With a master the long journey can be cut short

Fri, 16 Jan 1986 00:00:00 GMT
Book Title:
Light on the Path
Chapter #:
am in Kathmandu, Nepal
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Question 1:




There is no need for a master.

An intelligent and courageous man can walk alone - but he will have to walk many lives before he comes to the point. With a master the long journey can be cut short.

Walking alone, you don't know where you are going. You know where you want to go, but there is no map. And there are not paved roads to the truth. As you walk you make the path; it is not already there. And there are thousands of doors.

The person who is walking alone will have to knock on each of the doors; and all the doors don't lead to the truth. There is only one door in those thousands of doors which leads to the truth. A man walking alone will have to depend on some coincidence that he happens to knock on the right door; otherwise he will have to eliminate all the wrong doors by knocking on them, finding that they are not the right one, until finally all wrong doors are eliminated, and only the right one is left.

This can take thousands of lives. The journey will be infinitely long - so long that the courageous man may lose courage, the intelligent man may get fed up with all that. And rather than reaching the goal, he may turn his back on the whole pilgrimage.

Yes, it is possible without a master, but the difficulties are tremendous. The master does not lead you to the truth because he has already traveled the path: he has already found the right door, the right method. He can help you to eliminate the wrong doors.

In other words the function of the master is not to give you the truth but to make you aware what is false, to make you aware what is not truth. He cuts your journey down to the shortest possible way.

And a master is not a person who owns people. One who owns people is not a master at all: he is a politician. He is on a power trip.

A master can only be a master if he does not own people, but loves them.

Love never owns. Love gives without asking anything in return. Love makes no conditions. Love has no expectations.

A master is only a friend. He is not higher than the people he is leading towards a certain experience.

He has no superiority complex. He does not create any guilt, any inferiority, any kind of spiritual slavery - because these are the barriers to finding the experience he is teaching.

Only an independent, totally autonomous being, living in freedom, can attain to the experience of truth.

So how can the master own the people? He makes every effort to help - and this help does not create any obligation on those who are being helped. On the contrary the master feels obliged that you accepted his help. You could have rejected it; there was no necessity to accept it.

It is just a theoretical thing that the master is not needed. Practically it is almost impossible to find the way without the master, because there are so many ways, and they don't all lead to truth.

And you don't have unlimited courage. It will soon be finished. After wandering on a few paths and finding nothing, you will be discouraged. Each failure is going to become a discouragement.

Soon you will start wondering whether there is any truth at all. "Am I searching for a hallucination, searching for something that does not exist?"

Your intelligence, howsoever sharp, will start losing its sharpness when you come again and again against failure.

Whatever man has, needs nourishment. His courage needs nourishment. His intelligence needs nourishment - and nourishment comes through success. If you are succeeding, you will become more and more intelligent, more and more courageous... getting ready to take a quantum leap into the unknown. But if on every step there is failure, darkness, the courage will disappear. The intelligence will start losing its sharpness, its brilliance.

It is mostly going to be the case that soon you will forget all about truth, the search. You may even become an enemy of all those who are talking about truth and the search for it. You may start saying that it is all nonsense, it is just groping in the dark... just like the definition of a blind philosopher looking in a dark house in the dark night for a black cat which is not there. How long can you keep your courage?

Buddha has a beautiful story about it. He says there is a palace of one thousand doors, and a blind man is trying to find the right door to get out of it. All the doors are open. He goes on searching for the right door; he becomes tired - such a tedious thing that each door proves to be just a facade. It is not a door; behind each door there is only a wall. The door is open - but when he enters he hits his head against the wall.

He starts becoming discouraged, although he has been told there is one door, certainly one door, which will take him out - and all doors are open. And by the time he reaches the right door, he is so tired, so fed up. He has passed nine hundred and ninety-nine doors, and they all have proved wrong doors. It is a natural conclusion that this door is also going to be one of them. He does not try it - he passes by it.

He has tried enough. You cannot blame that man, he is blind - and hitting his head on nine hundred and ninety-nine doors and finding they are all walls.... You cannot blame him if he decides to leave this one and save at least one hit more. He moves on and starts knocking again on wrong doors.

Buddha used to say that you cannot condemn that man. You have to be compassionate - he is blind and his experience of so many failures discourages him. And he misses the right door. He simply does not try - he is tired. Perhaps one round more and he may drop the whole idea of getting out.

Perhaps it is just a fallacy that there is a door that opens towards the world of light, sun, flowers, and sky and stars. Perhaps this is all there is. And those who have been telling him about the right door may have been simply deceiving him, perhaps they are deceived themselves.

What is theoretically possible is not necessarily practically the right thing. Every master will say you can go alone, you can find the truth on your own; there is no need of a master. And only a master will say that. But he will also make it clear to you that you are choosing a very long journey. You may be tired, you may drop out of the search; you may turn your back towards truth. You may even become antagonistic to the very idea. The master is a practical necessity.

And the master is only a lover. He loves truth, and he loves to help people to reach that wonderful experience.

He is just like a gardener. Whenever there are flowers coming to the plants it is not only that the flowers blossom, something in the heart of the gardener also blossoms with each flower. The same is true about the master. Each time a disciple reaches the goal, attains his potentiality, blossoms, something in the master's heart also blossoms. With each disciple becoming enlightened, the master becomes again and again enlightened.

That is the master's reward. He does not want anything from the disciple. His reward is in the success of the disciple.

So always remain aware of the distinction between what is theoretical and what is practical.

You have quoted Basho, an authentic master: "Sitting silently, doing nothing, and the grass grows by itself." This is the theoretical position, and every great master will agree with it - that all that is needed is that you sit silently, don't do anything. On your part doing is not needed. Don't start pulling the grass in order to make it grow. You simply sit silently, the grass grows by itself.

But this is a theoretical statement. Who is going to teach you to sit silently? That is the most difficult thing in the world. You can do everything very easily, and the easiest thing - to sit silently - seems to be the most difficult.

You will need a master for many reasons. First, as an example; otherwise soon you will find that you cannot sit silently. That's how the mind works, to console itself: "It is not my fault that I cannot sit silently; it is just human nature. Nobody can sit silently. I have never seen anybody sitting silently doing nothing."

The first function of the master is to prevent you from drawing such a conclusion. You know at least one man who sits silently. There is one man, at least, who is capable of not doing anything, just being. And if it is possible for one man, it is possible for all men.

And secondly: you will need some method, some strategy, to help you to sit silently and not to do anything. Each master develops devices - sometimes very strange, sometimes very obvious. It all depends on what kind of disciple he is going to help.

This haiku is from Basho, but he himself helped many people, helped the grass to grow - in spite of his statement which has become world famous. Nobody has bothered that he has helped much grass to grow.

He has given a certain kind of meditation to one disciple: to listen to the sound of one hand clapping.

The disciple knows that there cannot be any sound from one hand. Whatever you do, sound needs at least two things to clash; one hand won't do. But the master says, "Try. Sit down and try, and when you find something that is the sound of one hand clapping, come back and report."

And every morning the disciple comes. The night before, he heard the wind passing through the pine trees, and he thought, "Perhaps this is the sound of one hand clapping." In the morning he rushes to the master, and he tells him, touching his feet, "I have heard it! It is the sound of the wind passing through the pine trees."

The master gives him a good slap and says, "You idiot! I have told you to find the sound of one hand clapping. The wind and the pine trees are two hands. Go back and start meditating."

The disciple comes back again and again. Sometimes the sound of the water running... and he thinks, "Perhaps this is it!" But the master is difficult: the disciple is tired, and all that he gets is a slap on his face. He tells the master that he heard the sound of running water.

The master says, "You won't listen to me!" He simply takes hold of him and throws him out of the window! It is a three-story house, and they are on the top floor. And not only does the master throw the disciple out of the window, he jumps after him, on top of him, and asks him, "Have you heard it?"

For a moment there is absolute silence. The disciple cannot believe what has happened. He had never thought that Basho, such a gentle man, will do anything like this. He is simply shocked. And now the master, sitting on his chest asks him, "Have you heard it?"

The shock, the situation - and for a moment time stops, mind stops, and the disciple smiles. And Basho says, "That is it! But you forced me to do something which I don't do ordinarily. You were harassing me every morning with all kinds of nonsense things."

Yes, the grass grows by itself. But man is not grass. He needs a guide, he needs a benevolent master. He needs a friend who at times can be really hard, a friend to create devices around him.

This disciple would have waited for lives to hear the sound of one hand clapping.

And this is a spontaneous act on the part of Basho. It is not a considered act, he has not thought about it. It is just that the moment he feels it, he does it. The disciple has a few fractures, but those fractures will heal; they don't matter. What matters is that the shock of getting thrown out of the window, and the master jumping onto him was something so unexpected that the mind had to stop.

Mind can only function with the expected, with the known. When there is something unexpected, unknown, then it has to stop. And the stopping of the mind is the sound of one hand clapping. It is silence.

Now the disciple knows what silence is. Now he can sit in silence doing nothing and letting the grass grow by itself. But the first taste of silence - who is going to give it to you? Only one who has tasted it.

It is of immense importance not to be lost in theoretical assumptions, and to always remain in the world of the practical, because it is there that things happen. Once they have happened then the theoretical seems to be perfectly right - but only once they have happened.

A master is only a support when you are not able to walk on your own.

If a child is not helped by the mother to start walking on his own feet.... She is very protective. She takes care that he does not fall into a ditch, she takes care that he does not get hurt. She provokes the child, she challenges the child: "You can do it. I am here, you will not fall - I will support you."

But the first steps of a child - for the child it is entering into an unknown world.

If left alone, no child will stand up on his feet; he will walk on all fours all his life. This is a proven fact, because many times children have been found in jungles, in caves, living with wolves. Some motherly wolf has taken the child from the city, and she has been feeding the child.... But because all the wolves are moving on all fours, the child also walks on all fours. Nobody has challenged him to stand up on two legs: "Change your position from the horizontal to the vertical."

A few years ago one boy was found near Lucknow in India. He was fourteen years old, but he was not able to stand up. It took six months for doctors to help him to stand. Then too, whenever he was left alone, he would walk on all fours. It was only under compulsion that he would stand on his two feet. It was too difficult, and he was very hesitant, afraid, nervous.

Theoretically, man is capable of walking on two legs, but practically a mother is needed, a motherly milieu is needed, in which he can feel supported and unafraid - even if he falls, he will not get hurt.

And sometimes he will fall, but slowly he will get the knack. Then the mother is not needed. Then for the whole of his life he will not remember at all that he is walking because of a mother; otherwise he would have not been walking on two legs.

In the spiritual world it is a little more complicated and a little more subtle. The master is playing many roles. He is a friend, he is a guide, he is a mother. And in every way he is trying to give you the first experience. That first experience triggers a series of experiences. And then you can sit alone, silently.

And the real master never wants you to remain dependent on him. He wants to make you independent as soon as possible... the quicker the better.

So he finds all the shortcuts. And he is aware of the whole area - he has traveled on all the paths.

He has seen it from all the angles. He knows where you are, and he knows where the truth is. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line; and that is the function of the master - to create a straight line between you and the truth.

Just the other day an old man was asking me - he is the private secretary of the king of Nepal - "I don't expect that, in this life, I will be able to experience anything you talk about."

I said, "Why? Why are you so discouraged? What I am talking about can be experienced within a second. All that you need is to listen to me carefully and just to make an effort. There is no need to wait for another life. Perhaps you have been doing it in your past lives too, and you are just repeating an old habit, that it cannot happen in this small life. You are thinking, 'Now almost two-thirds is gone, one-third is left: how can I manage such a big experience?'"

And as I talked with him and I gave him a meditation - to just witness his breathing - I understood what the difficulty was. He was not listening to me. While I was talking to him, giving him a method, he was preparing in his mind what he had to say after I stopped.

And as I stopped, he did not continue with what I was saying to him. He immediately jumped to something which had no connection with what was said to him. Just to give the appearance that it was connected, he said, "Except for witnessing the breathing... I have been sleeping very soundly - I don't have any dreams."

I had told him that if you go to sleep watching your breath, you will wake up watching your breath.

And that is an absolute proof that you have got the method, you have got a grip on it - because whatsoever is the last thought when you go to sleep, continues to be there the whole night, and is always the first thought in the morning. It waits eight hours.

So he said, "Except for watching the breath.... This is my experience, that whatever thought I sleep with is the first thought in the morning. Driving on a silent road in the faraway parts of Nepal, I feel so overwhelmed with blissfulness that tears come to my eyes and I have to stop driving because I cannot see."

I asked him, "Who has told you to do these things?"

He said, "No one. I have been trying on my own."

I said, "Then I can understand why the fear is there that you are not going to make it in this life.

Perhaps you aren't going to make in this life. These are just fragments - you don't know the whole.

And you don't know how to put these fragments together to make the whole.

"You have not been with a master. You are just doing - in a haphazard way - anything that you may have read somewhere, heard somewhere. But spiritual experience is an organic unity. You need a man who has the vision of the whole before him. He can give you the key from where to start, so you don't end up with fragments here and there. They will not be of any use. They will be simply deceiving you that you are on the path."

Practically, the master is an absolute necessity. But remember that the master does not own people.

The master is not the master of people; the master is the master of himself.

People are attracted to him because of his mastery. They are not to be enslaved. If anybody is enslaving them - and that is what your so-called religions go on doing - then that man is pseudo, and he is going to destroy you rather than create a new man in you.

So this is the basic indication of who a master is: he does not enslave you. On the contrary he gives you total freedom. And if you choose to do something, you choose. It is not being forced upon you, it is your choice.

The master can make things available to you, but the choice is always yours. And the master will not have any kind of superiority over you. His emphasis will be continuously, "I am just a human being - not a prophet, not a messiah, not a savior of humanity. I am just a human being as you are. If there is any difference, it is very little. The difference is that I am awake and you are still asleep."

But the very phenomenon that you are asleep is an indication that you can be awake. A dead man is not asleep, so he cannot be awake. Being asleep or being awake is the same energy.

The perfect master convinces you that you are as capable as he is of having all the experiences that can uplift you from the ordinary, mundane world into a spiritual paradise, herenow.

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