In fact, in the world it is easier to practice awareness than anywhere else. This is my own experience, and not only my personal experience but my observation of thousands of sannyasins, too. The easiest way to become aware is to be in the world and practice it, because the world gives you so many opportunities. A monastery cannot give you so many opportunities. Living in a mountain cave, what opportunities do you have to be alert? You will be more and more sleepy there, more and more dull. Intelligence will not be required, hence you will lose all sharpness of intelligence. And awareness will not be required; there will be no challenge for it. It is only in challenges that life grows; the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity. And the world is really full of challenges. Hence, to my sannyasins I say: “Never renounce.”
Rejoice in the world. In the past we have renounced too much and the result has been nil. How many buddhas have we produced in the past? They can be counted on the fingers. Only rarely, very rarely, a man became a Buddha, Christ or Krishna. Out of millions and millions of seeds only one seed sprouted? That is not much. It has been a sheer waste of great human potential, and the reason has been the escapist attitude of the religions.
I affirm life, I rejoice in life. And I would like you all to be deeply, intensely, passionately, in life, with only one condition: alertness, watchfulness, witnessing. And I know difficulty arises, because you will be living with millions of sleepy people – and sleep is contagious; just as awareness is. Awareness, too, is contagious; hence the significance of being with a master.
The master cannot give you the truth. Nobody can give the truth to anybody else; it is nontransferable. The master cannot take you to the ultimate goal, because you will have to arrive there alone, nobody can accompany you. You cannot reach there by imitating the master, because the more you imitate somebody, the falser you become. How can you arrive at truth by becoming false?
Then what is the function of a master? Then what is the use of searching for a master? Then why be a disciple at all? Still, there is a reason, and the reason is that awareness is as contagious as sleepiness. If you sit with a few people who are all feeling sleepy you will start feeling sleepy.
A famous Sufi story says:
There was a fruit seller. He had a very cunning fox who used to watch his shop. Whenever he had to go out he would tell the fox, “Be alert. Sit in my place and just watch. Watch every activity that goes on around here. Don’t allow anybody to steal anything. If somebody tries to steal, make noises – I will run out of the house immediately.”
One day Mulla Nasruddin was passing. He heard the shopkeeper talking to the fox, saying all these things, “Be alert, watch every activity that is going on around, and if you see that something is against us or somebody is trying to steal the fruits, make a noise immediately and I will come out.”
Mulla Nasruddin was very tempted. The shopkeeper went in. Nasruddin sat in front of the shop and just started pretending he was falling asleep; with closed eyes he started dozing.