Chapter 17: The Boundless within You
The guest king was very happy, and he said, “I am going to make the same palace for myself.” This he said when they had come out of the palace and they were standing in the beautiful garden surrounding it. A beggar was sitting outside the gate of the garden - he started laughing.
The owner of the palace was obviously offended, and he asked the beggar, “What is the meaning of your laughter? If you cannot explain it you will lose your head just now.”
The beggar said, “There will be no need, because once I was also a great king - greater than you. My kingdom was vaster than the kingdoms of you both. But just to find security I escaped, renounced those palaces, those guards. As a beggar I am so perfectly secure - nobody even takes note of me. Who is going to waste a bullet for a poor beggar? We are all three in the same boat: you have your idea of security, I have my idea of security. And I emphasize the fact that your idea has a loophole.”
The two kings could not believe that this beggar had been a great king, greater than themselves. They asked him, “Then please show us what the loophole is.”
He said, “You can have your palace guarded by seven hundred guards - still, the door is there, and death can enter from that door any moment. If you really want to be absolutely secure, go inside the palace and tell your masons and sculptors to close the door. Then you will be perfectly secure; even death cannot enter.”
Both the kings said, “What are you suggesting? - there will not be any need for death, we will be dead without death! These beautiful palaces will become graves. If there is not even a single door, then what is the difference between a grave and a palace?”
The beggar said, “You seem to be intelligent. Now I can tell you why I was laughing and now you will be able to understand. You have closed all the doors and all the windows - that much life has disappeared from you. Just a small amount of life has remained because one door is open. And you have agreed with me that if this door is closed, the house will become a grave. But it is already ninety-nine point nine percent a grave; it is just a question of point one percent. You are not living, you are suffering from a nightmare.
“If you really want security you can join me. When I was a king, my whole life was nothing but paranoia. Since I have been a beggar, my life is absolute freedom. I don’t possess anything, I am nobody - who is going to kill me? For what?”
The story is significant, because Almustafa is asking the people of Orphalese:
And what is it you guard with fastened doors?
Have you ever thought of what it is that you are afraid of losing? You don’t have anything. Everybody inside his clothes is as naked as he was born, as naked as he is going to die. Of what are you afraid? What are you guarding?