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Chapter 18: Meditation: The Courage to Be Silent and Alone

There was one great mystic in India, Eknath. He was going for a holy pilgrimage with all his disciples - it was almost a three to six months’ journey. One man came to him, fell at his feet and said, “I know I am not worthy. You know it too, everybody knows me. But I know your compassion is greater than my unworthiness. Please accept me also as one of the members of the group that is going on the holy pilgrimage.”

Eknath said, “You are a thief - and not an ordinary thief, but a master thief. You have never been caught, and everybody knows that you are a thief. I certainly feel like taking you with me, but I also have to think about those fifty people who are going with me. You will have to give me a promise - and I am not asking for more, just for these three to six months’ time while we are on the pilgrimage - you will not steal. After that, it is up to you. Once we are back home, you are free from the promise.”

The man said, “I am absolutely ready to promise, and I am tremendously grateful for your compassion.”

The other fifty people were suspicious. To trust in a thief. But they could not say anything to Eknath. He was the master. The pilgrimage started, and from the very first night there was trouble. The next morning there was chaos - somebody’s coat was missing, somebody’s shirt was missing, somebody’s money had gone.

And everybody was shouting, “Where is my money?” And they were all telling Eknath, “We were suspicious from the very beginning that you were taking this man with you. A lifelong habit.”

But then they started looking, and they found that things were not stolen. Somebody’s money was missing, but it was found in somebody else’s bag. Somebody else’s coat was missing, but it was found in somebody else’s luggage. Everything was found, but it was an unnecessary trouble - every morning! And nobody could conceive. What can be the meaning of it? And now certainly it is not the thief, because nothing is stolen.

The third night, Eknath remained awake to see what was going on. In the middle of the night, the thief - just out of habit - woke up, started taking things from one place to another place. Eknath stopped him and said, “What are you doing? Have you forgotten your promise?”

He said, “No, I have not forgotten my promise. I am not stealing anything, but I have not promised that I will not change things from one place to another place. After six months I have to be a thief again; this is just practice. And you must understand, it is a lifelong habit; you cannot drop it just like that. Just give me time. You should understand my problem also. For three days I have not stolen a single thing - it is just like fasting! This is just a substitute; I am keeping myself busy. This is my business time, in the middle of the night, so it is very hard for me just to lie down on the bed awake. And so many idiots are sleeping, and I am not doing any harm to anybody. In the morning they will find their things.”

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