Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path.

– Henry Winkler

Masters Thief

The famous Zen story is: a very great Master who was also a master thief was getting old. His son asked him, “Before you die, please teach me your art of stealing.”

He Said, ”I was just waiting for you to ask because we never impose; art is something that you should have a feel for. If you are ready, I am ready. Today is the beginning of your teaching. Tonight you come with me.”

The old man takes the young man. The young man is trembling, his heart is throbbing. He is looking from side to side, but the father is moving as if going for a morning walk, at ease. He cuts a hole in the wall – the son is perspiring and it is a cold winter night. And the father is doing his work so silently, and so artfully, the son is amazed.

The father goes in, calls the son in. They move inside the house. The father has the master key, he opens the doors. They reach the innermost chamber of the palace. The father opens a cupboard, a walk-in cupboard, and tells the son to get in. The son is trembling, just trembling. He gets in and asks, ”What I am supposed to do?”

He said, ”You simply get in. You are not supposed to do anything. You simply get in and then whatsoever happens, happens.”

He got into it. The father locked the door and ran out leaving the son inside the cupboard, and while he was leaving the house, he shouted, ”Thief! Thief!” so the whole house woke up. All the servants were running here and there, and were searching with torches everywhere. And they found the hole in the wall… certainly somebody has come in. A maidservant watching closely on the floor found some foot marks and went exactly near the wardrobe.

The son is aware; he cannot even breathe. He knows now that somebody is there, and is coming in with a torchlight: ”Soon they will open it and I am caught. And this old man… in what unfortunate moment I asked him to teach me the art; and is this a way of teaching? He finished me in the first lesson!”

But suddenly – and that is God’s voice – he heard somebody inside him saying, ”Make the sound of scratching, as if a rat is inside scratching or eating.” He could not believe it – who was speaking inside? He had never heard such a thing: making a scratching noise like a rat? But he made the scratching noise, and the woman opened the door… certain there was a rat inside. She opened the door, and he came out.

She was holding just a candle in her hand. He blew the candle out and ran away. When he was running out, people followed. He could not figure out who had said to him: ”Blow the candle out.” He had heard the voice say, ”Blow the candle out and run away,” but it was not his thinking because he had heard it; it was coming from somewhere.

And now in the dark night, he is running and people are following him, and they are coming closer and closer and they are shouting, ”He is there! Catch him!” – they can see him.

He comes near a well, and the voice inside him says, ”Take a rock and throw it in the well.” So he takes a rock…. There is no time to question why, and ”Who are you?” and ”What purpose will it serve?” These are questions which you ask when you are conveniently, comfortably seated in a classroom, when there is no hurry for the answer – neither do you mean that you really need the answer. But in such a situation when he is just being caught, the voice speaks and he follows.

He throws a rock into the well and runs away. Certainly, the rock falling in the well makes a big noise, and all the people who are following him stop near the well – they think that the man has jumped into the well. So now some arrangement has to be made: more light has to be brought, somebody has to go down and find out who this man is, whether he is alive or dead. Now their whole mind is diverted.

He reaches his home, really angry, almost ready to kill the father. And the father is sound asleep, covered with his blanket… it was a cold night. He pulls off his blanket, and he says, ”Is this the way to teach your own son?”

He said, ”Are you back? That’s enough; you have learned the art. Now go to sleep, we will discuss it in the morning.”

But he said, ”You should ask me how….”

He said, ”That does not matter. You are back; about the ‘how’, we will discuss in the morning. And I know how, because the same voice that has been speaking in you has been speaking in me my whole life. That’s why I was the master thief. It was not the working of the brain, it was not the working of the mind; it was from my very depths. I have followed only the deepest in me, and I have never gone wrong.

”You are back; that simply means you heard it, and that’s the whole secret of the art. There is no other lesson. The first lesson is the last lesson. If you were not back it meant the student was not able to survive the first lesson: finished. He was not capable.”

You have to take a jump. First it will be dark, very dark.

Rest in that darkness.

Darkness has a beauty of its own.

Your inner voice is the voice of divinity. To hear it, we need to be in solitude, even in crowded places.

– A. R. Rahman


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