The thief becomes a sageOnce a thief entered into a tiny shop, stole a wristwatch and then started running away. The owner saw him stealing and began chasing him. He ran and ran and ran. While chasing the thief, the owner saw two young men who were just fooling around. He shouted to them, “Please help me, help me!”
The two men grabbed the thief and they all brought him to the police station. The police officer asked the thief, “Is it true that you have stolen something?”
The thief said, “Yes, I stole a wristwatch.”
Then the police officer gave the thief three hard kicks. Each time the officer kicked harder. The thief was rolling on the ground in pain. After the third kick, he started running away. The two young men who had caught him were laughing and laughing. They were not in the mood to run after him again. They said, “We don’t feel like chasing him again. We caught him once and that is enough. Besides, the police officer has already punished him.”
The shopkeeper was pleased that he had got the wristwatch back and the thief had been punished. So everyone left the police station.
The thief felt sorry for himself. He said, “Did I come into the world to be kicked by a police officer? My life has no meaning.”
He entered into the forest and began walking. After some time he saw a small hut. By then it was evening. He looked inside and saw two candles burning, but nobody was there. He said, “I am getting such a peaceful feeling from looking into this cottage. When I steal things, I don’t get peace. I am always worrying that I will be caught. This small hut is so peaceful. Let me go inside.”
When he entered the hut he saw a table with a few pieces of fruit and a small bowl of milk. He drank the milk and ate the fruit. Afterwards, he fell asleep. After an hour the owner of the cottage, a hermit, came back from his evening walk. The hermit had conquered anger, so when he saw the thief he said, “O my friend, I am very happy that you have come. I think that you needed the food more than I did.”
The thief fell at the feet of the hermit and said, “There is such a difference between your life and my life. Will you accept me as your disciple?” Then he told the hermit all about his life as a thief.
The hermit said, “I will accept you on the condition that you never steal again.”
The young man promised, “No, I will never steal again. If I become your disciple, how can I steal?”
The hermit accepted him and taught him how to pray and meditate. From time to time people used to come to the hermit for blessings. They could not recognise the thief because he had changed so much.
In a few years’ time the hermit died. Some of the hermit’s followers had such admiration for his disciple that they begged the young man to come to the neighbouring village and officiate at a puja.
The young man refused. “I am illiterate,” he said. “I can’t conduct the ceremonies.”
The followers insisted. They said, “You have such faith in God and love for God! There are many scholars, but we don’t need them. We need you.”
Finally the man agreed. He felt that nobody would recognise him as the former thief. By that time he had grown long hair and a beard and he was quite saintly looking. So he went to the village and in a very simple way conducted the village puja.
The police officer who had kicked him several years before happened to be in the crowd attending the puja. The officer was very well-respected in the village, but by this time he was retired. During the ceremony he said to one of his friends, “This young man is very sincere. Whether he has occult power or not I do not know. But he is drawing my affection and love and even my admiration. I have seen many so-called saints, but they are all frauds. However, I can tell that this man is very sincere, although I do not know whether he has the capacity to perform miracles or not.” The young man overheard the officer but remained silent.
After the young man finished performing the puja, everyone came and bowed down and touched his feet. They all felt that he was a great sage. The police officer also touched his feet very devotedly. When the officer touched his feet, the man said, “A little while ago you were talking about occult power. Occult power creates miracles, but you yourself have also performed a miracle.”
The officer was surprised. “When?” he asked. “It can’t be possible!”
The man insisted, “You have performed a miracle.”
The police officer was so eager to hear what he had done.
The man said, “Only two or three years ago, do you remember when you kicked someone who had stolen a wristwatch?”
“So many thieves I have kicked so mercilessly,” the officer said.
The man related the particular incident to the officer. He said, “On that day you kicked me so hard that I still remember it! Just because you kicked me so hard, I went to the hermit and became a seeker. By God’s Grace I stopped stealing and became a spiritual person. It was your kick that began my inner life. And now you are touching my feet!”