There are people whom I feel afraid to recognize – not that it is going to do any harm to me, but because it is going to do harm to them. I can see in their eyes, in their faces, a deep desire, a greed to be recognized. I ignore it. But there are people who are simply here – just enjoying. It is more than enough that they are breathing the same air, that they are sitting under the same roof, that they are surrounded by the same trees.
I am reminded of a strange story about Ananda, one of Gautam Buddha’s most intimate disciples.
And he was not only a disciple, he was also his elder cousin-brother. Just the fact that he was more deeply related with Gautam Buddha, the fact that blood is thicker than water, the fact that, “Not only I am related, he is younger in age to me,” became a hindrance.
Forty-two years he remained with Buddha, but could not attain enlightenment. And many, many others came and became enlightened. It was the day when he was taking initiation that he had asked Gautam Buddha, “I have come to be initiated. After initiation I will be your disciple. Right now I am your elder brother.” And in India, even cousin-brothers, if they are elder, have to be respected just like your real brothers.
Ananda said, “I want you to remember three conditions, and give me a promise that you will not go against your word, because after initiation your order will be my life, your word will be my law – then I cannot say anything. So just before initiation I want three promises. As your elder brother you have to respect my desires.”
Sariputra, one of Gautam Buddha’s earliest disciple’s, said to Ananda, “Don’t be stupid, these promises will become hindrances for your growth. These conditions will prohibit all for which you are taking the initiation. You are saying, ‘I am going to become your disciple,’ but deep down you will never be a disciple. You will always know that you are the elder brother, and those three conditions will always make you certain about it.”
Initiation has to be taken unconditionally, but Ananda was not going to listen to an ordinary sannyasin. Sariputra was one of the wisest disciples of Gautam Buddha, but in the eyes of Ananda he was nobody. Ananda was a king, had his own kingdom; Sariputra was just a commoner. Ananda said to him, “You keep quiet. It is a question between two brothers, you need not interfere.”
After forty-two years Ananda wept when Gautam Buddha was dying. And he said, “I did not listen to Sariputra. I was ignorant, I insisted. Those conditions were nothing but an enhancement of my ego.”
The first condition was, “I will always remain with you. You cannot send me anywhere else to spread the word.” Second, “I can ask any question. You cannot say to me, ‘Wait, and when the time is right you will receive the answer.’ No, you will have to give me the answer immediately.” And third, “If I bring a friend – even if it is in the middle of the night, and I wake you up – you will have to receive him and answer his questions.”