So they started counting. One tried; there were nine, because he started counting from the person by his side, excluding himself. Of course he came to the number nine. The second one tried…again nine. Then they became very afraid; one man was lost! The third tried, again there were nine. It was settled: one is lost.
One man sitting by the side was watching the whole thing. He laughed at the foolishness of these blind people. He came close to them and said, “What is the problem? Why are you crying and weeping?”
They said, “We have lost one of our friends. We were ten, now we are only nine. One person has been taken away by the river.”
The man must have been a very non-serious, joyful man. He said, “You just do one thing. Stand in a line and count the way I tell you. I will hit on one person’s head and he has to say ‘one’; then I will hit twice on the second person’s head, he has to say ‘two’; then I will hit thrice on the third person’s head, he has to say ‘three’….”
They said, “This is perfectly right.” And of course there were ten. They all fell at his feet and said, “You saved us.”
This is an ancient story, in perhaps one of the most ancient collections of stories, Panch Tantra. You know in the West, Aesop’s Fables; they are derived from Panch Tantra. All the stories of Aesop are very ancient – in fact, there has never been such a person as Aesop. Panch Tantra is at least five thousand years old. It has all the fables that Aesop has, and many, many more.
Buddha loved to explain matters through fables, so he used those from Panch Tantra. In the West, by and by, as people came to hear about Buddha, first Buddha’s name became Bodhisat. And from Bodhisat, where it became Aesop is still not known. But it is Buddha’s name that turned into Aesop’s fables. All those fables are there.
This one is not in Aesop’s fables; this is one of the most significant. For five thousand years the wise men have been telling it. Remember that you have to start counting from yourself, that you are the first and foremost responsibility. Remember that the other is number two. The other can never become number one, there is no way. And the other is available to your eyes, to your senses. The other is an object there – outside, visible, tangible – and you are inside where your senses don’t reach. So there is every possibility of forgetting yourself, not counting yourself.
I had used the story myself many times. But that day it was a question of argument and the haughty way the shankaracharya was telling it; I had to stand up, and I said, “The whole story is absurd.” There were at least fifty thousand people: they were in shock. I was absolutely unknown in Punjab at that time; that was my first entry into Punjab. And Punjabis and Sikhs…dangerous people, and to challenge their jagatguru….