Mulla Nasruddin was sitting very quiet and sad. His neighbour asked, “Mulla you look very sad, what’s the matter? You should rather be happy as I heard that your uncle died last week and left a fortune of Rs. 50,000 for you. You should be happy.”
Mulla replied: “Yes, I was happy. But I am not happy now. Last week my uncle died and left 50,000 rupees. A week prior, my Mama had died and left Rs. 1,00,000 in my name. And now, the week is about to get over and still nobody has died. What the hell!!! I am feeling sad. It’s Saturday today and tomorrow will be the last day of the week, Sunday, and no news of anyone dying…huh !?.”
Don’t laugh. This is how our mind functions. The more it gets, the more it will go on begging. You are beggars because of yourselves; you can be emperors. Mind is the begging bowl.
Sansara, the world, is nothing but an effort to fill this inner vacuum. Fill it with money, fill it with women, fill it with men, fill it with power, fill it with anything – big houses, fill it with fame – but fill it.
Go on throwing things into it – so one day you can feel you are not just nothing, you are somebody, you are something. But it never happens, it cannot happen. Because the abyss is bottomless – you can go on throwing things into it, they go on disappearing.
The man who is moving vertically becomes almost a mirror. If you come close to him, you will see your real face — you will see your ugliness, you will see your continuous ambitiousness, you will see your begging bowl.
There is a very famous Sufi story: It is one of the oldest Sufi teachings.
A beggar came to an emperor’s palace. The emperor was just in the garden so he heard the beggar.
The man on the gate was going to give something, but the beggar said, ”I have one condition. I always take from the master, never from servants.”
The emperor heard. He was taking a walk so he came to look at this beggar, because beggars don’t have conditions. If you are a beggar how can you have conditions? ”Seems to be a rare beggar.” So he came to look – and he WAS a rare beggar. The emperor had never seen such an emperor-like man before; he was nothing. This man had some glory around him, a grace. Tattered his dress was, almost naked, but the begging bowl was very very precious.
The emperor said, ”Why this condition?”
The beggar said, ”Because servants are themselves beggars and I don’t want to be rude to anybody. Only masters can give. How can servants give? So if you are ready, you can give and I will accept it. But then too I have a condition, and that is: my begging bowl has to be completely filled.”
A man, early in the morning, a beggar with a begging bowl, entered the emperor’s garden. The emperor used to come for a morning walk; otherwise it was impossible to meet the emperor – particularly for the beggar, the whole bureaucracy would prevent him. So he had chosen a time when there was no bureaucracy, and when the emperor wanted to be alone, in silence with nature, to drink as much beauty and aliveness as nature was showering. The beggar encountered him there.
The emperor said, ”This is not the time… I don’t see anybody.”
The beggar said, ”I am a beggar. Your bureaucracy is too long, and for a beggar it is impossible to see you. I insist that you give me an audience.”
The emperor just thought to get rid of him. He said, ”What do you want? Just say and you will get it. Don’t disturb my morning silence.”
The beggar said, ”Think twice before you offer to give me something.”
The emperor said, ”You seem to be a strange man. In the first place, you entered without any permission into the garden, insisting that you have to have an audience with the emperor. And now I am saying that whatever you want, just say it. Don’t disturb my peace and don’t disturb my silence.”
The beggar laughed. He said, ”A peace that is disturbed is not peace. And a silence that is disturbed is just a dream, not a reality.”
Now the emperor looked at the beggar. He was saying something of tremendous importance. The emperor thought, ”He does not seem to be an ordinary beggar, that is certain.”
And the beggar said, “It is a very simple desire. My longing is not for much. Just this small begging bowl – fill it with anything that you think, as a great king, is worthy of you. Don’t think about my worth, I am a worthless beggar. Think about yourself – fill it with something that you think you are worthy of. You see this begging-bowl? Can you fill it with something? Anything will do. I don’t ask diamonds and I don’t ask gold – anything! Can you fill it?”
The king had never seen such a beggar – who is not asking because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he has nothing to live on. On the contrary, he is saying, ”Think about yourself. Your gift should have the signature of a great king… anything will do.”
The emperor laughed. He said, ”You are a madman. Do you think your begging bowl cannot be filled? Yes! You seem to be mad! Why can’t it be filled?”
This was a great challenge, and the emperor called his prime minister. Before he could say anything to the prime minister, the beggar said, ”But remember one thing, one condition: the bowl has to be filled completely.”
The emperor reacted, ”Don’t be worried. I have so much, such a vast empire, and your begging bowl is so small. Are you worried that I cannot fill it completely with something?” And just to show the beggar, he told the prime minister that, ”Fill his bowl with diamonds, rubies, emeralds – the most precious stones – so that he will remember for his whole life that he has met with an emperor.”
The Prime Minister had no idea what had happened. Nobody fills beggars’ bowls with diamonds. And the beggar reminded the Prime Minister, ”Remember, unless the begging bowl is full, I am not going to move from here.” It was a challenge between a beggar and a king.
There was no problem because the emperor’s palace was full of diamonds and all kinds of precious stones. But immediately there was a problem: the prime minister filled the begging bowl, but the moment anything went into the bowl, it disappeared. The question of filling it completely seemed to be impossible.
But the emperor was also adamant, an egoist, a conqueror of many lands. He said, ”Even if my whole empire is needed, I have given my word and it has to be fulfilled.”
Slowly slowly, all the precious stones disappeared. Then gold, then silver… but they went on disappearing.
It was a small begging-bowl, but soon the emperor was getting afraid. The emperor was in a very embarrassed state. But he said, ”Whatever happens, even if my whole treasury is gone, I cannot be defeated by a beggar. I have defeated great emperors.”
And the whole treasury disappeared. The rumor reached the capital, and thousands of people gathered to see what was happening. And they had never seen their king in such a trembling, nervous breakdown. Money was being poured and the moment you would pour it, it would disappear. And the begging-bowl remained empty, and remained empty, and remained empty.
The beggar was laughing, ”I am amazed. Such a great emperor and you cannot fill a poor beggar’s bowl?”
The whole palace gathered together. People started coming from all corners. There was a huge crowd and the prestige of the emperor was at stake. And he was a man of his word. He said to his ministers, “If the whole kingdom is lost I am ready to lose it, but I cannot be defeated by this beggar. The bowl is something magical, but I will have to prove to him that I also have something to fill it.”
His treasuries started becoming empty. And people are running and rushing out of the palace, trying to pour into that begging-bowl – and that begging-bowl seems to be bottomless, everything immediately disappears into it. You cannot see it again; once it has gone in, it has gone out of existence. It simply dematerializes – or what?
Soon the Prime Minister said to the emperor, “This seems to be impossible. You will have to accept defeat. And this man does not seem to be an ordinary beggar, he cannot be. There is some message in it. You surrender to this man!”
It was evening, and the whole capital had gathered there, and people were standing there in utter silence. There was such great excitement: “What is going to happen?”
And finally, when nothing was left in the treasury and the begging bowl was still as empty as it was before, he fell to the feet of the beggar and said, ”Sir, You will have to forgive me, I did not understand, excuse me. It was wrong of me to pretend that I have anything. I have nothing to fill your begging-bowl. Just one thing – what is the secret of this begging-bowl? Just tell me one thing. I am defeated, you are victorious – before you leave me, just fulfill my curiosity. How has this begging-bowl been made, of what? I have never thought about these things. I did my best, but now… I don’t have anything else to offer you. And I will think that you have forgiven me if you can tell me the secret of your begging bowl. It is a strange begging bowl – just a few diamonds would have filled it. It has taken the whole treasury. tell me the secret of your begging bowl, where the whole empire has disappeared. All my wealth – where has it gone? Is it a magic bowl? Are you a magician?”
The poor beggar laughed. He said,” No, I am not a magician. By accident, because I don’t have any money even to purchase a begging bowl, I found this skull of some dead man. I polished it, cut it in the shape of a begging bowl. The secret is man’s skull is so small… but even the greatest empire is not going to fill it. It will go on asking for more. I am not a magician; the magic is in the human head. And because of this bowl, I have been hungry for days. Everything disappears and the desire remains the same. It has not forgotten its old habit. There is no secret in it; this is how the human Skull is.”
The story is tremendously meaningful. Have you ever thought about your own begging bowl? Your own head? Give it anything and it will ask for more and more and more. Everything disappears: power, prestige, respectability, riches, everything disappears and your begging bowl goes on opening its mouth for more and more. And because of this continuous effort for more, you go on missing this. The ”more” takes you away from this. The desire, the longing for something else takes you away from this moment. It knows only one language, one word: MORE. It is always EMPTY; it is always a BEGGAR.
When a man reaches the highest rung of the ladder, his whole life is gone. and what does he find there? Nothing – but it needs courage to say it to the others who are behind him, struggling to reach the top.
Gautam Buddha renounced his kingdom, not without reason. Mahavira renounced his kingdom, not without reason. The twenty-four teerthankaras, the great masters of the Jainas, all renounced kingdoms. They cannot all be mad. But they have seen the reality: their fathers were successful, but successful only in the eyes of others. Others could not see inside them. Inside, they were still beggars, bigger beggars than when they started this journey of ambition.
And there is no way of going back; there is no way of having your youth again. There is no way to let the flowers of love grow in you – you have become dry and hard and dead, because the competition is tough and to be successful you have to be tough. That toughness destroys all your beautiful values – love, joy, ecstasy. You never think of meditation. Money is your only meditation.
On the horizontal line, only beggars exist, because they are all rushing for more, and because the more cannot be fulfilled – not that you cannot get to a position you want, but the moment you get it, there are higher positions. For a moment maybe a flicker of happiness, and the next moment, again the same despair and the same race for more. You cannot fulfill the idea of more. It is intrinsically unfulfillable. And this is the horizontal line, the line of more and more and more.
What is the vertical line? Of being less and less and less, to the point of utter emptiness, to the point of being nobody. Just a signature – not even on sand, but on water. You have not even made it and it has disappeared. The man of the vertical line is the authentic sannyasin, who is immensely happy in being nobody, immensely happy with his inner purity of emptiness, because only emptiness can be pure; who is absolutely contented with his nakedness, because only nothingness can be in tune with the universe.
Once this tuning with the universe happens, you are no more in a sense. In the old sense, you are no more. But you are for the first time the whole universe. Even the faraway stars are within you; your nothingness can contain them. The flowers and the sun and the moon… and the whole music of existence. You are no more an ego, your ”I” has disappeared. But that does not mean that you have disappeared. On the contrary, the moment your ”I” has disappeared, you have appeared.
It is such a great ecstasy to be without the feeling of ”I,” without the feeling of any ego, without asking for anything more. What more can you ask? You have nothingness. In this nothingness you have become, without conquering, the whole universe. Then the singing birds are not only singing outside you. They appear outside because this body creates the barrier.
On the vertical line you become more and more consciousness and less and less body. The whole identification with the body disappears. In nothingness, these birds will be within you; these flowers, these trees and this beautiful morning will be within you. In fact, then there is no without. Everything has become your vision. And you cannot have a richer life than when everything has become your within. When the sun and the moon and the stars and the whole infinity of time and space is within you… what more do you want?
This is exactly the meaning of enlightenment: to become so non-existent as an ego that the whole oceanic existence becomes part of you.
And there are only two kinds of people in the world: the majority is running after shadows, they will
never be fulﬁlled. Their begging bowls will remain with them till they enter their graves. And a very small minority, one in a million, stops running, just remains standing here and now, drops all desires, asks for nothing and suddenly he ﬁnds everything within himself.
This is the door of the kingdom of God.
Osho: Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol. 2, Ch 7 (Excerpts)
Osho: Hari Om Tat Sat: CHAPTER 27. THE VERTICAL LINE OPENS A DOOR TO ETERNITY (Excerpts)
Osho: Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing: CHAPTER 5. THE UNITY OF EMPTINESS (Excerpts)
Osho: The Messiah, Vol 1: CHAPTER 10. WHEN YOU GIVE OF YOURSELF (Excerpts)
Osho: This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen: Chapter 15: ALL ARROWS CONVERGE ON THIS
चाहिए क्या तुम्हें तोहफ़े में बता दो वर्ना
हम तो बाज़ार के बाज़ार उठा लाएँगे…………………. अता तुराब
chāhiye kyā tumheñ tohfe meñ batā do varna
ham to bāzār ke bāzār uThā lā.eñge…………Ata Turab
What do you want as a gift let me know. Or else
I will get you the entire market.
Gulzar saab introduces this sufi kalaam and the soulful sufi singer Abida Pareen ji singing Kabir “Mann lago yaar fakiri me.”
(745) Mann Lago Yaar – Abida Parveen – Gulzar – Sufi Kalaam – Sufi Song – YouTube
2 thoughts on “The Mysterious Begging-Bowl.”
Very valuable perspective …in search of real happiness
How true… very reflective. Wondering how did you find this song 😊