Pagal Baba, in his last days was always a little bit worried. I could see it, although he had not said anything, nor had anybody else mentioned it. Perhaps nobody else was even aware that he was worried. It was certainly not about his illness, old age, or his oncoming death; those were absolutely immaterial to the man.
One night, when I was alone with him, I asked him. In fact, I had to wake him up in the middle of the night, because it was so difficult to find a moment when there was nobody else with him.
He said to me, "It must be something of great importance, otherwise you would not have awakened me. What's the matter?"
I said, "That's the question. I have been watching you - I feel a little shadow of worry around you. It has never been there before. Your aura has always been so clear, just like a bright sun, but now I see a little shadow. It cannot be death."
He laughed and said, "Yes, the shadow is there, and it is not death, that too is true. My concern is, I am waiting for a man so that I can hand over my responsibility for you to him. I am worried because he has not come yet. If I die it will be impossible for you to be able to find him."
I said, "If I really need somebody, I will find him. But I don't need anybody. You relax before death comes. I don't want to be the cause of this shadow. You should die as brilliantly radiant as you have lived."
He said, "It is not possible. But I know the man will come - I am worrying unnecessarily. He is a man of his word; he has promised to reach me before I die."
I asked him, "How does he know when you are going to die?"
He laughed and said, "That is why I want you to be introduced to him. You are very young and I would like someone like me just to be around you." He said, "In fact, this is an old convention, that if a child is ever going to become awakened, then at least three awakened people should recognize him at an early age."
I said, "Baba, this is all nonsense. Nobody can prevent me from awakening."
He said, "I know, but I am an old, conventional man, so please, particularly at the time of my death, don't say anything against convention."
I said, "Okay, for your sake I will keep absolutely silent. I will not say anything, because whatsoever I say is somehow going to be against convention, tradition."
He said, "I am not saying that you should be silent, but just feel what I am feeling. I am an old man.
I have nobody in the world for whom I care, except you. I don't know why, or how, you became so close to me. I want somebody in my place so you don't miss me."
I said, "Baba, nobody can replace you, but I promise you that I will try hard not to miss you."
But the man arrived the next morning.
The first awakened man who recognized me was Magga Baba. The second was Pagal Baba, and the third was more strange than even I could have imagined. Even Pagal Baba was not so mad.
The man was called Masta Baba.
Baba is a respectful word; it simply means "the grandfather." But anybody who is recognized by the people as someone enlightened is also called Baba, because he is really the oldest man in the community. He may not be actually, he may be just a young man, but he has to be called Baba, the grandfather.
Masta Baba was superb, just superb, and just the way I like a man to be. He was exactly as if made for me. We became friends even before Pagal Baba introduced us.
I was standing outside the house. I don't know why I was standing there, at least now I can't remember the purpose; it was so long ago. Perhaps I was also waiting, because Pagal Baba had said the man would keep his word; he would come. And I was certainly curious like any child. I was a child, and I have remained a child in spite of everything else. Perhaps I was waiting, or pretending to do something else, but actually waiting for the man, and looking up the road - and there he was!
I had not expected him to arrive this way! He came running!
He was not very old, no more than thirty-five, just at the peak of his youth. He was a tall man, very thin, with beautiful long hair, and a beautiful beard.
I asked him, "Are you Masta Baba?"
He was a little taken aback, and said, "How did you know my name?"
I said, "There is nothing mysterious in it. Pagal Baba has been waiting for you. Naturally he mentioned your name, but you are really the man I myself would have chosen to be with. You are as mad as Pagal Baba must have been when he was young. Perhaps you are just the young Pagal Baba come back again."
He said, "You seem to be madder than me. Where is Pagal Baba anyway?"
I showed him the way, and entered behind him. He touched the feet of Pagal Baba, who then said, "This is my last day, and Masto" - that was the way he used to call him - "I was waiting for you, and getting a little worried."
Masto replied, "Why? Death is nothing to you."
Baba replied, "Of course death is nothing to me, but look behind you. That boy means much to me; perhaps he will be able to do what I wanted to and could not. You touch his feet. I have been waiting so that I could introduce you to him."
Masta Baba looked into my eyes... and he was the only real man out of the many whom Pagal Baba had introduced to me and told to touch my feet.
It had become almost a cliche. Everybody knew that if you go to Pagal Baba you would have to touch the feet of that boy who is a nuisance in every possible way. And you have to touch his feet!
What absurdity... but Pagal Baba is mad. This man, Masto, was certainly different. With tears in his eyes and folded hands he said, "From this moment onwards you will be my Pagal Baba. He is leaving his body, but he will live on as you."
I don't know how much time passed, because he would not let go of my feet. He was crying. His beautiful hair was spread all over the ground. Again and again I told him, "Masta Baba, it is enough."
He said, "Unless you call me Masto, I will not leave your feet."
Now, "Masto" is a term used only by an older man to a child. How could I call him Masto? But there was no way out. I had to. Even Pagal Baba said, "Don't wait, call him Masto, so that I can die without any shadow around me."
Naturally, in such a situation, I had to call him Masto. The moment I used the name, Masto said, "Say it thrice."
In the East, that too is a convention. Unless you say a thing thrice it does not mean much. So three times I said, "Masto, Masto, Masto. Now will you please leave my feet?" And I laughed, Pagal Baba laughed, Masto laughed - and that laughter from all three joined us together into something which is unbreakable.
That very day Pagal Baba died. But Masto did not stay, although I told him that death was very close.
He said, "For me now, you are the one. Whenever I need to, I will come to you. He is going to die anyway; in fact, to tell you the truth, he should have died three days ago. He has been hanging around just for you, so that he could introduce me to you. And it is not only for you, it is for me too."
I asked Pagal Baba before he died, "Why did you look so happy after Masta Baba had come here?"
He said, "Just a conventional mind, forgive me."
He was such a nice old man. To ask forgiveness, at the age of ninety, from a boy, and with so much love....
I said, "I am not asking why you waited for him. The question is not about you or him. He is a beautiful man, and worth waiting for. I am asking why you worried so much."
He said, "Again let me ask you not to argue at this moment. It is not that I am against argument, as you know. I particularly love the way you argue, and the strange turns you give to your arguments, but this is not the time. There is no time really. I am living on borrowed time. I can tell you only one thing: I am happy that he came, and happy that you both became friendly and loving as I wanted you to. Perhaps one day you will see the truth of this old, traditional idea."
The idea is that unless three enlightened people recognize a child as a future Buddha, it is almost impossible for him to become one. Pagal Baba, you were right. Now I can see it is not just a convention. To recognize somebody as enlightened is to help him immeasurably. Particularly if a man like Pagal Baba recognizes you, and touches your feet - or a man like Masto.
I continued to call him Masto because Pagal Baba had said, "Never call him Masta Baba again; he will be offended. I used to call him Masto, and from now on you have to do the same." And it was really a sight! - a child calling him, who was respected by hundreds of people, "Masto." And not only that, he would immediately do whatever I said to him.
Once, just as an example.... He was delivering a talk. I stood up and said, "Masto, stop immediately!"
He was in the middle of a sentence. He did not even complete it; he stopped. People urged him to please finish what he was saying. He would not even answer. He pointed towards me. I had to go to the microphone and tell the people to please go to their homes, the lecture was over, and Masto had been taken into my custody.
He laughed hilariously, and touched my feet. And his way of touching my feet.... Thousands of people must have touched my feet, but he had a way of his own, just unique. He touched my feet almost - how to say it - as if he were confronting God Himself. And he always became just tears, and his long hair.... I had such a job helping him to sit up again.
I would say, "Masto, enough! Enough is enough." But who was there to listen? He was crying, singing, or chanting a mantra. I had to wait until he had finished. Sometimes I was sitting there for even half an hour, just to say to him, "It is enough." But I could only say it when he had finished. After all, I too have some manners. I could not just say, "Stop!" or "Leave my feet!" when they were in his hands.
In fact I never wanted him to leave them, but I had other things to do, and so did he. It is a practical world, and although I am very impractical, as far as others are concerned, I am not; I am always pragmatic and practical. When I could get a single moment in which to interrupt, I would say, "Masto, stop. Enough. You are crying your eyes out, and your hair - I will have to wash it. It is becoming dirty in the mud."
You know the Indian dust: it is omnipresent, everywhere, particularly in a village. Everything is dusty.
Even people's faces look dusty. What can they do? How many times can they wash? Even here, although in an air-conditioned room where there is no dust, just out of old habit, whenever I go to the bathroom - just to tell you a secret, don't tell anybody - I wash my face for no reason at all, many times each day... just an old Indian habit.
It was so dusty that I used to run to the bathroom again and again.
My mother used to say to me, "It seems we should make a bathroom in your room, so that you don't have to run through the house so many times. What do you do?"
I said, "I just wash my face - there is so much dust." I told Masto, "I will have to wash your hair."
And I used to wash his hair. It was so beautiful, and I always love anything beautiful. This man Masto, about whom Pagal Baba worried so much, was the third enlightened man. He wanted three enlightened men to touch the feet of a small unenlightened boy, and he managed.
Madmen have their own ways. He managed perfectly. He even persuaded the enlightened ones to touch the feet of a boy who was certainly not enlightened.
I asked him, "Don't you think this is a little violent?"
He said, "Not at all. The present has to be offered to the future. And if an enlightened person cannot see into the future, he is not enlightened. It is not just a crazy man's idea," he said, "but one of the most ancient and respected ideas."
Buddha, even when he was only twenty-four hours old, was visited by an enlightened man who cried, and touched the feet of the child. The father of Gautam the Buddha could not believe what was happening, because the man was very famous. Even Buddha's father used to go to him. Had he gone crazy or something? Touching the feet of a twenty-four-hour-old child?
Buddha's father asked, "Can I ask, sir, why are you touching the feet of this small child?"
The enlightened man said, "I am touching his feet because I can see what is possible. Right now he is a bud, but he will become a lotus." And Buddha's father, Shuddhodhana was his name, asked, "Then why are you crying? Be happy if he is going to become a lotus."
The old man said, "I am crying because I will not be present at that moment."
Yes, even Buddhas cry at particular moments. Particularly at a moment like that one - seeing a child who is going to become a Buddha and knowing that one is going to die before it happens, is certainly hard. It is almost like a dark night: you can see, the birds have started singing, the sun will be rising soon; there is even a little light on the horizon already - and you have to die without seeing another morning.
Certainly, the old man who cried and touched Buddha's feet was right. I know from my own experience. These three people are the most important that I have ever met, and I don't think I am going to meet anybody who will be more important than those three. I have met other enlightened people too, after my enlightenment, but that is another story.
I have met my own disciples after they became enlightened, that too is a different story. But to be recognized when I was just a small child, and everybody else was against me, was a strange fate.
My family was always against me. I exclude my father, my mother, my brothers, but it was a big family. They were all against me, for a simple reason - and I can understand them, they were right in a way - that I was behaving like a madman, and they were concerned.
Everybody in that small town was complaining against me to my poor father. I must say that he had infinite patience. He would listen to everybody. It was almost a twenty-four-hour job. Each day - day in, day out, sometimes even in the middle of the night - somebody would come, because I had done something which should not have been done. And I was doing only things which should not be done. In fact, I wondered how I knew which were the things which should not be done, because not even by accident did I do anything which should have been done.
Once I asked Pagal Baba, "Perhaps you can explain it to me. I could understand if fifty percent of the things I did were wrong, and fifty percent were right, but with me it is always one hundred percent wrong. How do I manage it? Can you explain it to me?"
Pagal Baba laughed and said, "You manage perfectly. That is the way to do things. And don't be bothered what others say; you go on in your own way. Listen to all the complaints, and if you are punished, enjoy."
I really did enjoy it, I must say - even the punishment. My father stopped punishing me the moment he found out that I enjoyed it. For example he once told me, "Run around the block seven times, run fast, and then come back."
I asked, "Can I run seventy times? It is so beautiful in the morning."
I could see his face. He thought he was punishing me. I really did run seventy times around the block. By and by he understood that it was difficult to punish me. I enjoyed it.
I always sympathized with my father because he suffered unnecessarily. I used to have long hair, and I loved it. Not only that, I used to wear Punjabi clothes, which were not worn in that area. I had fallen in love with Punjabi clothes after seeing them on a group of singers who had visited the town.
I think that they are the most beautiful clothes in India. With my long hair, and wearing the salvar and kurta, people thought I was a girl. And I was always passing through my father's shop, coming and going into the house the whole day.
People would ask my father, "Whose girl is that? What kind of clothes is she wearing?" Of course my father was offended. I don't see that there is anything wrong if somebody thinks your boy is a girl. But in this male chauvinist society my father naturally came running after me saying, "Listen, you stop wearing this salvar and kurta - these clothes look like those of a woman. And moreover, cut your hair; otherwise I will cut it for you!"
I told him, "The moment you cut my hair you will repent."
He said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "I have said it. Now you can think it over, and find out what I mean. You will repent."
He became so angry. That is the only time I saw him so angry. He brought his scissors from the shop. It was a clothes shop, and so there were always scissors to cut the clothes. Then he cut my hair saying, "Now, you can go to the haircutter so that he can do it better, otherwise you will look like a cartoon."
I said, "I will go, but you will repent."
He said, "Again? What do you mean?"
I said, "It is your doing. You think it over. Why should I explain it to you? I don't owe any explanation to anybody. You cut my hair and you will repent."
I went to a haircutter who was an opium-eater. I chose him particularly because he was the only man who would do whatever I told him. No other haircutter would do anything unless he thought it was right. I will have to explain to you that in India, a child's head is completely shaved only when his father dies. I went to this opium-addicted fellow whom I loved anyway. His name was Natthu. I said to him, "Natthu, are you at least able to cut off all my hair?"
He said, "Yes, yes, yes" - thrice.
I said, "Great. That's the way of the Buddha-thrice. So please cut it," and he shaved my head completely.
When I came home, my father looked at me and could not believe it: I looked like a Buddhist monk.
That is the difference between the Buddhist and the Hindu monks. The Hindu monk shaves his head leaving some hair on the top of the head, at the very point where the sahastrara, the seventh chakra is. It is to protect and to give it a little shade from the hot sun. The Buddhist monk is more daring, he cuts off everything; he shaves his whole head.
My father said, "What have you done? Do you know what this means? I will now be in more trouble than before. Everybody will ask 'Why is this child completely shaved? Has his father died?'"
I said, "That is up to you now. I told you that you would repent." And he repented for months. People kept asking him, "What is the matter?"... because I did not allow my hair to grow.
Natthu was always there, and he was such a lovely man. Whenever I would go, and his chair was empty, I would sit down and say, "Natthu, please do it again."
So whatever few hairs had grown he would shave them off. He said to me, "I love shaving heads.
The fools come to me and say, 'Cut it this way, in this style, or that.' All nonsense. This is the best style: I don't have to worry, nor do you. It is simply plain, and very saintly."
I said, "You have said the word. This is very saintly. But do you realize that if my father comes to know you are the person who is doing all this, you will be in trouble?"
He said, "Don't you be worried. Everybody knows that I am an opium addict. I can do anything. If I have not cut off your head, that's enough." And he laughed.
I said, "That's good. Next time, if I feel like cutting off my head, I will come to you. I know I can rely on you."
He said, "Yes my boy, yes my boy, yes my boy."
Perhaps because of the opium, he had to repeat everything thrice. Perhaps only then could he hear what he was saying.
But my father had learned a lesson. He said to me, "I have repented enough. I will not do such a thing again." And he never did. He kept his word. That was his first and last punishment to me. It is even unbelievable to me, because I did so many troublesome things. But he listened patiently to all complaints, and never said anything to me. In fact, he tried his best to protect me.
Once I asked him, "You have promised not to punish me, but you did not promise to protect me.
There is no need to protect me."
He said, "You are so mischievous that if I don't protect you, I don't think you will survive. Somebody, somewhere is bound to kill you. I have to protect you. Moreover, this Pagal Baba is always telling me to 'protect this child.' I love and respect him. If he says to protect you, then he must be right.
Then I can believe the whole village to be wrong, myself included. But I can't think of Pagal Baba being wrong."
And I know Pagal Baba used to tell everybody, my teachers, my uncles, "Protect this child." Even my mother was told to protect me. I remember perfectly, the only person he never said it to was my Nani. It was such an absolutely clear exception that I had to ask him, "Why do you never tell my Nani 'Protect him'?"
He said, "There is no need: she will protect you even if she had to die for you. She would even fight with me. I can trust her. She is the only one in your family I don't need to say anything to about your protection."
His insight was crystal clear. Yes, there are eyes which can see beyond the fog, which every human being creates around himself, just to hide behind.