.”
One of the four asked, “How do we get hold of it? Should we rob him?”
“No, he himself will leave the lamb. We will make him drop the lamb and go. Then all we’ll need to do is to pick it up.”
Then they worked out a plan. The four of them were to position themselves on different spots along the way and await the man with the lamb.
As the man approached, the first thief asked, “Where are you taking this dog?”
The man said, “This is not a dog, this is a lamb. Can’t you see?”
The thief replied scratching his head, “Looks like a dog to me. Maybe it’s a bit like a lamb, but not quite. The more I look, the more it appears like a dog.”
And then things started happening in the man’s mind already. He walked further, wheare the second thief was waiting for him. He remarked, “Oh, nice dog! Where did you get this dog, where can I buy one like this?”
The man who was now irritated, said, “It’s not a dog. It’s a lamb! Can’t you see?”
The second thief replied, “I could have sworn it’s a dog.”
After he passed the second guy, the man’s mind was already starting to work wonders!
As the man continued on with the lamb, the third thief sitting by the wayside said the same thing, “Amazing dog, would you consider selling it?”
Now the man was all agitated. He was thinking, “What’s wrong with all these people!? Either I am blind or everybody is blind!”
However, by then his mind was already saying that this friend of his had cheated him by telling him it was a lamb. He thought, “I don’t know how I got fooled. Maybe at that time I wasn’t paying close attention.”
Then as he walked along, he met up with the fourth thief who exclaimed, “Oh, amazing dog!”
Hearing this he just dropped the lamb. He had no use for a dog. Cursing, he walked away, telling himself that he would have nothing more to do with that so-called friend, who he thought had conned him.
And this sort of thing happens in our spiritual pursuit as well. We might probably have a lamb in our hand but when the fourth person tells us: “That’s not the right practice, that’s not the right Guru. He is a very bad Guru or it’s a very bad practice, a very bad tradition”, we will change our mind. This is one of the most detrimental things on the spiritual path.
We go after popular masters, popular time-tested things, but we forget one thing: by birth, each one of us is unique, each one is authentic, each one original. So how can you have a general medicine?
Something which suits you is what you should follow.
Once upon a time, Gautama Buddha visited a town. The entire town gathered, waiting to listen to him, but he would not start the discourse. He kept glancing backwards at the road, expecting a little 13-year old girl to come. He had happened to meet her on the road and she had told him, “Wait for me. I am going to give this food to my father at the farm, but I will be back in time. Don’t forget, wait for me!”
Finally, the elders of the town said to Gautam Buddha ,“For whom are you waiting? Everybody important is present, you can start your discourse.” The Buddha replied, “But the person for whom I have come so far is not present yet and I have to wait.”
Finally the girl arrived and exclaimed, “I am a little late, but you kept your promise! I knew you would keep your promise because I have been waiting for you since my first memory as a child, when I first became aware… I think I was four years old when I first heard your name. Your name was enough to ring a bell in my heart. And since then for ten long years…I have been waiting!!!”
The Buddha responded,“You have not been waiting in vain. You are the very person who has attracted me to this village.”
At the end of his discourse, that little girl was the only one who went up to him to say, “Initiate me. I have waited enough, and now I want to be with you.” The Buddha replied, “You will have to travel with me because your town is so remote! I cannot keep coming here again and again. The road is long, and I am getting old!”
In that entire town, not a single person had come up to him to be initiated into meditation, except for that little girl.
At night, as they were getting ready to sleep, the Buddha’s chief disciple Ananda asked him, “Master, before you go to sleep, I want to ask you one question. Do you feel a certain pull towards a certain space… just like a magnetic pull?”
The Buddha replied, “You are right, Ananda. That is how I decide my journeys. When I feel someone is thirsty…so thirsty that without me, there is no other way for them… I have to move in that direction.”
The master moves towards the disciple and the disciple also moves towards the master. Sooner or later they are bound to meet. The meeting is not of the body, the meeting is not of the mind. The meeting is of the very soul!
It is like when you bring two lamps close to each other, the lamps remain separate but their flames become one.
Alexander the Great was getting ready to ‘conquer the world’. Before he set out on his journey, he went to seek the blessings of his teacher Aristotle. He asked Aristotle: “When I come back, what would you like me to bring for you?” Aristotle said: “If you can get me a truly enlightened saint from India, I will be truly happy.” He replied: “No problem, if they are available there, I will get you many.”
He went around, conquered many a land, many a kingdom and then reached India. He conquered whatever was ahead of him, defeated kings and established his empire and called himself Alexander the Great. He decided to return back and remembered the promise to his teacher. He asked his chief of army to fetch him a ‘good quality saint’. The army chief enquired of all the wise men and all said that there was indeed one such saint inside the forest – a true saint, an enlightened Master. Alexander sent his army to fetch this man. They found him sleeping completely naked on a rock out under the sun. Both the sun and the rock were burning hot. They were confused. How could this naked and obviously mad man be a great saint? Anyway, they caught him and brought him to the city. They covered him with some clothes and presented him to Alexander.
Alexander was not at all impressed by his appearance—shabby, long matted hair, unbathed, unclean and unshaven. He discreetly made sure that his soldiers had not made a mistake. Everyone confirmed that this one was of good quality. Alexander tried to impress this saint by telling him about the riches of his land. He tried to engage him in conversation.
The saint kept saying, “Take me back to my rock.” Finally, Alexander was fed up. He asked, “What do you want from me?” The saint asked: “What do you have?”
Alexander replied, “All the land from here till eternity belongs to me. I am conqueror of the world.” The saint laughed aloud to Alexander’s greatest annoyance. He asked,“Show me what you have conquered.” Alexander said,“It’s spread out and I cannot show it just like that.” The saint asked for a wooden ruler and a wooden plank. Someone brought both. He placed the wooden ruler under the wooden plank, like a seesaw. He asked Alexander to stay balanced on top of it. Alexander could not.
The saint said, “All that you ‘seem’ to have conquered has already returned back to normal life. You cannot conquer any people, any places, anything. If you felt you conquered anything or achieved anything, it is only a burden of your own ego. There is only one conquest which is worthwhile – that is your own mind. You are far from conquering that. All other conquests could stay with you only till your grave, at the most. So do not be so proud of yourself.”
Alexander was furious. He commanded the saint to be ‘thrown back into the forest’. He went back without any saint from India because he did not want to carry this unwelcome annoyance and botheration back to his country of birth.
When he reached his teacher’s house it was early morning and Aristotle was meditating inside his room with the doors open, facing the early morning sun. When Alexander came to the door, he was blocking the sun and so Aristotle opened his eyes.
Alexander said, “I have come back victorious but I could not fulfil your wish of bringing a saint from India. They are all so ugly and rude, they are not worthy as a presentation to a noble soul like you. Please tell me Master, what else can I give you?” Aristotle simply said: “Move away, let the sunshine fall on me.”
Alexander walked away in utter dismay. He could not understand why his teacher was not impressed at all. He said, “All these saints are alike. They always manage to annoy me.”
I do not know whether this story is true or not. Just do not worry too much about the names of the characters and their historical importance. Just look at the context and understand the message.
There were two saints sitting under a tree. Sage Narada, the Guru of the devatas (demigods) approached them.
One of the saints asked Sage Narada, “Guru, you know everything. You know the past, present and future. How many lifetimes will I take to be liberated?”
Narada replied, “Look up. Do you see the number of leaves on this tree? That many lifetimes.”
The saint said, “Thank you. At least now I know that I have a boundary. After these many lifetimes, I will be liberated.”
Then, the other saint asked Sage Narmada the same question, “When will I be liberated?” Sage Narada replied, “Oh, you will be liberated in this lifetime.” The saint immediately said, “Oh my God, I have a lot of things to do.” and he ran away.
Now Sage Narada had twisted the answers – he had said exactly the opposite. The saint who was satisfied with the finite number of lifetimes was to be liberated in the same life. The one who asked the question and ran away had many more lifetimes left before he could be liberated.
The more questions one has, the lesser chance for them to be liberated. The more doubts one has, the more detached they are from reality and truth.
Here is one of two stories of how Dattatreya was born.
Great masters never leave. Two such great masters were a couple named Atri and Anasuya. Atri was the husband, the one who meditated and Anasuya, his wife, served him. And in the Indian tradition, there were some very, very powerful spiritual women who had attained those powers by just serving their husbands. Anasuya was one of them, Savitri was another.
The story goes that the gods grew jealous of Anasuya and wanted to test her spiritual power. So they approached the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and asked them to come to Earth to test this lady’s power.
They appeared as three wandering monks. In the Hindu tradition, if guests visits one’s home, they must be offered food – it is not considered right to serve them nothing. Anasuya was at home alone, since Atri had gone down to the river to bathe. Now they had arrived as wandering monks asking for food when the husband was not present and his wife was alone. They said to her, “We are hungry, can you serve us some food?’’ She did not have any food ready in the house at that time. She said, ”Please wait, let me prepare something and serve it to you.” They said, ”We will wait. But we have one condition. You should serve us food completely naked, without any clothes.”
As per tradition, if a saint asks for something, it is not a good idea to deny it. It is inauspicious to say ‘no’. So she was in a dilemma: how would she accommodate this unusual request? First she had to give them food, and second she had to obey their condition, which was to serve it naked, and this second one was unacceptable to her. So she said, ”Please wait.”
She went inside, took some water in her hand, and came out and sprinkled it on them. The next moment, the monks turned into three small babies. She produced some breast milk and fed them. As all the conditions were fulfilled, they were very happy. Since they were satisfied, they said, ”We would like to bless you. Ask for a boon, we will grant it to you.” She replied, ”I would like you to come as my son.” They then blessed her and entered her womb together as one entity.
When Atri came back from the river, he immediately understood all that had happened in his absence and was much pleased. Today, that son is who we call as Dattatreya. Atri declared that this son would lead the world one day. Each yuga or era has an avatar, for example Shri Krishna in Dvapara Yuga. It is well-known that in the current era or Kali Yuga, Adi Shankaracharya is Acharya or key master. Likewise, Dattatreya used to be the master of the era in which Shri Krishna lived, 5000 years ago.
When Dattatreya was born, he had three heads, of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. His mother thought that in this way it would be difficult for the child to survive in society. People would recognise him at sight. So they condensed themselves into one head.
There was once a very powerful avadhoota. An avadhoota is a spiritual master, one who has body consciousness, but no thoughts. His mind has collapsed, he is aware of the body and he has nothing to do with the Earth. He walks the the Earth as a witness, as a road map, or as a symbol of that state.
This avadhoota used to wear only a loincloth, which is kind of a bare minimum undergarment, and no other clothes. And he used to carry a begging bowl in his hand. Other than that bowl which he ate food from, and the piece of cloth that he wore, he owned nothing else. He never carried anything else either. This avadhoota named Nagarjuna never displayed any of his powers. He was always very silent and quiet and would wander around the streets. If he was hungry, he would beg for food and eat whatever he received from people. And that’s how he was living – no possessions, no houses, no credit cards, nothing. And just wandering.
His fame began to spread. There was talk of what a great master he was, and people came looking for him. Word reached the palace. The queen became interested in meeting him, and she told the palace ministers, “I want to meet this avadhoota Nagarjuna, let me invite him for lunch.” So they brought him to the palace. What sort of utensils can one expect in a palace? Gold plates, gold spoons – everything was made out of gold! The queen showed him great respect, seating him and serving him food on gold plates. Contrast this with the saint, naked except for his loincloth!
Nagarjuna spoke, “What have I got to do with these gold plates? I have this begging bowl – you can serve me the food in this bowl. Whatever you give me in this bowl, I will eat.”
So they served him food in the bowl which he was carrying. He ate well, and everything was ok. The queen was happy, he was happy.
Then he asked, “May I leave now? I’m happy, I’m pleased, may I go?”
The queen said, “Thank you very much for coming, we are blessed that you stepped into this palace. We are very happy and it was our pleasure to serve you. Can you come back again? Any time you like.”
Please understand, no true master makes any big promises of the future, because they may leave their body at any time. They reserve the option to leave their body any time. If you promise something, you have to keep it.
Therefore he said, “We’ll see.” He didn’t commit. Then he asked the queen, “What can I give you?”
She looked at him, and seeing he wore nothing of value, she said, “I would like to have your begging bowl.”
Nagarjuna didn’t even think twice. He promptly handed that single possession of his, his begging bowl, to her.
She received the begging bowl with a lot of love and reverence and said, “I will keep this in my shrine and I will worship this. This is so much more precious to me than any other material in this palace.”
As he was about to leave, the queen remembered, “Oh, but what about you? You don’t have a bowl to eat from anymore.”
Nagarjuna answered, “That’s all right, no problem.”
The queen said, “But I must give you a bowl in return.” She brought out a golden bowl, encrusted with diamonds – a very, very, very expensive, an extremely valuable one. Handing it to him, she said, “You are a such a powerful master. You are inestimable and beyond price. So I feel that whatever I give you should somehow be compatible with your stature, and that’s why I’m giving this to you.”
He accepted it. However as he took this bowl, those watching this scene including the ministers and other people, were not happy.
They whispered among themselves, “Is this really a renunciate?! He’s supposed to be a saint. But just look at him – he accepted this diamond-studded gold begging bowl without any hesitation. Why didn’t he say: ‘No, no, no, I can’t touch it – I have already renounced all these things, I cannot touch material stuff.’ Why didn’t he say so?!”
So they were wondering whether this was a real or a fake saint. There was avid discussion.
Do you see how fast we make judgments about other people? When Nagarjuna received the bowl, he also understood what was in the minds of those people.
Hence he said, “Don’t judge me. Because I am above materials. To you, this is gold, but I see it merely as a utility vessel. For you this bowl is valuable, only because of what it’s made of. I’m looking at this thing only as a vessel I can use for food, nothing else. To me, whether a vessel is made of gold or of clay, it’s the same. I only look at how I can use it. You however might be looking at it as an opportunity for enhancing your family wealth. I have no family, and no need for wealth. So don’t judge me!”
How easy it is to judge! And to come out of the consequences? Very difficult.
Nagarjuna continued on his wanderings with this bowl. And if he felt hunger, he went begging as usual. When people would bring out food, he would stretch out this glittering gold bowl with diamonds to receive the food. And people would gasp at the sight of this stunning bowl and the almost naked man holding it. They thought it most strange and inappropriate. To them, it didn’t matter where it came from but who was using it.
So Nagarjuna became the talk of the town. His fame spread all over, and one thief grew interested in him. Now this was a thief with a “good reputation”. He was reputed to even have stolen from the palace! They had been unable to catch him red-handed. So when the thief saw the famous wandering avadhoota of the golden bowl, he decided to follow him secretly. However in this pursuit, he kept a safe distance lest the saint recognise him.
One evening, the saint decided to sleep. He went to a waiting shed, a bus-stop kind of place where there was not even a proper roof, let alone a place to sleep. That space used to be usually occupied by wandering monks, beggars, and those kind of people. And that day, a guy with a golden begging bowl with diamonds on it had shown up there.
It was not what worldly people would consider as a comfortable place to sleep in. Nagarjuna began cleaning the floor in preparation for sleep. Meanwhile the thief who was hiding behind the pillar, started planning: “When this guy goes to sleep, I will grab the bowl and run.” He lay in wait. Nagarjuna cleaned the floor and sat down. The next instant, he took the begging bowl and tossed it near where the thief was hiding. The thief was completely taken aback. He had never expected this. He wondered why the man had thrown the golden bowl towards him. He was very pleased though, for this was the first time ever that he had got something without stealing!
Recognizing this as no accident, he approached the avadhoota and said, “I got the bowl I came for. But why did you do this?”
Nagarjuna said, “If you stand there all the time thinking about my bowl, then I cannot sleep. You will not sleep the whole night and I will not sleep either. Both of us will have sleepless nights. If instead you got the bowl, you would leave and then I can sleep too.”
The thief was fascinated – he had never come across anyone like this. He said, “I have never met any person like you. So you don’t care about the value of this bowl?”
Nagarjuna replied, “The only value of this bowl for me is that it can carry food, that I can eat from it. Apart from that, it has no value.”
Feeling awed by this, the thief said, “You’re an amazing person, I’ve never seen the likes of you. May I touch your feet?”
The thief added, “You know, I’m no ordinary thief. I’m a celebrity thief. I have even stolen from the palace.”
Nagarjuna remarked, “Nice to meet you.”
The thief touched Nagarjuna’s feet and felt something. Something had changed in his brain, because he had never met anybody like this who never cared about anything, who even had a very precious thing in his hand but never cared about it. That meant he was totally detached from anything and everything. That was such a novel thing for the thief that he started thinking: “Everyone is trying to save, to hold on to whatever they have. This fellow does not even care. Why is it so?”
Until then, this thief had a bit of pride, he had done tremendous thefts, and had never been caught. Now In a way, this wandering avadhoota had outwit him. Nagarjuna had beaten him at his own game. The thief did not have to exert to steal this precious thing from him. And this precious thing was probably worth much more than all that he had stolen in this lifetime.
When the thief touched his feet, he started feeling differently, so he said, “How can I become like you? I think I have to probably take many lives to be like you?”
Nagarjuna replied, “Not really.”
Thief: “When can I be like you?”
Nagarjuna: “Right now!”
Thief: “Really? It’s that simple?”
Nagarjuna: “Yes, it’s that simple.”
Thief: “What do I have to do for it?”
Nagarjuna: “You should make a decision! You have to decide!”
Thief: “Yes, I’ve decided. Will you guide me?”
Please understand – until that moment there hadn’t been any kind of surrender in the thief’s mind. He had not surrendered because he was still in the past habitual mode of being a thief, who he was in society, and stuff like that.
Then the thief said, “Nobody will accept me as a student because of my past history, which is not so great. So why would you accept me like this?”
Nagarjuna responded, “Your past records are your burden, what have I got to do with them? My job is to deliver. If you’re ready, I will deliver.”
The thief said, “All the teachers in the past have rejected me.”
Nagarjuna said, “If any teacher has rejected you because of who you are, they are not teachers. A true teacher should not look at the past or the future of anybody. They just deliver in the present. The past is already gone. Right now, you have already reached here. The future is up to you – what you want, how you want. According to that you will have your future. A teacher has nothing to do with that, and should not have anything to do with that.”
The thief was completely shaken. He’d never heard any of these things in his life. He had only heard the sound of police chasing him. This avadhoota was not even judging him. He had come there to steal the most precious stuff that this guy had been carrying, yet he had not judged him or anybody. No judgment!
Considering all this, the thief said, “Ok, teach me! What should I do?”
Nagarjuna said, “Be aware of your breathing all the time! Three things: inhalation, exhalation and the space between inhalation and exhalation. Just be aware of these three things, nothing else.”
The thief asked, “And if I do this, will I become like you?”
Nagarjuna, “It’s possible.”
The guru never promises, right? Why didn’t the guru promise? Because YOU are walking, not the guru.
Nagarjuna told him, “Whatever you do, remember your breath. Always remember your breath. Whenever you recall about remembering the breath, remember your breath.”
So the thief left with the bowl. He didn’t give the bowl back, he took it. After all, he had come here all the way only for this. So he didn’t leave it behind, he took it away.
Fifteen days later, the thief went searching for this master again and found him, though not in the same place. This avadhoota had already moved on, but he tracked him down.
The thief said, “You put me in a big trap! Ever since you gave me this technique, I have not been able to steal. With great difficulty I scaled a wall, went to some place, opened the door and then I suddenly remembered about breathing. Sometimes I have even opened a wardrobe or safe, and then remembered about the breathing… My profession has become a disaster! I don’t know what to do now, I have no other profession! You messed up my life. I have no other job skill. What should I do now? Please guide me.”
Nagarjuna said, “Go away. I gave you something precious. Now you choose whether you want the material things from the past habit of collecting all the things indiscriminately based on greed, or you want to enter the silence which you found through the breath. Do you want to stabilize in the silence you found through the breath, or you want to go back to your own habit of collecting things out of greed – not exactly for eating, right? If this is what you want, it is up to you. I have nothing to do with it. I have given you what I can, and don’t come back to me and ask me for more.”
The thief mused, “You know, the silence which I found with the breath – I don’t want to lose it anymore! Can you accept me as your disciple?”
Nagarjuna replied, “If you regard me as your Guru, you become a disciple.” The thief said with sincerity, “I consider you as my Guru, can you initiate me?”
Nagarjuna said, “I have already done that!”
If you contemplate on what you have read, you may understand some truths. If you look at our own life, you see these things happening. Somebody is looking at you and you are not able to sleep. Give it to them and say, “You take it, go. You sleep, I sleep.” We must all sleep peacefully. This is our birthright. Sleeping peacefully is our birthright, remember. Being contented is our birthright. Being peaceful is our birthright. Why do we choose other emotions at all? Why do we choose anxiety, fear, anger, hatred, jealousy or revenge? Do you understand? This is the thought of the time. This is what we should think and this is what we should spread.
How do you spread this in this world? Bethat. There is no way you can preach. Nobody will take you seriously. Live it. Show it with your life. That becomes a message for the world. Whatever you cannot live is not good enough. If you cannot express it through your own life, it’s not powerful enough. People will look at you and say, “He is not following it himself, why should I follow it?”
We have to LIVE peacefulness. We have to LIVE kindness and compassion. We have to LIVE contentment and tell the world: “I choose peace and I am living it.” That makes a huge difference.
Snakes have venom, right? But why do they carry venom? For their protection, of course.
When a snake feels that it needs protection, that is because it is a personal thing, because of identity with itself. It has no trust, no surrender. But what instead if the snake were to feel : “Why do I even need venom? I am fully protected.”
Venom is just like a temptation that you can be your mind.
From the moment the snake understands that it is protected, then going forward, it will not use its venom. Then that venom will concentrate and get saturated to become like a diamond. The venom is not only not used, it is also meditated on. It is as if the heat of meditation saturates the venom which then becomes more precious than any diamond.
Then on the other hand, if the snake uses its venom, it adds karma and it has to come back. However, when it does tapas, then it becomes enlightened. It goes back to where it came from.
So, you do have the venom to create karma if you choose. But if you install Divinity in your heart center, then you become that. Then other things will not matter. You will not need protection, you will not need support. In fact you will not need anything because you have everything when you have that.
When we feel we need protection, it means we exist as individuals. That is why the snake has been given poison. If the snake feels it is an individual, it will use the poison because it is afraid. The moment it knows, “I am protected. Why should I use anything?” – then it liberates. The liberation happens. That’s the point.