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Chapter 8: Everybody Has the Right to Be Wrong

Ananda said, “And the second condition is that I can ask any question - relevant, irrelevant, meaningful, meaningless - and you cannot say, ‘Wait, someday you will understand.’ You will have to answer me immediately; you cannot try to postpone. You cannot find excuses. ‘Tomorrow I will see.’ Whenever I ask the question, immediately you have to give me the answer.”

Gautam Buddha said, “Granted.”

And Ananda said, “Third, if I bring someone to meet you - even in the middle of the night when you are asleep - you cannot say no. You will have to meet the person, whoever he is.”

Gautam Buddha laughed and said, “Granted.”

But Ananda said, “Why are you laughing?”

He said, “That is not part of the conditions. Now you get initiated, and then you can ask the question why I have laughed. Whenever you ask the question, I will answer it - but the three conditions are complete.”

Ananda became a disciple and lived with Gautam Buddha for forty-two years continuously, day in, day out. Springs came and went, seasons changed, year by year; he was just like a shadow to Gautam Buddha.

But many people came after Ananda and became disciples and became enlightened - and Ananda remained without enlightenment. After twenty years he asked Gautam Buddha, “What is happening? People who have come after me have become enlightened.and I have been so close to you. Nobody has heard you more than I have heard you, nobody has the intimacy that I have with you. Why am I not becoming enlightened?”

Gautam Buddha said, “Now you can understand why I laughed - remember? Twenty years before when you asked, before initiation, for three conditions, I laughed. This was the reason: because your conditions would be a barrier. You cannot forget that you are my elder brother. Even though you have become a disciple, deep down you know that you are my elder brother. That is your subtlest ego - although you have been with me more than anybody else, and you have heard me better than anybody else. You have become so knowledgeable, so learned, you have memorized every sermon that I have given. You have an immense memory but you don’t have any experience of your own. You can repeat mechanically everything that I have said in twenty years. But your subtle ego, that you are my elder brother and you have a special privilege of three conditions, is functioning as a barrier. You will not become enlightened until I die.”

And actually, that’s how it happened. After forty-two years’ initiation, Gautam Buddha died. And amongst ten thousand disciples, Ananda was the first who burst into tears when Buddha said, “Now I want to say good-bye to you all. My body is old and tired, and whatever I wanted to say, I have said. I want now to go into ultimate rest.”

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