“Master, a friend of mine is in serious trouble and he is begging me to help him. He says that he has been looking for a Master. But the peculiar idea entered his mind that he wanted to test his would-be Master. So he did something very odd.
“He went into the homes of four different Masters on four consecutive nights. The first night he entered a Master’s bedroom and grabbed his wristwatch. The Master caught him red-handed then immediately said to him, ‘Oh, you have come all this way to steal my wristwatch. Please take it. I shall give you my other wristwatch as well. I do not need earthly time; what I need is eternal time. I do not need earth-bound time; what I need is Heaven-free time. So please take both watches.’ My friend bowed to the Master and went home happily with the watches.
"The next night my friend entered the second Master’s room to steal this Master’s wristwatch. This Master also caught him and said, ‘You have taken such trouble to come into my room. I am sorry to have caused you so much trouble. You can certainly have my wristwatch. I have another one; I don’t need two. One is more than enough for me.’ My friend bowed to this Master and quietly went back home with the wristwatch.
“The following night my friend went into the room of a third Master. As he was stealing this Master’s wristwatch, he was caught by the Master himself. The Master said, ‘Since you are so eager to have my wristwatch, you can have it. This time I forgive you. But stealing is not an act of virtue. Please do not steal anything in the future.’
“The next night my friend went to the room of the fourth Master. While he was stealing that Master’s wristwatch, he again was caught. The Master immediately called out, ‘Thief, thief'. All the disciples living in the house rushed into the Master’s room. The Master said to them, ‘Here is a thief. Look at his audacity! He has come to steal my wristwatch. I want you people to strike him as hard as possible and throw him out of our house.’ The disciples carried out the Master’s order immediately, and my friend was most severely beaten. Poor fellow! There was no watch for him that night. Humiliation and punishment were his only rewards.
“Master, my friend wants to know which of these four is the best Master, so that he can choose the right one.”
The Master said, “I cannot tell you who the best Master is. Your friend has to make his own choice. But I will give him some advice.
“Go and tell him that the Christ-consciousness spoke to him through the first Master; the Buddha-consciousness spoke to him through the second Master; the Chaitanya-consciousness spoke to him through the third Master, and the Krishna-consciousness spoke to him through the fourth Master. Now it is up to him to make a choice. Whichever Master he cares for, he can accept as his own. Now tell me, what did you steal from me before becoming my disciple?”
“Master, as you know, I did not steal anything from you. On the contrary, it was you who came into my room secretly on four consecutive nights to steal four things that were then very precious to me. The first night you came and stole away my body’s impurity. The second night you stole my vital’s aggression. The third night you stole away my mind’s insincerity. The fourth night you stole my heart’s insecurity.”
“And then what did you do?”
“Quite helplessly I became your devoted disciple.”
The Master, with a broad smile, blessed this dear disciple with all his love, joy and pride, and said, “Would you ever like to steal anything from me?”
“Yes, Master, I would.”
“What would you like to steal from me? You don’t have to steal. I shall immediately give you anything you want freely. Just tell me, and I shall give it to you immediately.”
“Master, I wish to steal not one, but four things from you.”
“What are they? I shall immediately give them to you.”
“Master, early in the morning I wish to steal a smile from you. At noon I wish to steal a loving word from you. In the evening I wish to steal a compassionate blessing from you. At night I wish to steal fruitful forgiveness from you.
The Master said to his disciple, “My son, the more you can steal the things that you have mentioned, the more you will make me happy and proud of you. So take them every day to your heart’s content.
WM 2. 25 January 1974↩