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Chapter 10: The Treasure of One’s Own Experience

The king said, “What sort of topsy-turvy notions do you have? Have you gone crazy in your old age? I am a king; Buddha is a beggar. If he wants to meet me he will have to come to my doors. For what possible reason should I go to welcome him?”

There were tears in the eyes of the old man and he said, “Please accept my resignation. Now, I won’t be able to work for you. It is no good working for such a small person.”

The old man was badly needed. He was the wisest man in the kingdom. The king couldn’t afford to lose him. He said, “You are mad to be ready to resign over such a petty matter.”

The old prime minister said, “Either you have to walk on foot to Buddha and bow down at his feet or my resignation is unavoidable. When people hear, what will they say? That the king of our land doesn’t even have this much understanding: that when an awakened one - one illumined by his own light, one fragrant with his own fragrance - is in the village he can’t walk a few steps to greet him. What do you have anyway? Wealth and the kingdom - and because of these you think that you are a king, and that Buddha is a beggar. You shouldn’t forget that this man was also a king before - and a greater one for that matter, and one that had everything. His kingdom was bigger than yours and he left that kingdom behind. His being a beggar has a far higher status than his being a king. It is one rung further up the ladder. He is no ordinary beggar. He is a king who dropped his kingdom just like that. You are still far away from that.”

The king had to go. There was truth in the statements of the prime minister. The king bowed down at Buddha’s feet. Buddha even said, “You unnecessarily took the trouble. I was coming myself - my route passed by the side of your palace. Moreover, I am just a beggar and you are a king.”

But it was upon seeing Buddha that the king became aware that sometimes this too can happen - that a beggar is a king and a king a beggar.

You may have everything on the outside, but if you have no inner experience of your own, if no lamp is lit within you, if your inner lamps are still unlit. On the outside it may be Diwali, the festival of lights, for you, but you are still much poorer than the person within whom even one single lamp is lit - even if on the outside it may be a moonless night for him.

There should be freedom of thought, but nobody will give it to you. You will have to claim it. Drop the illusion that if you called your constitution “a democratic constitution,” you will have freedom of thought. What on earth will you think? Even if you have freedom of thought, what will you think? What you are reading in the newspapers is what will circulate in your mind.

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