You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.
– Conrad Hall
Hope, Fear And Knowledge
When a great Sufi mystic, Hassan, was dying, somebody asked, ‘Hassan, who was your Master?’
He said, ‘Now it is too late to ask. Time is short, I am dying.’ But the inquirer asked, ‘You can simply say the name. You are still alive, you are still breathing and talking, you can simply tell me the name.’
He said, ‘It will be difficult because I had thousands of Masters. If I just relate their names it will take months and years. 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 the village it was very late. Half the night was already gone; shops were closed, caravanserais were closed. There was not a single human being on the roads. I searched for somebody to inquire of. 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, “I am a thief, and you look like a Sufi mystic to me.”‘ His robe, his aura. ‘And the thief said, “Right now it will be very difficult to find any place to stay, but you can come to my home. You can stay with me — if you can stay with a thief.” ‘
Hassan said, ‘I hesitated a little bit. Then I remembered. If the thief is not afraid of a Sufi, then why should the Sufi be afraid of a thief? In fact, he should be afraid of me. So I said, “Yes, I will come.” And I went, and I stayed with the thief. And the man was so lovely, 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, you do your work.” And when he would come back I would ask, “Could you get anything?” He said, “Not tonight. But tomorrow I will try again.” And he was never in a state of hopelessness.
‘For one month continuously he came empty-handed, but he was always happy. And he said, “I will try tomorrow. God willing, tomorrow it is going to happen. And you also pray for me. At least you can say to God, ‘Help this poor man.’”
And then Hassan said, ‘When I was meditating and meditating for years on end, nothing was happening, and many times the moment came when I was so desperate, so hopeless that I thought to stop all this nonsense. There is no God, and all this prayer is just madness, all this meditation is false — and suddenly I would remember the thief who would say every night, “God willing, tomorrow it is going to happen.”
‘So I tried one day more. If the thief was so hopeful, with such hope and trust, I should try at least one day more. And many times it happened, but the thief and the memory of him helped me to wait one day more. And one day, it happened, it DID happen! I bowed down. I was thousands of miles away from the thief and his house, but I bowed down in his direction. He was my first Master.
‘And my second Master was a dog. I was thirsty and I was going towards the river, 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 barked and the other dog barked, too. But his thirst was so much that he would hesitate and go back. He would come again and look into the water and find the dog there. But the thirst was so much that he suddenly jumped into the water, and the image disappeared. He drank the water, he swam in the water — it was a hot summer. And I was watching. I knew that a message had come to me from God. One has to jump in spite of all fears.
‘When I was on the verge of jumping into the unknown, the same fear was there. I would go to the very edge, hesitate, and come back. And I would remember the dog. If the dog could manage, why not I? And then one day I jumped into the unknown. I disappeared and only the unknown was left behind. The dog was my second Master.
‘And the third Master was a small child. I entered into a town and a small child was bringing a candle, a lit candle, hiding it in his hands and 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, jokingly, “Can you tell me from where the light came? 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 you have lit it, so you must have seen the light coming — from where?” And the boy laughed and blew out the candle, and said, “Now you have seen the light going, where has it gone? You tell me!” And my ego was shattered, and my whole knowledge was shattered. And that moment I felt my own stupidity. Since then I dropped all knowledgeability.’
Come forth into the light of things, let everyone and everything be your teacher.