Sufis have been talking about this story for hundreds of years. What happened at that moment? I don’t know whether it is true or not, but that is meaningless – the story is beautiful and carries the message that a man of awakening is alive even when he is dead. This is the meaning to me. A man who is not alert and aware is dead even while he is alive – that dead body was not dead and your living body is not alive.
Life means intensity of life. You live in such a diluted way, so unconcentrated, so spread over, that you never come to know what it is that you call life. Then you will do one thing continuously and that will be to misunderstand – all your understandings will be misunderstandings.
A man came to see me. He was talking about his master and he said, “This man is very humble. Sometimes he has even touched my feet. He is so humble and so simple….”
I told the man a story. It happened that somebody asked a Sufi mystic, Junaid, a question. It was known that Junaid had lived with almost all the great masters of that time while he was learning and was seeking and searching. People wondered how he had known that these were the real masters ( because there were thousands of pretenders to one real master ( how he had the capacity to judge immediately who was real, and avoid the pretenders and always went to the real.
When he himself became enlightened somebody asked, “One thing has remained a mystery to us. How could you know, when you yourself were not enlightened? What was your criterion? Almost always you were right. What knack have you got? Is it just a hunch that somehow you know, or do you have a method for it?”
Junaid said, “I had a method for it. I would go to a person who was known to be a master and I would be so humble, so self-effacing: I would touch his feet with tears flowing from my eyes, I would fall down on the earth, I would completely self-efface myself, and then I would watch. If, at seeing my humbleness, the man became arrogant, domineering, I would escape from him as somebody escapes a plague. I would escape from him fast, as fast as I could.”
The enquirer asked, “And if the man didn’t become domineering and possessive and dominating and arrogant, then? Said Junaid, “If I was self-effacing and I saw that the other man, the master, also became self-effacing, humble – when I touched his feet he touched my feet – then too I would escape as fast as I could.”
The enquirer was more puzzled. He said, “I came to solve the mystery. You have made it more difficult. In both ways you would escape? Then when would you stay there? How did the master have to react?
Said Junaid, “He had not to react at all. Whether I effaced myself or not, he had to remain himself. If he became arrogant that was a reaction – seeing a humble man he wanted to dominate him. If he becomes humble himself, it meant that seeing a humble man he was now in competition – he wanted to prove that he was more humble than me. That too is arrogance, very subtle, but that too is ego. It is saying: ‘You cannot prove that you are more humble than me.’ So, he would start effacing himself.