The mysterious begging-bowl

1001 Tales told by the Master

Osho speaks on the ways of the world to fill the inner vacuum, in the series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.

Man with begging bowls

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.

There is a very famous Sufi story. A beggar cames to an emperor. Just by chance, the emperor was coming out of his palace for a morning walk. And the beggar was standing there, so the emperor asked, “What do you want?” The beggar laughed. He said, “You are asking as if you can fulfill my desire! ‘What do you want?’ you say!”

The king was offended, challenged. He said, “Yes, I can fulfill your desire. What is your desire? You just tell me.”

And the man said, “Think twice before you promise anything.”

The beggar was no ordinary beggar, the beggar was the emperor’s past-life master. And the master had promised, “I will come and try to wake you again in your next life. This life you have missed, but I will come again.”

But the king had forgotten completely – who remembers about past lives? So he insisted, “You just tell me and I will fulfill it. You just tell me. I am such a big emperor, what can you desire that I cannot give you?”

And the beggar said, “It is a very simple desire. 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?”

And the emperor said, “Yes! You seem to be mad! Why can’t it be filled?” He called one of his viziers and told the vizier, “You fill this man’s begging-bowl with money.” And the vizier went. It was a small begging-bowl, but soon the king was getting afraid. 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 whole palace gathered together. By and by, the rumor went into the capital; 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 viziers, “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?

Then diamonds and pearls and emeralds… and they started disappearing. Soon the vizier said to the king, “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?” Finally, the king dropped at the feet of the beggar and said, “Sir, 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?”

And the beggar laughed. And the beggar said, “Don’t you remember me at all? Have you forgotten me completely? Look into my eyes! I am your old master. And this is what I was teaching you in the past life too, but you didn’t listen. This begging-bowl has no magic! It is simply made out of the human heart. There is no secret in it; this is how the human heart is.”

Osho, Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol. 2, Ch 7

Featured image: photo by Brijesh Nirmal on Unsplash

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

Comments are closed.