A great Indian Yogi and mystic, Nagarjuna, used to live naked. He had only a begging bowl and that was his only possession. But he was perhaps the greatest genius to have been born on this earth; his level of intelligence and sharpness of mind were incomparable! Great kings, queens, great philosophers were his students. One queen was very much devoted to him, and she had made a golden begging bowl studded with diamonds. When he came to her capital and arrived at the palace to beg, the queen said, “First you have to give me a promise.” Nagarjuna said, “You are asking a promise from a naked man who has nothing but his begging bowl.” The queen said, “That will do. I wish to ask of you for your begging bowl.” Nagarjuna said, “You can take it.” The queen said, “As a replacement, you will have to take my begging bowl.” Nagarjuna said, “There is no problem, any begging bowl will do.” Nagarjuna was not at all aware of what she was hiding. It was a golden begging bowl studded with very valuable diamonds. But, he took it, and went on his way.
As he was going back to the ruins of the monastery where he was staying, a thief saw him and could not believe his eyes! The begging bowl was shining like a star! But what was it doing with this naked man (naked, but such a magnificent man!)? For how long could he keep it? Somebody was sure to take it away, so why not he? And so,the thief followed Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna went inside a room, which was a humble little shed with only the walls left intact. The whole monastery was in ruins, and there was a window by the side. The thief was hiding outside the window knowing that Buddhist monks eat only once a day. Soon,he would eat, and then he would have a little nap. And that would be the right moment to steal the precious golden bowl! Nobody lived in this monastery. It was thousands of years old.
But, before giving the thief a chance to steal the bowl, Nagarjuna ate his food and threw the bowl out of the window where the thief was sitting,and planning his moves. The thief could not believe it. He was really shocked! For a moment he could not think what to do- what kind of a man was this naked monk? He had eaten his food and thrown away this immensely valuable bowl as if it was of no use to him — and exactly where he was sitting!
He stood up and asked Nagarjuna, “Can I come in just to ask one question?”
Nagarjuna said, “To bring you in, I had to throw the bowl out. Come in. The bowl is yours; don’t be worried. I have given it to you so that you will not be a thief. It is a gift, a present. I am a poor man. I don’t have anything else, only that bowl; and I know I cannot keep it for long because I will have to sleep, somebody will take it away and you have taken so much trouble to procure it. From the capital you have followed me, and I have been watching. It is a hot summer’s day. Please don’t refuse. Take it.”
The thief said, “You are a strange man. Don’t you know how expensive it is?”
Nagarjuna said, “Since I have known my own self, nothing is expensive.”
The thief looked at Nagarjuna and said, “Then, I ask of you one more present: how can I know myself, in comparison to which this precious bowl is nothing?”
Nagarjuna said, “It is very simple.”
The thief said, “Before you say anything I wish to introduce myself. I am a well-known thief.”
Nagarjuna said, “Who is not? Don’t be concerned with trivia. In this world everybody is a thief because everybody comes naked without anything, and then later everybody possesses something or the other. All are thieves, so do not be worried. That’s why I live naked. It is perfectly fine. Whatever you are doing, do it well. Just do one thing: when you are stealing, be aware, be alert, be watchful. If you lose watchfulness then don’t steal. That is a simple rule for you.”
The thief said, “It sounds very simple. When I can see you again?”
Nagarjuna said, “I will be here for two weeks. You can come any day, but first try to follow this rule.”
For two weeks the thief tried to observe the rule, and to his amazement,found that it was the most difficult thing in the world! Once he even broke into the palace, opened the door of the royal treasury, but the moment he tried to take something, he lost his awareness that very instant! And the thief was an honest man-he was true to himself, in following the rule that the monk had given him.
So he left whatever he intended to take behind, because it could not be taken without being aware. Observing the simple rule was extremely difficult: when he was aware, there was no desire to take anything; and when he was not aware, he wanted to take everything in the treasury!
Finally he came empty-handed to Nagarjuna and said, “You have disturbed my whole life. Now I cannot steal!” Nagarjuna said, “That is not my problem. Now it is your problem. If you want to steal forget all about awareness.” But the thief said, “Those few moments of awareness were so valuable. I have never felt so at ease, so peaceful, so silent, so blissful in my whole life – all the treasure of the entire kingdom was nothing compared to it.”