There was a master, Avadhoota. His name was Nagarjuna. He never carried anything. He used to wonder. He never used to display any of his powers. He was very silent, quiet and used to walk through the streets. This is a story of Nagarjuna..
There was a very powerful Avadhoota. Avadhoota – master means the one who has only the consciousness of the body, but who has no thoughts. His mind has collapsed, he is aware of the body and has nothing to do with the Earth. He is walking on the Earth as a witness, as a road map, or as a symbol of that state.
This Avadhoota used to wear just a loincloth, like underwear, no other clothes, and he had a begging bowl in his hand. He always carried that bowl for getting food. That’s all he had. Just a cloth and a bowl, nothing else. He never carried anything. He used to wonder. His name was Nagarjuna. He never used to display any of his powers. He was very silent, quiet and used to walk through the streets. Whenever he was hungry, he used to beg for food and people would give him something, he would eat that and that’s how he was living. No possessions, no houses, no credit cards… Nothing. He was just wandering.
His fame started spreading. People started knowing there was a great master, so people started looking forward to meeting him. His fame reached the palace. The queen became interested in meeting him, so she told the palace ministers: “I would like to invite him for lunch.”. They brought him to the palace. What sort of utensils will there be in a palace? Gold plates, gold spoons, everything made out of gold! The queen respected him, seated him and served him food in gold plates. Contrast this to the saint he was wearing only a loincloth i.e. just underwear, nothing else!
Nagarjuna said, “What have I got to do with these gold plates? I have this begging bowl, you can give food in this bowl. Whatever you give in this bowl, I will eat.”
So they served him food in the bowl which he was carrying. He ate well, everything was ok, then the queen was happy, he was happy.
Then he asked: “May I leave now? I’m happy, I’m pleased, may I go?”
The queen said: “Thank you very much for coming, we are blessed that you stepped into this palace, we are very happy, it will be our pleasure if you would like to come back sometime, whenever you like.”
Please understand, no true master makes any big promises of the future, because they can leave their body. They reserve the option to leave their body any time. If you promise something, you have to hold on.
Therefore he said: “We’ll see.” He didn’t commit. Then he asked the queen: “What can I give you?”
She looked at him, he had nothing on his body, so she said: “I want that begging bowl”.
He didn’t think twice. He only had that begging bowl in his hands. He gave it to her.
She received the begging bowl with a lot of love and respect and said: “I will keep this in my shrine and I will worship this. This is much more precious than any material in this palace.”
He gave the bowl, and as he was about to leave, the queen asked: “What about you, you don’t have a bowl now?”
Nagarjuna answered: “That’s alright, no problem.”
The queen: “I would like to give you a bowl as well, back.”
She brought a gold begging bowl with diamonds on it. A very, very, very expensive, an extremely expensive one. She gave it to him and said: “You are a very powerful master. You’re priceless, so whatever I give you, should somehow be compatible with your stature, that’s why I’m giving this to you.”
He accepted it. When he took this bowl, the ministers and other people who were watching, were not happy.
They said: “This is a renunciate, he’s supposed to be a saint. Look at him, he took this gold begging bowl with diamonds studded on it without any problem. Why didn’t he say: ‘No, no, no, I can’t touch it – I already renounced all these things, I cannot touch material stuff.’ Why didn’t he say so?!”.
So they were thinking whether this was a real or a fake guy. They started talking amongst themselves.
Do you see how fast we make judgments about other people? Nagarjuna received it and he also understood what was in the minds of people.
Hence he said: “Don’t judge me, because I am above the materials. You see gold, I see a utility vessel. For you this material is valuable because of what it’s made up of. I’m looking at this thing as a vessel I can use for food. There is nothing else. For me, whether the vessel is made out of gold or mud, it’s the same, I only look at how I can use it. For you, you might be looking at an opportunity for enhancing your family wealth. I have no family, I have no need for wealth, so don’t judge me!” It is easy to judge. And how to come out of it? Very difficult.
Then he left with this begging bowl, and he was asking for food and people were offering him food, and he was showing this gold bowl with the diamonds on it, so the society people were looking at this man who was not dressed but was holding a gold bowl with diamonds on it. It was very inappropriate for the society. It didn’t matter where it came from but who was using it.
So he became the talk of the town. His fame spread all over the city, and one thief got interested in him. It was a thief with a “good reputation”. He had even stolen from the palace. They couldn’t even catch him. He saw this man walking around with this gold bowl with the diamonds on it. Thus he decided to follow him.
He followed and followed, but he was keeping a safe distance so that the saint wouldn’t recognise him. Finally, it was evening and the saint decided to sleep. He went to a waiting shed, a bus stop kind of thing, where there was not even a proper roof, let alone a place to sleep. That space was usually occupied by wandering monks, beggars, this kind of people – and this guy had a golden begging bowl with diamonds on it. It was not easy to sleep.
Nagarjuna cleaned the floor, prepared to sleep, and the thief was hiding behind the pillar, planning “When this guy goes to sleep, I will pick up the bowl and run.” He was waiting. Nagarjuna cleaned the floor and sat down. First what he did was, he took this begging bowl and threw it near this thief. The thief was completely shocked. He had never expected this: “Why did this man throw the golden bowl to me!?” He was happy. This time, he got it without stealing!
He was so surprised that he came to this Avadhoota and said: “I got the bowl, but why did you do this?”
Nagarjuna said: “If you stand there all the time thinking about my bowl, then I cannot sleep. The whole night you will not sleep, I will not sleep. Both of us will have sleepless nights. Instead, you take the bowl, I can sleep and you can also go away.”
This was amazing for the thief, he had never seen anyone like this.
The thief said: “I never met any person like you. So you don’t care about the value of this bowl?”
Nagarjuna: “The value of this bowl for me is that it can carry food, I can eat. Apart from that, it has no value.”
The thief: “You’re an amazing person, I’ve never seen anybody like you. Can I touch your feet?”
The thief added: “I’m not an ordinary thief, I’m a celebrity thief. I have even stolen from the palace.”
Nagarjuna: “Nice to meet you.”
The thief touched Nagarjuna’s feet and felt something. Something changed in his brain, because he had never met anybody like this, who never cared about anything, who even had a very precious thing in his hand but never cared about it. That meant, he was totally detached from anything and everything. That was a good information or a new thing for the thief so he started thinking: “Everyone was trying to save whatever they have. This fellow does not even care. Why is it so?”
Until then, this thief had a bit of pride, he had done tremendous thefts, and had never been caught. Now this fellow defeated him in a way. Nagarjuna defeated him in his own game. The thief did not have to steal this precious thing from him. And this precious thing was probably worth all the stealing he had done in this lifetime.
When the thief touched his feet, he started feeling differently, so he said: “How can I be like you? I think I have to take many lives to be like you?”
Nagarjuna said: “Not really”
Thief: “When can I be like you?”
Nagarjuna: “Right now!”
Thief: “Really? It’s that simple?”
Nagarjuna: “Yes, it’s that simple.”
Thief: “What do I have to do for it?”
Nagarjuna: “You should make a decision! You have to decide!”
Thief: “Yes, I’ve decided. Will you guide me?”
Please understand, until that moment there hadn’t been surrender in his mind. He had not been surrendered because he was still in the past habitual mode, being the thief and who he was in the society and stuff like that.
Then the thief said: “Nobody will accept me as a student because of my past records, which are not so good, so why do you accept me like this?”
Nagarjuna asked: “Your past records are your burden, what have I got to do with it? My job is to deliver. If you’re ready I will deliver.”
The thief: “All the teachers in the past have rejected me.”
Nagarjuna: “If any teacher has rejected you because of who you are, they are not teachers. A true teacher should not look at the past or the future of anybody. They just deliver in the present. Past is already finished. Right now, you have already reached here. Future is up to you – what you want, how you want. According to that you will have your future. A teacher has nothing to do with that, and should not have anything to do with that.”
This guy was completely shaken. He’d never heard any of these things in life. He had only heard the sound of police chasing him. This man was not even judging him. He came to steal the most precious stuff this guy was carrying, but he never judged him or anybody. No judgment.
Then the thief said: “Ok, teach me! What should I do?”
Nagarjuna: “Be aware of your breathing all the time! Three things: inhalation, exhalation and the space between inhalation and exhalation. Just be aware of these three things, nothing else.”
The thief asked: “If I do this, will I be like you?”
The guru never promises, right? Why didn’t the guru promise? Because YOU are walking, not the guru.
Nagarjuna told him: “Whatever you do, remember your breath. Always remember your breath, whenever you remember to remember your breath, remember your breath.”
So the thief went with the bowl. He didn’t give the bowl back, he took it. He came all the way for this. He didn’t leave it behind, he took it away.
Fifteen days later, the thief was searching for this master and found him, not in the same place. This Avadhoota had already moved, but he searched and found him.
The thief said: “You put me in a big trap! Ever since you gave me this technique, I have not been able to steal. With great difficulty I jumped the wall, went to some place, opened the door and then I remembered breathing, sometimes I even opened the wardrobe and I remembered the breathing… My profession has become a disaster! I don’t know what to do now, I have no other profession! You messed up my profession. I have no other job in life. What should I do now? Please guide me.”
Nagarjuna: “Get lost, go away. I have given you something precious, now you choose whether you want the material things from the past habit of collecting all the things indiscriminately based on greed, or you want to enter the silence which you found through the breath. Do you want to stabilize in the silence you found through the breath, or you want to go back to your own habit of collecting things out of greed, not exactly for eating? If this is what you want, this is up to you. I have nothing to do with it. I have given you what I can, and don’t come back to me and ask me for more.”
Thief: “You know, the silence which I found with the breath… – I don’t want to lose it anymore! Can you accept me as your disciple?”
Nagarjuna: “If you consider me as your Guru, you become a disciple.” Then he asked: “I consider you as my Guru, can you initiate me?”
Nagarjuna: “I’ve already done that!”
End of story. Think about this, and you will understand the truth from this.
Transcribed by Monika Dizdarevic
Proof read by Biljana Vozarevic