The power to punish

Once Akbar asked his ministers, “Tell me, who is superior, God or I?”

The ministers were all amused by this question. Outwardly they acted very serious and made the Emperor feel that he had asked a most significant and difficult question, but inwardly they were all laughing at Akbar for being foolish enough to try to compare himself with God.

At last Birbal came forward and said, “I can answer this question. Undoubtedly you are far superior to God.”

Akbar was outwardly amused, but inwardly he was deeply pleased. He challenged Birbal, “Prove that I am superior to God.”

Birbal said, “Your Majesty, when somebody commits a very serious crime you have the power to punish him. You have the power to place him in a prison cell for the rest of his life. But poor God! He created everything and the whole creation belongs to Him, yet He does not have the power to give a lifelong sentence to anybody. His Power of Compassion is infinitely more powerful than His Power of Justice. He cannot punish anybody the way you do. So you are far superior to God, because you have the power to punish severely.”

Akbar was satisfied and pleased with this answer, but the ministers were all amused.

Spiritual comments

When a disciple of a spiritual Master makes a serious mistake, the punishment he gets from the Master is next to nothing. The Master becomes totally one with the disciple’s mistake, with the disciple’s imperfection. Like God, he has a big heart, and he takes his disciple’s mistake as his own imperfection. So he cannot punish his spiritual child. But the other disciples want him to receive extremely severe punishment. At any moment they may make the same serious mistake themselves, yet they are ready to punish their spiritual brother most severely. They feel that they are superior to the person who has made the mistake, and for this reason they think that they have every right to punish him. But in fact, these disciples are superior only in the matter of showing their ego-power or the power of their judgement against the accused. Since the Master is all love and compassion, his judgement is different. His judgement is forgiveness. His judgement is identification with the one who has made the mistake so that he does not make that mistake again. The judgement of equals is condemnation and punishment. But the judgement of one who is really superior is identification and illumination.