An emperor was coming out of his palace for his morning walk when he met a beggar. He asked the beggar, “What do you want?”
The beggar laughed and said, “You are asking me as though you can fulfill my desire!”
The king was offended. He said, “Of course I can fulfill your desire. What is it? Just tell me.”
And the beggar said, “Think twice before you promise anything.”
The beggar was no ordinary beggar; he was the emperor’s past life master. He had promised in that life, “I will come and try to wake you in your next life. This life you have missed, but I will come again.” But the king had forgotten completely—who remembers past lives? So he insisted, “I will fulfill anything you ask. I am a very powerful emperor, what can you possibly desire that I cannot give to you?”
The beggar said, “It is a very simple desire. You see this begging bowl? Can you fill it with something?”
The emperor said, “Of course!” He called one of his viziers and told him, “Fill this man’s begging bowl with money.” The vizier went and got some money and poured it into the bowl, and it disappeared. And he poured more and more, and the moment he would pour it, it would disappear. And the begging bowl always remained empty.
The whole palace gathered. By and by, the rumor went throughout the whole capital, and a huge crowd gathered. The prestige of the emperor was at stake. He said to his viziers, “If the whole kingdom is lost, I am ready to lose it, but I cannot be defeated by this beggar.”
Diamonds, pearls, and emeralds, his treasuries were becoming empty. The begging bowl seemed to be bottomless. Everything that was put into it—everything!—immediately disappeared, went out of existence. Finally, it was the evening, and the people were standing there in utter silence. The king dropped at the feet of the beggar and admitted his defeat. He said, “Just tell me one thing. You are victorious, but before you leave, just fulfill my curiosity. What is the begging bowl made of?”
The beggar laughed and said, “It is made up of the human mind. There is no secret. It is simply made up of human desire.”
When the great Sufi mystic, Hasan, was dying, somebody asked “Hasan, who was your master?”
He said, “I had thousands of masters. If I just relate their names it will take months, years and it is too late. But three masters I will certainly tell you about.”
One was a thief. Once I got lost in the desert, and when I reached a village, it was very late, everything was closed. But at last I found one man who was trying to make a hole in the wall of a house. I asked him where I could stay and he said, “At this time of night it will be difficult, but you can say with me—if you can stay with a thief.”
And the man was so beautiful. I stayed for one month! And each night he would say to me, “Now I am going to my work. You rest, you pray.” When he came back, I would ask, “Could you get anything?” He would say, “Not tonight. But tomorrow I will try again, God willing.” He was never in a state of hopelessness, he was always happy.
When I was meditating and meditating for years on end and nothing was happening, many times the moment came when I was so desperate, so hopeless, that I thought to stop all this nonsense. And suddenly I would remember the thief who would say every night, “God willing, tomorrow it is going to happen.”
And my second master was a dog. I was going to the river, thirsty and a dog came. He was also thirsty. He looked into the river, he saw another dog there—his own image —and became afraid. He would bark and run away, but his thirst was so much that he would come back. Finally, despite his fear, he just jumped into the water, and the image disappeared. And I knew that a message had come to me from God: one has to jump in spite of all fears.
And the third master was a small child. I entered a town and a child was carrying a lit candle. He was going to the mosque to put the candle there.
“Just joking,” I asked the boy, “Have you lit the candle yourself?” He said, “Yes sir.” And I asked, “There was a moment when the candle was unlit, then there was a moment when the candle was lit. Can you show me the source from which the light came?”
And the boy laughed, blew out the candle, and said, “Now you have seen the light going. Where has it gone? You will tell me!”
My ego was shattered, my whole knowledge was shattered. And that moment I felt my own stupidity. Since then I dropped all my knowledgeability.
It is true that I had no master. That does not mean that I was not a disciple—I accepted the whole existence as my master. My Disciplehood was a greater involvement than yours is. I trusted the clouds, the trees. I trusted existence as such. I had no master because I had millions of masters I learned from every possible source. To be a disciple is a must on the path. What does it mean to be a disciple? It means to be able to learn. To be available to learn to be vulnerable to existence. With a master you start learning to learn.
The master is a swimming pool where you can learn how to swim. Once you have learned, all the oceans are yours.
A grammarian fell into a well one day and had difficulty climbing up the slippery sides.
A little later, a Sufi chanced by and heard the man’s cries for succor. In the casual language of everyday life, the Sufi offered aid.
The grammarian replied, “I would certainly appreciate your help. But by the way, you have committed an error in your speech,” which the grammarian proceeded to specify.
“A good point,” acknowledged the Sufi. “I had best go off awhile and try to improve my skills.” And so he did, leaving the grammarian at the bottom of the well.
A scholar asked a boatman to row him across the river. The journey was long and slow. The scholar was bored. “Boatman,” he called out, “Let’s have a conversation.” Suggesting a topic of special interest to himself, he asked, “Have you ever studied phonetics or grammar?”
“No,” said the boatman, “I’ve no use for those tools.”
“Too bad,” said the scholar, “You’ve wasted half your life. It’s useful to know the rules.”
Later, as the rickety boat crashed into a rock in the middle of the river, the boatman turned to the scholar and said, “Pardon my humble mind that to you must seem dim, but, wise man, tell me, have you ever learned to swim?”
“No,” said the scholar, “I’ve never learned. I’ve immersed myself in thinking.”
“In that case,” said the boatman, “you’ve wasted all your life. Alas, the boat is sinking.”