The thief

"Master, you always need money. Today I have come up with an excellent idea."

"What is it, my son?"

"Master, I shall be able to make you really rich."

"How, my son?"

"Master, among your disciples it seems I am the one with the most money. Please do me a favour. Whenever I give you money, please let me know what you used it for. If you let me know how you used my money, I shall give you double the amount."

Then the Master said, "That is an excellent idea, son. But since you are so nice to me, instead, I shall tell you what I am going to use your money for in advance. Not only that, but I shall actually show you how I am using your money."

"Oh Master, I have all faith in you. It is not necessary to tell me in advance or to actually show me how you are using my money."

"Oh Sukhen, I am all love for you. Therefore I want to make you feel that I am a real stranger to deception."

"Master, deception is not meant for you; it is only meant for a mortal like me. Anyway, please take this hundred-dollar bill from me. I am placing it at your feet."

The Master said, "Thank you, my dear Sukhen. Now this is how I am going to use your money. Tomorrow morning I will give this hundred dollars to the first person I see when I open my door."

Sukhen said, "It is an excellent idea, Master. And as soon as I know that you have given the money away, I shall give you two hundred dollars." The Master gave Sukhen a broad smile.

Early the next morning when the Master opened his door, lo and behold, there he saw his dear disciple, Sukhen, meditating with folded hands. The Master gave the hundred-dollar bill to Sukhen and blessed him as well. Sukhen was deeply moved and gave the Master an offering of two hundred dollars. Then the Master said, "Sukhen, I will tell you how I am going to utilise this money. Tomorrow morning I am going to give the money to whoever calls me first on the phone."

"Master, I am not an early riser. With greatest difficulty I got up today. So someone else will get the two hundred dollars tomorrow. But when you tell me that you have given the money to that person, then I will give you four hundred dollars."

The following day, early in the morning, the Master got his first call from a little girl. And this girl was none other than Sukhen's little daughter, Kaga. "Master," she said, "I have a severe headache. Please tell me whether I should go to school."

"You don't have to go to school," replied the Master. "Come here instead. I am your inner school and inner teacher. I shall give you a very good lesson."

Kaga ran over to the Master's house very happily in spite of her headache. He gave her a toy, a box of candy and a glass of milk. Then he gave her an envelope and said, "Don't open it here. Take it home and open it in front of your parents. There is magic inside it."

Sukhen's daughter was so thrilled to hear the word magic that she literally grabbed the envelope and ran home. On reaching home she cried aloud, "Mommy, Daddy, the Master has given me magic! Come and see it!"

The mother and father came to her immediately, and with boundless joy, enthusiasm and curiosity the little girl opened the envelope. Lo and behold, inside it were two one-hundred-dollar bills. She held them up in front of her parents and said, "Two hundred dollars! It is all for me! It is all for me!"

"Kaga," the mother said, "indeed this is all your money. But since you told us that you had a severe headache this morning, please lie down and go to sleep. When you get up, I will give you your money back."

When little Kaga went to sleep, the mother went to a toy store and bought a package of play money. She put the play money inside the envelope the Master had given Kaga, and removed the real two hundred dollars. In the meantime, Sukhen went to the Master's house and gave him four hundred-dollar bills.

The Master gave him a broad smile and said, "Now I will tell you how I am going to use this money. Tonight, I shall ask all my disciples to come to my house for a special meditation from one o'clock to six o'clock in the morning. Whoever keeps his eyes wide open during the meditation and does not once close his eyes will get the four hundred dollars as a prize from me."

All forty of the Master's disciples came to meditate. For about two hours all the disciples meditated well, with their eyes open. But alas, at the end of two hours everybody felt tired and exhausted and one by one they began closing their eyes — everyone, that is, except Sukhen's wife, Nihar.

At six o'clock the Master chanted Aum and all the disciples woke up. "I am so glad that all of you have come back to this world," said the Master. "We need you badly in this world to manifest the Supreme, and I was so afraid you might never return."

Then the Master said, "Nihar, you alone have stayed awake. Here is my gift." And he gave her the four hundred-dollar bills. Everybody was very surprised to see so much money for that kind of meditation. Some of the disciples were very poor, and inwardly they cursed themselves, thinking that if they had known what the Master's gift was to be, then they, too, could easily have kept their eyes open for five hours. But outwardly they all congratulated Nihar. The Master blessed Nihar from the depth of his heart and then blessed all the returning travellers from the other world. They all felt a little bit sad, not because they had not gotten the prize, but because they had made friends with the sleep-world when they were supposed to be doing good meditation.

After everybody left, Sukhen gave the Master eight hundred-dollar bills. The Master then said, "Tomorrow I shall invite all the disciples to come and meditate with me early in the morning, and at that time I will show you how I am going to use these eight hundred dollars."

Sukhen said, "That is fine, Master. But up until now you have told me in advance how you were going to use the money. Why is it that you are not telling me this time?"

"Why such curiosity, Sukhen? Was it not you who told me that I did not have to tell you ahead of time how I was going to use the money? Now it is your curiosity which wants to know. Have you descended, Sukhen? Has your consciousness fallen?"

"No, Master, I have not yet descended. Tomorrow morning I will come and see how you use the money."

The following day all of the Master's disciples came to his house to meditate. They meditated for about an hour, and everybody had a good meditation. Then the Master said, "In the spiritual life, the most important thing is obedience. I need and expect obedience from each of you. Now I want to see who can fulfil my request first."

Everybody immediately cried out, "I can! I can!" Sukhen's voice was the loudest.The Master continued, "I shall be eternally pleased with and give a most coveted gift to the disciple who will come up to me now and give me a smart slap."

Everybody was embarrassed and shocked. "Master, what kind of request is that?" they asked. "We don't need your gift. For God's sake, please keep your gift. We do not want it."

But Sukhen stood up and said, "Master, I do not know what your gift will be. It is not because of the gift that I am going to give you a slap, but because I want to be your most obedient disciple. That is why I am obeying your command." With that, Sukhen went up to the Master and gave him a smart slap.

The poor Master began to cry like a child. Immediately the other disciples rushed over to Sukhen and thrashed him mercilessly. In spite of his pain the Master pleaded with his disciples not to thrash Sukhen: "After all, Sukhen has fulfilled my request." But despite the Master's pleas, the disciples beat Sukhen to within an inch of his life. Then, at the Master's request, they took him to a hospital.

In two days Sukhen was well enough to return home. The Master went to visit him immediately. He said, "My Sukhen, punishment from you I deserve because it was for executing my wish that you got this severe beating. I pleaded with your brother and sister disciples not to strike you, but they did not listen to me."

Sukhen quietly accepted the Master's apology, but his heart was burning for revenge. He said to the Master, "It seems to me, Master, that you really need thousands of dollars to run your spiritual community. Since I have lots of money and a large heart, I will lend you a large sum without any interest. And someday, when you get a lot of other money from the rest of your disciples, you can return the money to me. But, Master, there is only one thing. Since it is a very large sum, I wish to give it to you privately."

The Master was a little surprised at Sukhen's new offer, but he accepted it, saying, "This evening, before I start my meditation, you can come and give me what you want to give."

That evening Sukhen went and placed before the Master one million dollars in cash. Then he said, "Master, may I remain here while you meditate?"

"Certainly," said the Master.

"But Master, sometimes you go into a trance and stay there for two or three hours. During that time I may lose all patience. Will I be excused, then, if I leave the money here in front of you and go? Will it be safe?"

The Master said, "Certainly, my son. Nobody is here, only you and me."

The Master started meditating, and in a few minutes, went into a very deep trance. Sukhen observed the Master's trance for about twenty minutes. Then he quietly opened the bundle of money and took out two hundred-dollar bills, which he placed at the Master's feet. The rest of the money he put back inside his shirt and, after prostrating himself before the Master, slowly and quietly he left the Master's house and went home.

Since he was very rich, Sukhen had three phones in his house. When he got home he told his wife that he had just come from the Master's house, and that he had never before seen the Master in such a high trance. Even though the Master had not invited anyone to come and meditate with him, Sukhen asked his wife to inform their brother and sister disciples that they should go and secretly watch. He himself informed some disciples to go and see the Master's unprecedented trance. He even had little Kaga tell some disciples.

The Master was still deep in trance when everyone arrived to see him. They were all observing soulfully and devotedly, with folded hands, when Sukhen and his family came. They were the last to arrive. After a few seconds, Sukhen gave a loud, piercing cry. Everyone was shocked, and insulted him in angry whispers. "How dare you interrupt Master's trance!" they hissed. "Just wait! When the Master enters into his normal consciousness again, we shall thrash you as we did the other day!"

But Sukhen said, "We shall see who thrashes whom. Right now I am going to call the police. You are a bunch of thieves. When I saw the Master, I placed at his feet one million dollars. The Master is my witness. He will bear me out and support me in my accusations. Now I see only two hundred dollars there. When Master comes out of his trance, the police will give you a nice lesson."

Fifteen minutes later the Master came out of his trance and was surprised to find that so many angry-looking disciples were gathered around him. Sukhen was positively emitting fire through his eyes. "What is wrong with you, Sukhen?" asked the Master "Why are you all so upset?"

"Master, I tell you that all your disciples are thieves and rogues. They have stolen all your money. Look, Master, only two hundred dollars remain. Master, you always taught us to be generous. Out of my love for them, I wanted to share with them my highest delight when I saw you in your transcendental consciousness, so when I went home, my wife, my daughter and I informed them about your unprecedented trance, which I had never seen before. Now you see, Master, what they have done. Out of your one million dollars, only two hundred dollars are left."

The Master quietly asked which disciple had come first. Immediately Vinu stood up and said, "Master, I came first but I did not see any money. I only looked at your face and drank in the nectar of your eyes."

"Who came second?" the Master asked. Shibu stood up and said, "Master, I came in second but I did not see any money. When I came in, I saw Vinu praying to you very devotedly and soulfully. So I started praying to be granted the same kind of devotion that Vinu had, so that I could receive abundant Peace, Light and Bliss from you."

"Who came in third?" the Master enquired. Tartu stood up. "I came third, but to be very frank with you, Master, when I came in I saw only two hundred-dollar bills."

The Master then said to Vinu and Shibu, "What am I going to do with you two? Tell me, have you really stolen my money?"

They immediately shed bitter tears. "Master, you have realised God. You are our all. You can easily read our hearts. If you feel that we have stolen the money, Master, then do anything you want with our lives."

The Master went deep within and after a few seconds said to Sukhen, "What am I going to do, my son?"

"You don't have to do anything, Master. I am going to do everything for you. I am going to call the police. Forgive me, Master, it is not my money now; it is all your money. But I tell you, Master, in a few minutes the police will be able to get all the money back from these thief-disciples of yours."

The Master went deep within once more and then gave Sukhen a meaningful smile. "I am helpless," he said. "What can I do?"

Sukhen phoned the police, and told them his story. A few minutes later three police detectives came in. They said to the Master, "You have a good reputation, sir. How is it that you have kept such thieves and rogues in your ashram?"

The Master replied, "Who is a thief and who is a rogue? Who is a gentleman and who is an honest man? How am I going to know unless and until I observe their conduct? It is a disgrace that you should have to come here to catch a thief, but God has promised to me that the thief will be caught by you. With your broad experience, you will easily be able to detect the real thief." Sukhen jumped with joy.

The detectives asked the two suspects, "Have you left here at all since you first arrived to see the Master's trance?"

"No, sir, we have gone nowhere. We have been here the whole time," Shibu replied.

"Who was the third person to arrive this evening?" asked the policeman.

"I was," said Tartu. "I was the third person to come to see the Master's trance, and I saw them both here when I arrived."

"Have you any idea how long before your arrival these two suspects were in the presence of the Master?" they asked.

Tartu replied, "It was a matter of only a few moments. I was not many steps behind Shibu."

Then the detectives enquired how the others had come in. They said that they had all come in within a few seconds of each other.

The Master said to the police, "I leave everything up to you. My disciples are supposed to be sincere. Since the real culprit will not tell me who he is, it is beneath my dignity to stay here. You may do anything you want with the suspects. I am going to retire upstairs."

The police searched the two suspects thoroughly, and then they searched ad the other disciples, including Sukhen. Finally they said to Sukhen, "This is very strange, but we must try to do something for you. Do you think we could come to your house to ask you a few questions about these two friends of yours, privately? If we can come to your house and ask a few questions about them, I am sure we will be able to recover your Master's money."

Sukhen, his wife, his daughter and the police detectives all went to Sukhen's house. Lo and behold, to the wide astonishment of the police, there was a big, heavy wallet on the kitchen table. Immediately one of the detectives grabbed it and began counting the money inside. The other two policemen joined him. They counted it once and then they counted it twice and each time found that the sum was just two hundred dollars less than a million dollars. Without any further words, the policemen took the money and went to the Master's house.

Sukhen shouted and screamed, "Police, police! You are thieves! You are taking away all my money!" But the police just laughed and laughed.

All the disciples were still wondering and suffering over the loss of the money when the policemen arrived with the good news. On hearing the happy noise of the disciples' voices, the Master came downstairs. When they told him who the actual thief was, he said simply, "I knew it, I knew it."

The arrival of three more policemen, called by Sukhen to recover his money from the first three, added a touch of pure chaos to the scene of happy confusion.

Everyone laughed and laughed when the whole story was explained. Then the Master said, "I don't blame anybody. I take the full blame upon myself because it was I who was first tempted to accept money from Sukhen. Temptation ends in frustration, frustration ends in destruction. But destruction is finally illumined by God's Compassion."

February 8, 1974