The Master and the circus clown

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Introduction

A few of these stories are based on my own experiences, while others are ancient stories. There I do not claim even an iota of originality. The original authors are buried in oblivion, but the successors are following in the foot steps of their predecessors with gorgeous embellishment. I, too, have indulged lavishly in my own way of embellishment. Long live my humour-wisdom-flooded predecessors, who loved anonymity. May these stories liberate us from the heavy dryness of the mind, and may they transform the dryness of the mind into an ever-blossoming fountain-ecstasy.

The perfect vision of the old Master

There was once a very great spiritual Master who was ninety years old and who had tremendous occult power. He was loved, admired and adored by all who knew him. One day he entered into a very deep meditation. Many of his disciples were also peacefully meditating. Suddenly, two disciples who had always been the best of friends started quarrelling and fighting right in front of the Master. He was not at all involved in their fighting, as he was totally absorbed in his sublime meditation.

The two fighting disciples were about thirty or forty metres away from the Master, and they were acting like the worst of enemies. The older disciple's wife had borrowed a pot from the other man's wife two weeks earlier, and she had delayed in returning it. The two husbands began screaming at each other.

"Who does your wife think she is!" shouted the younger disciple. "It has already been two weeks, and still my wife has not got her pot back. Your wife is a real crook!"

The other disciple was totally furious. He shrieked, "You have no right to call my wife a crook! Your wife has been insulting my wife and all of my children for years. She deserves to be whipped by my wife!"

"If you or your wife even comes close to my wife, I will hit you both so hard that your heads will fall off!" shouted the first disciple.

On and on the fight continued. Both the disciples started to use extremely foul language. They were getting angrier and angrier. Finally, the younger disciple grabbed a vase with a large flower arrangement inside and threw it at the older one. It landed very powerfully on his face which began to bleed profusely. The older disciple had to go to the hospital and get a few stitches on the side of his face.

Still the argument did not end. The younger disciple decided to sue his former friend and his friend's wife for stealing their pot.

After some time, the case went to trial before a highly respected judge. The two husbands and their wives all told their stories. The judge came to learn that the old spiritual Master had been nearby while the men were fighting. As the judge had no idea whom to believe, he summoned the Master to court.

The judge asked the Master, "What actually happened while these two men were fighting?"

The Master replied, "I do not want to be involved in any of this. I was meditating very deeply, and I did not pay any attention to what they were doing."

"Master, please tell me who provoked the fight. Or at least tell me who is the worse culprit," requested the judge.

The Master answered, "Do you really want to hear the whole story?"

The judge was eager and anxious to hear everything. He said, "Yes, please! I am desperately trying to find out what actually happened. Please tell me the entire story."

The spiritual Master started telling everything about the fight between his two disciples. "These are both my disciples," he began. "They have been such good friends for so many years. It pains me so much that they have begun fighting like cats and dogs. I had hoped that the silence and tranquillity of my meditation would enter into both of them. Unfortunately, it did not work.

"Although the older disciple's wife borrowed a pot from the younger disciple's wife, it was really the younger man's wife who instigated everything," continued the Master. "She has always been jealous of the other wife. Day after day she kept demanding that her husband insist on her pot being returned. What is more, she spoke very disparagingly about the other wife."

Then the Master proceeded to describe exactly what had happened during the disciples' fight. The judge found it hard to believe that the old man could know in so much detail what had taken place. He asked the Master, "How can you possibly know all these things? First of all, you are an old man. You are ninety years old! Then again, you were thirty or forty metres away. How can you see that far at your age? I doubt that very much. No, you have not seen anything. Only perhaps you have heard the two men fighting because they were screaming so loudly. Definitely you could not see!"

The Master answered, "I definitely saw everything that was happening. Please come with me for just a minute outside the courtroom, and I shall show you how good my vision is."

Everyone in the court, including the judge, walked outside to a small park just in front of the building where there were many trees. The Master pointed to a tree that was about a hundred metres away and said to the judge, "Kindly look at that tree. Do you see anything at the top of the tree? Do you see anything at the bottom of the tree?"

The judge replied, "How can anybody see that far away? The tree you are pointing to is very tall and quite far away. We can only make out the outline of the tree, but it is impossible to see the details you are asking for."

Then the judge asked everyone who was standing around him, "Can anyone see what is at the top of the tree, or even at the bottom of the tree?"

Nobody said a word. The judge said to the Master, "It is exactly as I told you! No one is able to see anything."

"My highly esteemed judge, I can see everything perfectly," replied the Master. "I assure you that I did not come via that route when I came to the court.

I see a large bird's nest near the top of the tree. At the base of the tree, I clearly see a small blue ball."

Everyone, including the judge, went running over to the tree to see if the Master was correct. They were all astounded and cried out, "The Master is right! The Master is right!" They saw both the bird's nest near the top of the tree and the small blue ball at the base of the tree.

The judge exclaimed, "O Master, please forgive me! You are totally right and I was totally wrong. I am now certain that everything you said about your two disciples is one hundred per cent correct. Please, please tell us all one thing: how could you possibly see things that were not visible to anyone else?"

With utmost humility and compassion, the ninety-year old Master replied, "I forgive you, I forgive you. With your human eyes, you most definitely were not able to see what I saw. I can see this and much, much more, because I use my third eye."

Einstein's old, tattered clothes

Albert Einstein was the immortal scientist of the 20th Century. This great genius had a very peculiar habit. Anything that was old, he liked. Anything that was new, he did not like, specially when it came to clothes. Always he liked to wear old clothes. All of his clothes were old, torn and tattered. To most people, they would be unusable in every sense of the term.

Einstein's wife and friends used to tell him, "Albert, you must get some new clothes. All your clothes are old and worn out!"

He would always reply, "No, no, I cannot!" "Why not?" they asked.

"New clothes never fit me. They itch or they look funny on me or they cause me some other problem. New clothes are a total waste of time!"

Quite often, I am also like that. When I get new clothes, most of the time they do not fit me at all. I say that the reason is because I have developed more muscles. Others may say it is either muscles or fat that is getting in the way! Whichever is true, the result is all the same!

This year S made a kurta for me on her birthday. It was extremely beautiful, so I decided to try it on. First of all, I had incredible difficulty putting on the kurta. It got stuck! Then I had an even worse time trying to take it off. What an experience! In this sense, all my old kurtas are very good.

Einstein simply would not wear new clothes. Usually he would not go to buy clothes even once a year. If others gave him new clothes, he would still not use them.

One day, Einstein's wife begged him, "Please, I would be so grateful if you would buy some new clothes. I love you much more when you wear new clothes. Please do it for me."

"Really, you love me more with new clothes?" he asked. "All right, I am ready. Let us go."

Einstein's wife took her husband to a store, and they bought all new garments for him. At his wife's request, Albert put on the new clothes and wore them into the car. As they returned home, his wife was extremely happy. She said, "Albert, you look so handsome! Today you have made me very, very happy."

Einstein was getting tremendous joy by making his wife happy. Alas, the moment he arrived home, he threw off all his new clothes and put on all old ones."

His wife exclaimed, "Albert, what are you doing? Why have you put on all your ancient, tattered clothes?"

Einstein answered, "These clothes give me inspiration. Unfortunately, I do not get any inspiration from the new ones. Since I must now do something very significant with my work, I need my old clothes to give me inspiration."

Exactly like that, I have known many people who always prefer oldness to newness. For them, anything that is old comes directly from Heaven. They cannot appreciate anything that is new in the slightest.

Life is like that. We are more accustomed to our old life than to our new life, so we treasure everything old.

Silence prevails

I would like to tell you a funny story about how silence prevails. Sound is bound to fail us, but silence always prevails. I have told this story many times, but it is extremely significant because it applies to each and everyone.

When I was eight or nine years old, the Second World War was approaching. Nobody knew what was going to happen. So my brother Chitta bought rice and dal in a very large quantity.

My brother and I stood at a particular place in the market. We were not selling anything, but my brother was reciting passages from the Upanishads. I had learnt these sacred mantras and heard them many, many times. But at that time, I was still restlessness incarnate, so I did not pay much attention to them. Just four or five years later, I was the one in the Ashram to recite these mantras from the Upanishads thousands and thousands of times out loud, sometimes even millions of times. In just a few years, my restlessness had completely disappeared. I am sure my brother continued reciting them also, but inwardly.

My brother was reciting these holy verses most soulfully. A middle-aged man who was the manager of a circus came up to my brother and started screaming at him very loudly: "Your father borrowed so much money from me. Now he has passed away. Who is going to return my money? You have to repay me. You have to give me all my money back!"

Would my father, who was a successful banker, have borrowed money from a circus manager? Absurd! My brother did not pay any attention. The man kept screaming, and his voice became loud, louder and loudest! The man was almost ready to strike my brother, and I was getting more and more annoyed with him. I was about to do something, but suddenly the man left. I was using a pump to add air to my football, and soon I was ready to go home.

After only ten or twelve minutes, the same man came back. He fell flat at my brother's feet and started crying, "Please, please, I beg you to forgive me. I was the one to borrow money from your father. He did not borrow one cent from me. When I saw you, I thought you would demand money from me. Since I have no means to return the money I owe you, I started screaming at you and telling all kinds of lies."

In fact, my brother had no idea that this man owed our father any money. After screaming at Chitta, the man saw the saintly qualities of my brother, and his conscience started bothering him. He came back to beg forgiveness from Chitta.

Once again, my brother maintained total silence. He did not say one word. Then the man went away. He knew that my brother did not pay any attention.

Here is the proof that silence acts. As much as we can, it is good to keep silence. In the beginning of our journey, barking dogs disturb us so much. When we maintain our inner poise, the dogs surrender. Again, when a dog barks or bites a man, it is not news. The very nature of a dog is to bite. But if a man bites a dog, the news will spread all over the world.

Quite often, the Highest Supreme will advise us not to come down to the level of people who bite us ruthlessly. The Supreme does not want us to bite them in return. There is a great difference between a dog biting and a man biting. After some time, the dogs will stop biting or barking, because their ego comes to the fore. It is beneath their dignity to bark when the man does not respond.

In the same light, when someone comes and knocks at our door, we can easily know if it is a friend or an enemy. How? The friend will knock only a few times and then he will say to himself, "My friend is doing something important. Otherwise, he would have definitely opened the door for me. He has such love for me, and I have such love for him." The friend will quietly wait, because he knows that his colleague is doing something important and cannot open the door at that moment.

The enemy will knock hard for a few minutes. Then, when there is no answer, his ego will come forward and he will think, "It is beneath my dignity to knock at this man's door. Who needs him? I will have nothing to do with him." Then the enemy will go away.

Similarly, a fly may land on your hand. If you brush it away, it will come back again. You may do this twenty or thirty times, and the fly will keep coming back. Then, let us say, you have decided to compose a beautiful song or to write an inspiring poem. You have no time to pay attention to the fly. Suddenly the fly disappears. Why? The fly's innate ego sees that it is not getting any attention, and so the fly goes away.

Enemies always try to draw our attention by hook or by crook. If they see that we are not giving them any attention, they go away and decide to knock at someone else's door. When we pay attention to them, it creates many more problems for us.

So silence is the answer. Silence prevails.

Rowing with one oar

An old man was making preparations to go out in his rowing boat. He wanted to catch fish for the family. His little grandson pleaded with him, "Grandfather, today you have to take me. You never take me out in your boat."

The grandfather replied, "It is boring, boring! You will not like it."

The child said, "No, I will like it. You have to take me." Finally, the grandfather said, "All right. You can come with me today."

As soon as they climbed into the rowing boat, the little boy saw that on one oar was written the word 'work' and on the other oar was written the word 'pray'. He said to his grandfather, "Why do you have to pray here? You are going out to sea to work. There you will be catching fish. Praying is not necessary. Only hard work is needed. What has that to do with prayer?"

So his grandfather very patiently said, "Is that so? All right, let us not use the oar that says 'pray'. Let us only use the other oar and let us see where we go."

The little boy was so happy to be able to prove to his grandfather that he was right. He grabbed the oar and started rowing. Alas, the boat did not go forward! It only went around and around and around. It would not go straight out to sea.

The little boy asked his grandfather, "Why? Why is it like that? Why are we not going anywhere?"

The grandfather replied, "Life is like that. Life itself has a destination and, at the same time, life is a long road. Now, on this long road, with one leg, how far can we go? We need two legs. Always we need two hands or two legs to accomplish something really great. For everything, God gives us two. If we have good vision in both eyes, then we are perfect. Like that, prayer and work must go together. We cannot separate them. With work alone, we will not be able to reach God. When we are working, we have to keep prayer inside our mind. We have to be in a prayerful mood when we want to see God. And when we are praying, we have to keep in our heart that we are serving God in a very special way. Now let us continue our journey using both the oars and you will see that we will go straight to our destination!"

The river of time waits for nobody

A little boy was playing with his toys. Near him, there was a huge clock. The boy was playing and playing quite happily. All of a sudden he heard the clock striking —- 1,2,3 and so on. Although it was only ten o'clock, the little boy counted up to fifteen times that the clock struck.

So he went rushing to his mother and said, "It is too late, too late for my lunch! Give me my food, give me my food!"

His mother assured him, "No, it is not yet time."

"But I heard the clock go 1,2,3,4,5…then 11,12,13,14,15," said the little boy. So that means it is already three o'clock! What are you doing? You have to give me food!"

"What is this?" said the mother.

Meanwhile, the father also happened to be present. Something was happening inside the father while his son was speaking. He said, "God is speaking through my child. He is warning me that it is too late for me to pray to God. I must start praying to God."

Then the father looked at his wife. She was also getting the same feeling that it was too late to pray to God. So they gave their son a most delicious meal and said to him, "You have awakened us. It is too late, too late."

One theory is that whenever we start praying to God is the right time. The other theory is that it is already too late, too late for us to realise God. We have to pray and meditate as soon as possible.

In this story, a little child awakens his parents. There is a very similar Indian story. It concerns an old man who was very, very rich. He had spent his entire life engaged in earthly activities. One evening he heard some children playing in the street. Then one mother came and called for her child to come home. She used the words, "bela chale jai" —- time is passing by. As soon as he heard those words, something within the man said, "O my God! That message is for me. My time is passing by. I have wasted so much time."

All those years, he did not pay any attention to the words "bela chale jai". Everybody uses that phrase. But on that particular day, when the mother called her child to come home, it struck a chord within the rich man. He renounced his earthly possessions and entered into the forest to pray to God and meditate on God.

So we have to feel at every moment that time is passing by. The river of time waits for nobody. We have to throw ourselves into that river and swim across it to arrive at the Destination.

There are those who follow the theory that it is always the right time. Any time you get up is the right time for you to meditate. That theory is excellent in its own way. The other theory is to have the feeling, "I am getting up at six o'clock, but even six o'clock is too late. I should have woken up at five o'clock. Then I could have done a longer, more beautiful and more fruitful meditation." That theory is also excellent. If you get up at six o'clock on a regular basis, then you may feel that you have the capacity to get up at five o'clock to pray and meditate.

You feel that God will be more pleased with you because you will be able to meditate for a longer time, provided you do it with utmost sincerity. Whichever theory you follow, the most important thing is always to give importance to time. Never think, "Oh, there is plenty of time, plenty of time." No, you have to feel there is no time, no time! If you can truly feel that the river of time waits for nobody, then that very feeling will keep you more alert, more eager, more dynamic and more energetic to do the right thing.

No one can prevent you from thinking about God

A little girl was playing with her toys. Her mother came into her bedroom and said, "It is high time for you to come and eat. Stop playing with your toys at once!"

The little girl did not pay any attention to her mother. She continued playing and playing. So the mother became angry. She took away all the toys and put the child straight to bed, saying, "You never listen to me! You are so disobedient. Today I shall punish you. I will not give you anything to eat."

Strangely enough, the little girl was not crying at all. She said to her mother, "Do not give me any food then. I do not have to eat." In silence the mother left the room.

When the father came home from work, he started looking for his daughter. "Where has the child gone?" he asked his wife.

"She is in bed," said the mother.

"What happened?" the father asked.

"Our daughter is so naughty. She has become so disobedient. I repeatedly asked her to come and eat, come and eat. She would not listen to me. So I took away all her toys and put her to bed without giving her any food. In this way, she will become very hungry and she will learn to come and eat when I call her. I am teaching her obedience."

The little girl was lying in bed. Her father entered the room and asked sympathetically, "What has happened? What has happened?"

She replied, "Nothing has happened. I am still thinking what I was thinking."

"What do you mean you are thinking what you were thinking?" asked her father.

The little girl started to reply, "I am thinking…" but her father interrupted. "You do not have to eat?"

"No," she said, "I do not have to eat."

"Then you do not feel sad that all your toys were removed?"

"No, I do not feel sad," she replied.

"Why?" he asked curiously.

"Because I am still thinking the same thing," explained the little girl. "Whatever I was thinking before, I am now thinking. And this thought is giving me so much joy. Mother can prevent me from eating, she can prevent me from playing, but she cannot prevent me from thinking."

"What are you thinking?" asked her father, at last.

"I am thinking that some day I will be God's most favourite child. I will become a good child and then I will be God's favourite. That thought my mother cannot take away from me."

Her father was so deeply moved. He said, "Today you have taught me something. From you I have learnt the Message of God." At that moment the mother entered the room. When the father told her what their daughter was thinking, she embraced the child. Both the parents said to their daughter, "Do not stop thinking this precious thought. We shall follow you. What you are thinking, we shall also try to think. You have taught us what to think of in life."

The smart man accepts the challenge

There was a barber who knew everything. According to many people, he knew even more than God Himself! Everybody in the village had to surrender to the barber's superior wisdom.

This particular barber was immensely liked by the zamindar, the village chief. The zamindar clearly saw that although the barber stayed in his chosen profession, he was so smart that he could easily fool everybody in the palace, even the zamindar's ministers!

Now there is a particular fish in Bengal called 'hilsa'. This hilsa fish is most delicious. It is slightly salty. I enjoyed it very, very much before spirituality entered into my life at the age of twelve. Before that, I ate fish every day! Hilsa fish is not available throughout the year, but only for three or four months of the year.

One day the zamindar summoned the barber and brought up the topic of hilsa fish. The zamindar was so exasperated. He said to the barber, "Look, I cannot do anything. Here in the palace, everybody is talking about hilsa, hilsa, hilsa —- this fish is monopolising the conversation. I cannot concentrate on anything and it is so frustrating. All I hear is hilsa, hilsa —- as if there is no other kind of fish!"

The barber said, "I also like hilsa fish very much. What can you do when everybody likes something?"

The zamindar thought for a few moments and then said, "You have to do something for me. Tomorrow you have to go to the market and buy me the largest hilsa fish that is available —- but on one condition: if anybody speaks to you about the fish, then you have lost the game. You have to bring me the fish, but the rule of the game is that nobody should pay any attention to the fish."

One of the zamindar's ministers happened to be listening to this discussion. He said, "It is impossible! For the barber to bring you the largest hilsa fish from the market and for nobody to pay any attention to him is truly an impossible task."

But the barber was not at all perturbed. "Oh, it will be quite easy!" he said.

The zamindar had utmost confidence in the barber. He said to the barber, "I know you can do anything. I have kept these ministers in my court, but they are useless. Whenever I ask them to do something, the very first thing they say is, 'Impossible, impossible!' In your case, there is no such thing as impossible. From the start you say that you can do it." In this way, he went on appreciating and flattering the barber.

"It is true, I can easily do it," affirmed the barber.

The following morning, before the barber went to the market, he approached a fellow barber and said, "Now do me a favour. I want you to shave me only on one side of my face. And my head —- you know that I have so much hair, but you will shave one side completely. On one side my hair will remain the same and on the other side I will be absolutely bald-headed!"

The fellow barber carried out these instructions most faithfully. Then the first barber tied a large bandage around his right knee and coloured it with red ink so that the bandage seemed to be full of blood. People could see that he was bleeding profusely.

So in this way, the barber went to the market and searched for the largest hilsa fish. He soon found what he was looking for. The owner of the fish store was horrified at the barber's appearance. He exclaimed, "What is this?"

The barber replied, "That is none of your business. I have selected the fish I want and here is the money to pay for it. Now give me the fish."

The owner quickly took the money and handed the barber the hilsa fish. Then the barber proceeded towards the zamindar's palace. On the way, everybody was saying, "What is wrong with the barber today? What is the matter with him? Has he gone crazy? Look at his head, look at his face! Poor fellow, he is hurt. His knee is bleeding! What is this, what is this?"

Everybody came out to stare at the barber. They all paid attention to his head, his face and his knee and nobody used the word 'hilsa' at all. Nobody said, "Oh, he has got such a large hilsa."

Finally the barber arrived at the zamindar's huge mansion. When the zamindar saw the barber's physical appearance, he became furious. "You rascal," he shouted, "have you no respect for my house, no respect for me? How can you come here in this kind of condition? What is wrong with you? Why are your head and face half-shaven and why is your knee bleeding so badly? Have you gone crazy? Where is your respect for me?"

"What do you want?" asked the barber simply. "Do you want respect from me or do you want your yesterday's desire to be fulfilled? Which one is more important?"

"I want my desire to be fulfilled," answered the zamindar.

"Then do you not see, this is how I was able to fulfil your desire," continued the barber. "I accepted your challenge. I went to the market and bought the largest hilsa fish. Then I walked to your palace carrying it. Along the way, everybody was gazing at me and saying, 'What is wrong with this fellow? Why does he look like this today?' My appearance created such a commotion! So they all paid attention to my head, my face and my knee and nobody said one word to me about the hilsa fish."

The zamindar was so proud of the barber's intelligence. The zamindar's ministers all bowed their heads to the barber, but they were not at all happy. They said, "It is impossible to deal with this fellow!"

The barber showed that at any time one can accept a challenge if one has intelligence.

Saved by presence of mind

This is another story about presence of mind. A husband and wife finished their evening meal and went to bed. In an hour or two, both of them were fast asleep. In the middle of the night, a thief entered the house. The wife happened to hear a noise and woke up.

"Please, please, get up, get up, get up, get up! Catch the thief!" she urged her husband.

"We have nothing very valuable," he replied.

"We have so many things! We are quite rich," his wife protested.

Then the husband said, "Oh, let him take! We have so much. Let him take a little. I do not want them."

"No, you have to get up," insisted his wife.

Then the husband went on, "Who knows if the thief has a knife or a gun? I do not want to approach him. The best thing is for him to take whatever he wants to."

Unfortunately, at that moment the thief entered their bedroom. He was brandishing a knife. "Give me everything that you have," he said to the poor husband and wife.

The husband answered, "I have kept things at different places in the house. You tell me where to take you first."

The thief said, "Take me to the place where you have kept most of your valuables —- your money, jewellery, silver and so on." "All right," said the husband calmly. "I am ready to give you those things because I do not need them. I have so much. No matter how much you take, there will still be plenty for my wife and me."

The husband was all ready to show the thief where he kept all his precious things when suddenly the thief got scared and started trembling.

"What is this?" said the husband in a puzzled tone. "You wanted our valuables and I am giving them to you." "Oh no,"said the thief, "it is not that. I am hearing a noise."

"What kind of noise?" asked the husband.

The thief stammered, "Outside the house, a gang of robbers —- they are after me. They want to catch me and kill me. They think that I am very lucky, I am smart. I steal from so many people and then they do not get the things they want. There is nothing left for them to steal. So they have come after me. I can hear them. They will come inside and kill me!"

"What are you saying?" said the husband. "I cannot hear anything. It is all your imagination!"

"Yes, I can hear them! I know they are going to kill me. Please, please save me!" begged the thief.

"Save you? How will I save you?" asked the husband. He thought for a moment and then said, "All right, here is our bed. You hide under the bed and then if the gang of robbers comes in here I will say that there is no other thief in the house, there is nobody else here, nobody."

Gratefully, the thief crawled under the bed. The husband whispered something to his wife for a few moments. Then, through the back door, the husband went away.

The poor wife was alone in the room with a thief under the bed. So they waited. Before long, the gang of robbers burst through the door and started shouting, "Where is the thief? Where is the thief?"

The wife began crying, "I do not know where the thief is."

"Now tell us, where is your husband?" demanded the leader of the gang.

"I do not know where my husband is," she continued.

"You do not know where your husband is?" echoed the robbers in disbelief."

"I do not know where he has gone!" she sobbed.

Then the leader of the gang started to get angry with the wife. "Look, we saw a thief coming here. We saw him entering this house. We were at a distance, but we know that he did not come out again. Now you are saying that you do not know where the thief is and, what is more, your husband is not here. How can we believe it? If you do not tell us where your husband is and where the thief is, then we are going to kill you."

"But we promised the thief that we would help him hide," said the wife, pitifully. "How can I tell the truth now? If I tell you where he is, then I will be breaking my promise. And if I do not tell you, you will kill me! Which one is better?"

The leader of the gang said, "You decide! Either your life is more important or your stupid promise."

"Oh no," said the wife, "now I see that my life is more important. My husband will come home soon and if he sees that I am no longer alive, he will die of grief. So I am telling you where the thief is. The thief is under the bed."

The gang of robbers hauled the thief out from under the bed and began beating him ruthlessly. In the meantime, the husband had gone to the police station. He returned with the police and they arrested the gang of robbers.

Look at the intelligence and presence of mind of the husband! First, he offered the thief all his valuables. He said, "You take, take!" But when the thief heard a noise and got frightened, the husband gave him a safe place under their bed. Then, as he was leaving the house to go and inform the police, he whispered to his wife, "When the gang of robbers comes, you tell them where that fellow is hiding." In this way the thief's hiding place was revealed and he was ruthlessly beaten by the robbers.

When we start doing wrong things, like the thief in this story, we continue and continue. But there comes a time when we are caught and punished. Hopefully, at that time, illumination dawns in our lives.

Use life properly

There was once a real miser. He collected all his wealth and kept it underground. He dug a hole in his own backyard and inside the hole he placed all his most valuable things —- so much gold, so many pieces of jewellery, items of pure silver and so forth. Once a day he would go into the backyard and uncover the hole only to watch and admire what he had amassed.

One day a thief happened to observe the miser go to his backyard and uncover the hole. That night, the thief returned with his tools and dug up all the miser's precious possessions. Nothing remained of the miser's hoard.

The following morning, when the miser went to look at his wealth as usual, he discovered his loss. Immediately he started screaming and shedding bitter tears. He was saying, "I do not understand! How has this happened? How is it possible?"

When the neighbours heard him screaming, they came running and enquired, "What has happened?"

The miser was wringing his hands most pathetically. He said, "Every day I used to come at a particular time and uncover this hole. It was my secret hiding place. Inside I kept my gold and other valuables. I did not spend anything. I was only hoarding and hoarding it. And now, look! It is all gone!"

One neighbour said, "For years and years you have never spent anything. Your only joy has been in seeing your supply of gold increase. But what is life for? Life is for enjoyment. We earn money and then we buy things. When we use the things we have purchased, we get joy. In your case, you get joy only by seeing your gold, not by using it. Life has to be utilised to do something good. You fool, you did not use your money-power to give joy to your life. Your whole life consisted in watching your money grow.

"I have an idea. From now on, continue to come here every day. Since you were enamoured of your gold and you became happy by seeing the gold and not using it, you should come here every day and watch the hole and try to get the same joy. As you could not use the gold, even so, you cannot use the hole. But you can try to get the same joy from watching the empty hole as you did when it was full of gold. The gold has been removed, but the hole itself does not move. So now you have to come to the hole!"

The neighbour was wise. Life is like that. If we do not use life properly, if we are not on time every day to pray and meditate and so forth, then we shall fail. Always, life is for activity, activity.

If you have anything, appreciate it and utilise it. If you have a flower, appreciate the beauty of the flower. Then give it to your friend. Or place it on your shrine. By using the flower, it becomes really perfect. But if you just see the flower and enjoy its beauty, tomorrow it will fade away on the plant itself.

Life is always movement, movement, movement. If I have something, then it must go from me to you, and from you it has to go to somebody else.

The master and the circus clown

There was a spiritual Master who used to give talks here, there and everywhere. He had many, many disciples. Occasionally the Master used to allow seekers who were not his disciples to attend his meetings. Sometimes after the meditation, he used to talk and engage in chit-chat with his disciples. From time to time he allowed a few seekers to enjoy this informal conversation.

One day the Master was not talking about God or about any spiritual topics, but only about earthly matters. Again, behind whatever he said, there was always some higher truth. The Master had been speaking for about two or three minutes, and the disciples started laughing and laughing and laughing.

One seeker became so annoyed at this. He asked himself, "Why are they laughing and laughing? The Master is not telling anything about God. This is all about most ordinary things."

Finally, it became too much for the seeker. He stood up and said to the Master, "You are an idiot! You are wasting your time! You are wasting the disciples' time."

A few disciples rushed towards the seeker and began to thrash him. The Master commanded, "Stop! Stop beating him!" But they would not listen.

Finally the Master was able to stop them. Then the Master asked the seeker, "Do you want me to inject a little wisdom into you?"

By this time the seeker was so badly beaten that he surrendered. He replied, "All right! I am already half dead, so you give me your wisdom."

The Master said, "In your mind, what I was telling was so idiotic that you thought I was acting like a circus clown."

The seeker looked at the Master and thought, "How did the Master know I was just then thinking of a clown when I was looking at him while he was talking?"

The Master continued, "The difference between a clown and a spiritual Master is this: when we see a clown in the circus performing things, we laugh at him. But when the Master talks to the disciples, the disciples laugh at themselves, because they realise how stupid they are. They have not yet made substantial progress, so when I talk, they laugh at themselves and not at me. When I cut jokes with the disciples, they immediately feel how foolish they are, since such simple, simple things they are not practising in their own lives."

Sending his father to the mental asylum

A young boy was doing his homework, and his father was sitting beside him reading the newspaper. At one point, the boy grew tired and asked, "Father, why do you read the newspaper? Do I have to read the newspaper when I grow older and reach your age?"

The father said, "Definitely you will have to read the newspaper."

"Why?"

The father replied, "The newspaper gives world information. If you are in the world, then you have to be aware of the world situation.

"But father, I have heard people saying that the newspaper is all falsehood. Its reports exaggerate everything. So why do we have to read this?"

The father answered, "Please, please do not argue with me! In the newspaper, there are many encouraging things and also many things which are discouraging. There are many things true and many things false. Our heart will tell us what to accept and what to reject."

The son replied with another question. "That means people who do not read newspapers are all fools?"

"Yes, they are all fools! They do not care for the world," answered the father emphatically.

"Father," continued the little boy, "there are many spiritual people who do not read the newspaper at all. Are they also fools?"

"Again you are bothering me," said the father, looking up from his newspaper. "No, spiritual people are not fools. They are dealing with God. I do not know what they are thinking about God and what God is thinking about them. But I know that they are thinking of God."

"So they are not wasting time?" asked the son.

"It is up to God to decide whether He is wasting His time or His devotees are wasting their time."

"Father, can I ask you one more question?"

Now the father was really frustrated with his son.

"No!" he shouted. "You are talking too much, too much! You are destroying my concentration. Too much talking is not good!"

Then the son asked, "Too much talking is not good? You send me to school. The teacher talks and talks and talks! Nobody can stop him. Since he talks and talks, we cannot talk at all. We show him such respect. Then afterwards the teacher blesses us and says, 'Why do you not talk? Why are you acting like a silent wall?' Look at this teacher!"

Finally the father said, "You are impossible! The teacher is giving you such wisdom. So you should listen even if he talks for an hour."

The son asked, "Then why does the teacher blame us when we do not answer his questions?"

"Of course you are supposed to answer his questions!" said the father. "Now I have had enough. I do not want to hear any more —- not even one word from you! If you go on talking to me, you are going to send me to the mental asylum."

The boy enquired, "Father tell me, in the mental asylum, are people allowed to read the newspaper?"

"You idiot! Do you think the authorities will allow patients to read the newspaper there? They want to keep what is happening in the world a secret from the patients. So many bad things are happening. They do not want the patients to know, because the patients are already having so many problems!"

"Then, father, when you will be in the mental asylum, you will have no newspaper, so I will go and chat with you!" said the little boy triumphantly.

How an entire family became the Master's disciples

A spiritual Master went to meditate with his disciples one evening. Alas, he saw that the ashram residents were all talking and making a great deal of noise. He said, "Let me go alone to the nearby park and meditate." So the Master went to the park and sat on a bench where he entered into a deep meditation.

The Master's eyes were wide open. Before long he saw a middle-aged lady pass by with two very beautiful children, a son and a daughter. Since the Master was in high meditation, he would normally not have spoken, but he saw that both the boy and girl were extremely promising spiritually. The Master very kindly asked the mother, "How old are your children?"

The mother responded, "This is my seven-year-old engineer son." Pointing to the girl, the mother said, "She is my five-year-old very great and prominent singer."

The Master enquired, "At the age of seven, your son has become an engineer? And at the age of five your daughter has become a great and famous singer? I do not understand. Would you please illumine me?"

The mother said, "You are a spiritual Master and yet you do not know anything! I can read the future, but it seems you cannot. I can see that my son will one day be a great engineer and my daughter will one day be a great singer. Since I can see the future, I can say this now."

Then the Master stated, "We shall meet again in a few years."

Startled, the lady replied, "No! Your prophecy will prove untrue."

"Why?" enquired the Master.

The lady explained, "We are moving away from this town. Since your ashram is here, I know you will never be able to see us again."

The Master said, "Let us see. I am sure that we will meet together again."

"My God!" exclaimed the lady. If this comes true, then you are going to ruin my life and my children's lives. I can see that you want my son and daughter to follow the spiritual life, but I do not want that at all!" Then she began lamenting, "Why did I come to the park today and see you? I will not allow my children to be spiritual."

The Master simply said, "Fine, let us see. Let us see." The Master did not want to engage in any more argument. He said to himself, "I was at fault. I was in such high meditation. Why did I ruin my meditation by speaking to this lady?" Cursing himself, he returned to the ashram.

The Master entered into his room and started meditating very seriously. He asked his Inner Pilot, "In the future, will these two children come to my ashram or not?" Then he clearly saw that both the boy and the girl would come in a few years' time and become his disciples.

When the son was twenty-two years old and the daughter was twenty years old, they both gave up their studies. They would see only one thing whenever they wanted to read anything — the Master's eyes. When they talked with people and in everything that they did, they saw the Master's eyes, full of boundless love and boundless compassion. Even when they spoke with their mother or father, they saw inside their parents' eyes the eyes of that spiritual Master.

Eventually the children sought out the Master and became his disciples. Shortly afterwards, their mother came to the ashram only to scold and insult the Master. She said, "You have ruined my life! You have taken my daughter. You have taken my son." But the children, who were now grown up, did not want to go back to their parents.

The Master said, "I am sorry, extremely sorry. I should never have been there in the park."

The mother was helpless. She started to return home and was cursing the Master for taking away her daughter and son. On the way back, the mother saw the Master standing right in front of her, like a solid wall. She was blocked from going any further. "What is happening?" she said, in a frustrated tone. "This Master is now with my son and daughter. My children are so happy and the Master is very happy, but he does not want me to be happy." The mother could not take even one more step, because the Master was blocking her way forward.

The mother came back to the Master and this time she really was furious. She demanded, "What are you doing? You have taken my children away from me and now you are not allowing me to go back to my house! Just what are you doing?"

The Master replied, "I am absolutely innocent. I am not doing anything. I did not bring your children here. Your children came to me of their own accord. Inwardly I knew that they were bound to come, but I did not tell them to come here. Your children do not want to go back, but you can take them back now if you wish."

At this point both the son and daughter became furious. "Go away!" they told their mother.

The mother said, "I want to go away! Who wants to be with this Master? But he is not allowing me to go back. He is standing in my way."

The Master was smiling and laughing.

The children told their mother, "Make up your mind! Are you going to stay here or do you want to go?"

She replied, "I have to make up my mind? I am going back to your father. But the Master is not permitting me."

The Master said, "No, I am not the one who is stopping you. Your own soul is not allowing you. Your soul wants you also to accept the spiritual life."

"Who is my soul? Why does my soul work this way?" demanded the mother. "I know nothing about the soul."

The Master replied most lovingly, "What shall I tell you? My entire philosophy deals with the soul. The soul is a portion of God. Now your soul is not allowing you to leave me. Please do not blame me."

While the Master was speaking, the mother's love for her children came to the fore. She realised that she could not live without her son and daughter.

The mother said to the Master, "I am going to stay with you unwillingly, because I love my children dearly. They do not want to go back with me, so I must stay here with them."

The Master answered, "Willingly or unwillingly, it is the same. In my boat, some people help me willingly while I am steering the boat and some people sleep and snore. So you can be in the boat sleeping."

The children were doing very, very well in the ashram. Their mother also joined in the spiritual activities. In the meantime, her poor husband was so worried. His wife was not coming back home. He made enquiries and found out that his wife had gone to the Master's ashram. He felt so helpless without his wife that he decided to go in search of her. He came to the ashram and saw the situation. "My God, what has happened?" he asked.

His wife, his son and his daughter had all accepted the spiritual life. When he looked at the children and even at his wife, he saw such happiness in their faces. The children were in the seventh heaven of delight. They were extremely happy. The father started thinking to himself, "I have never seen my wife so happy. All the time she only used to scold me and insult me. Now she is so happy here, and I have never seen the children so happy in their lives. I want happiness from my life and nothing else."

The father said to the Master, "I am also ready and willing. I wish to join your spiritual path."

The Master blessed the father and accepted him as his disciple. This is how the whole family became the Master's disciples.

Notes

Editor's note

In the original edition, the text was accompanied with a drawing by various contributors:

Cover: B
pages 1 — 20, V
pages 21 — 36, A
pages 37 — 57, A
pages 58 — 77, B