“First, recite the sutra; second, understand intellectually; third, give a sign that you have lived it. These are the three stages,” says Osho. From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.
There is a beautiful Buddhist story in China.
In a certain town a very beautiful young lady suddenly arrived out of the blue. Nobody knew from where she came; her whereabouts were completely unknown. But she was so beautiful, so enchantingly beautiful, that nobody even thought about where she had come from. People gathered together, the whole town gathered – and all the young men almost three hundred young men, wanted to get married to the woman.
The woman said, ‘Look, I am one and you are three hundred. I can be married only to one, so you do one thing. I will come again tomorrow; I give you twenty-four hours. If one of you can repeat Buddha’s Lotus Sutra, I will marry him.’
All the young men rushed to their homes; they didn’t eat, they didn’t sleep, they recited the sutra the whole night, they tried to cram it in. Ten succeeded. The next morning the woman came and those ten people offered to recite. The woman listened. They had succeeded.
She said, ‘Right, but I am one. How can I marry ten? I will give you twenty-four hours again. The one who can also explain the meaning of the Lotus Sutra I will marry. So you try to understand – because reciting is a simple thing, you are mechanically repeating something and you don’t understand its meaning.’
There was no time at all – only one night – and the Lotus Sutra is a long sutra. But when you are infatuated you can do anything. They rushed back, they tried hard. The next day three persons appeared. They had understood the meaning.
And the woman said, ‘Again the trouble remains. The number is reduced, but the trouble remains. From three hundred to three is a great improvement, but again I cannot marry three persons, I can marry only one. So, twenty-four hours more. The one who has not only understood it but tasted it too, that person I will marry. So in twenty-four hours try to taste the meaning of it.
You are explaining, but this explanation is intellectual. Good, better than yesterday’s, you have some comprehension, but the comprehension is intellectual. I would like to see some meditative taste, some fragrance. I would like to see that the lotus has entered into your presence, that you have become something of the lotus. I would like to smell the fragrance of it. So tomorrow I come again.’
Only one person came, and certainly he had achieved. The woman took him to her house outside the town. The man had never seen the house; it was very beautiful, almost a dreamland. And the parents of the woman were standing at the gate. They received the young man and said, ‘We are very happy.’
The woman went in and he chit-chatted a little with the parents. Then the parents said, ‘You go. She must be waiting for you. This is her room.’ They showed him.
He went, he opened the door, but there was nobody there. It was an empty room. But there was a door entering into the garden. So he looked – maybe she has gone into the garden. Yes, she must have gone because on the path there were footprints. So he followed the footprints. He walked almost a mile. The garden ended and now he was standing on the bank of a beautiful river – but the woman was not there. The footprints also disappeared. There were only two shoes, golden shoes, belonging to the woman.
Now he was puzzled. What has happened? He looked back – there was no garden, no house, no parents, nothing. All had disappeared. He looked again. The shoes were gone, the river was gone. All that there was emptiness – and a great laughter.
And he laughed too. He got married.
This is a beautiful Buddhist story. He got married to emptiness, got married to nothingness. This is the marriage for which all the great saints have been searching. This is the moment when you become a bride of Christ or a gopi of Krishna.
But everything disappears – the path, the garden, the house, the woman, even the footprints. Everything disappears. There is just a laughter, a laughter that arises from the very belly of the universe.
But when it happens for the first time, if you have not been led slowly, slowly, you will go mad.
This Buddhist story says that he was led slowly, slowly. The woman was the Master. The woman is symbolic of the Master. She led him slowly, slowly. First, recite the sutra; second, understand intellectually; third, give a sign that you have lived it. These are the three stages. Then she led him into nothingness.
The Master leads you slowly, slowly; makes you by and by ready.
Osho, Tao: The Pathless Path – Talks on extracts from ‘The Book of Lieh Tzu’, Vol 2, Ch 9 (excerpt)