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Chapter 11: Footprints in the Sky

But before giving him a chance to steal the bowl, Nagarjuna ate his food and threw the bowl out of the window where the thief was sitting. The thief could not believe it. He was really shocked. For a moment he could not think what to do; what kind of man is he? He has eaten his food and thrown away this immensely valuable bowl as if it is of no use - and exactly where I am sitting.

He stood up and he asked Nagarjuna, “Can I come in just to ask one question?” Nagarjuna said, “To bring you in, I had to throw the bowl out. Come in. The bowl is yours; don’t be worried. I have given it to you so you will not be a thief. It is a gift, a present. I am a poor man. I don’t have anything else, only that bowl; and I know I cannot keep it for long because I will have to sleep, somebody will take it away and you have taken so much trouble. From the capital you followed me, and I have been watching. And it is a hot summer day. Please don’t refuse. Take it.”

The thief said, “You are a strange man. Don’t you know how costly it is?” Nagarjuna said, “Since I have known myself nothing is costly.” The thief looked at Nagarjuna and said, “Then give me one present more: how can I know myself in comparison to which this precious bowl is nothing?” He said, “It is very simple.” But the thief said, “Before you say anything I want to introduce myself. I am a well-known thief.”

Nagarjuna said, “Who is not? Don’t be concerned with trivia. In this world everybody is a thief because everybody comes naked without anything, and then everybody has something or other. All are thieves, so don’t be worried. That’s why I live naked. It is perfectly okay. Whatever you are doing, do it well. Just do one thing: when you are stealing be aware, be alert, be watchful. If you lose watchfulness then don’t steal. That is a simple rule for you.” The thief said, “It is very simple. When I can see you again?” He said, “I will be here for two weeks. You can come any day, but first try it.”

For two weeks he tried, and he found that it is the most difficult thing in the world. Once he reached even into the palace, opened the door of the treasures, but when he will try to take something he will lose his awareness. And he was an honest man. So he will leave that thing - that cannot be taken. But it was difficult: when he was aware, there was no desire to take anything; and when he was not aware, he wanted to take the whole treasure.

Finally he came empty-handed to Nagarjuna and he said, “You have disturbed my whole life. Now I cannot steal.” Nagarjuna said, “That is not my problem. Now it is your problem. If you want to steal forget all about awareness.” But the thief said, “Those few moments of awareness were so valuable. I have never felt so at ease, so peaceful, so silent, so blissful - the whole treasure of the kingdom was nothing compared to it.

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