[Advaita-l] A beautiful story is told about a great mystic, Nagarjuna

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Jun 8 11:31:09 EDT 2019

A beautiful story is told about a great mystic, Nagarjuna:

He was a Bhikshu, but he was loved by all sincere seekers. A queen also
reverenced Nagarjuna deeply. She invited him to the palace. Nagarjuna went.
The queen asked him a favour.

The queen said, "I want your begging bowl."

Nagarjuna gave it -- that was the only thing he had -- his begging bowl.
And the queen gave him a golden begging bowl, studded with diamonds. She
said, "Now you keep this. I will worship the begging bowl that you have
carried for years -- it has some of your vibe. It will become my alter."

It was really precious. If Nagarjuna had been an ordinary mystic he would
have said, "I cannot touch it. I have renounced the world." But for him it
was all the same, so he took the bowl.

When he left the palace, a thief saw him. He could not believe his eyes: "A
Bhikshu with such a precious thing! How long can he protect it?" So the
thief followed....

Nagarjuna was staying outside the town in a ruined ancient temple -- no
doors, no windows. It was just a ruin. The thief was very happy: "Soon
Nagarjuna will have to go to sleep and there will be no difficulty -- I
will get the bowl."

The thief was hiding behind a wall just outside the door -- Nagarjuna threw
the bowl outside the door. The thief could not believe what had happened.
Nagarjuna threw it because he had watched the thief coming behind him, and
he knew perfectly well that he was not coming for him -- he was coming for
the bowl, "So why unnecessarily let him wait? Be finished with it so he can
go, and I can also rest."

"Such a precious thing! And Nagarjuna has thrown it so easily." The thief
could not go without thanking him. He knew perfectly well that it had been
thrown for him. He peeked in and he said, "Sir, accept my thanks. But you
are a rare being -- I cannot believe my eyes. And a great desire has arisen
in me. I am wasting my life by being a thief -- and there are people like
you too? Can I come in and touch your feet?"

Nagarjuna laughed and he said, "Yes, that's why I threw the bowl outside --
so that you could come inside."

The thief was trapped. The thief came in, touched the feet... and at that
moment the thief was very open because he had seen that this man was no
ordinary man. When he touched the feet, for the first time in his life he
felt the presence of the divine.

He asked Nagarjuna, "How many lives will it take for me to become like you?"

Nagarjuna said, "How many lives? -- it can happen today, it can happen now!"

The thief said, "How can it happen now? I am a thief. The whole town knows
me, although they have not yet been able to catch hold of me. Even the king
is afraid of me, because thrice I have entered and stolen from the
treasury. They know it, but they have no proof. I am a master thief -- you
may not know about me because you are a stranger in these parts. How can I
be transformed right now?"

And Nagarjuna said, "If in an old house for centuries there has been
darkness and you light a candle, can the darkness give resistance? Will it
make any difference whether the darkness is one day old or millions of
years old?"

The thief could see the point: darkness cannot resist light; when light
comes, darkness disappears. Nagarjuna said, "You may have been in darkness
for millions of lives -- that doesn't matter -- but I can give you a secret.

And the thief said, "What about my profession? Have I to leave it?"

Nagarjuna said, "That is for you to decide. I am not concerned with your
profession. I can only give you the secret of how to kindle a light within
your being, and then it is up to you."

"You just watch your breath -- the ancient method of Buddha -- just watch
your breath coming in, going out. Whenever you remember, watch your breath.
Even when you go to steal, when you enter into somebody's house in the
night, go on watching your breath. When you have opened the treasure and
the diamonds are there, go on watching your breath, and do whatsoever you
want to do -- but don't forget watching the breath."

And after fifteen days the thief was back, but he was a totally different
man. He fell at the feet of Nagarjuna and he said, "You trapped me, and you
trapped me so beautifully that I was not even able to suspect. I tried for
these fifteen days -- it is impossible. If I watch my breath, I cannot
steal. If I steal, I cannot watch my breath. Watching the breath, I become
so silent, so alert, so aware, so conscious, that even diamonds look like
pebbles. You have created a difficulty for me, a dilemma. Now what am I
supposed to do?"

Nagarjuna said, "If you want that silence, that peace, that bliss, that
arises in you when you watch your breath, then choose that. If you think
all those diamonds and gold and silver is more valuable, then choose that.
That is for you to choose! Who am I to interfere in your life?"

The man said, "I cannot choose to be unconscious again. I have never known
such moments. Accept me as one of your disciples, initiate me."

Nagarjuna said, "I have initiated you already."

Inspirational Stories

Religion is based on morality & meditation. It is rooted in character & in

N.B: Shankara, in the BSB, has expressed a word of praise for the vairagya
content in Buddhism. Shankara's famous policy-statement: paramatam
apratishiddham anumatam [that  which is not contradictory to Vedanta in the
opponent schools is admitted by us and not refuted.]

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