The monk in the king’s palace

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Osho says, “A simple person is not one who possesses nothing, a simple person is one who has no possessiveness, who never looks back.”

Palace

There is no requirement for innocence, not even the requirement to live a simple life. You can live a simple life, you can force a simple life upon yourself – it will not be simple. And you can live in a palace with all the luxuries, but if you live in the moment you will be living a simple life. You can live like a beggar and you will not be simple if your effort to be a beggar is something that you have imposed upon yourself. If it has become your character then you are not simple. Yes, once in a while it has happened that even a king has lived a simple life – simple not in the sense that he did not have the palace and the possessions – they were there – but he was not possessive.

This has to be understood: you may not have any possessions yet you may be possessive. Possessiveness can exist without possessions. If that is so, then the opposite is also true: nonpossessiveness can exist with all kinds of possessions. One can live in the palace and yet be totally free of it.

There is a Zen story:

A king was very much impressed by the simple and innocent life of a Buddhist monk. Slowly slowly he accepted him as his master. He watched – he was a very calculating man – he inquired about his character: “Is there any loophole in his life?” When he was totally convinced logically – his detectives informed him that “this man has no dark spots in his life, he is absolutely pure, simple. He really is a great saint, he is a buddha” – then he went to the man, touched his feet and said, “Sir, I invite you to come to my palace and live there. Why live here?”

Deep down, although he was inviting the saint, he was expecting that the saint would refuse, that he would say, “No, I am a simple man. How can I live in the palace?” – even though he was inviting him! See the complexity of human mind: he was inviting him, he was expecting that if the invitation were accepted he would be greatly joyous, and still there was an undercurrent: that the saint, if he were truly a saint, would refuse, that he would say, “No, I am a simple man, I will live under the tree – this is my simple life. I have left all the world, I have renounced the world, I cannot come back to it.”

But the saint was really a saint – he must have been a buddha. He said, “Okay. So where is the vehicle? Bring your chariot and I will come to the palace.” He said, “Of course, when one comes to the palace one has to come in style. Bring the chariot!”

The king was very much shocked: “This man seems to be a cheat, a fraud. It seems that he was pretending all this simplicity just to catch hold of me.” But now it was too late; he had invited him and he could not go back on his own word. Being a man of his word – a samurai, a warrior, a great king – he said, “Okay, now I am caught. This man is not worth anything – he did not even refuse once. He should have refused!”

He had to bring the chariot, but he was no longer happy, he was not joyous. But the saint was very happy! He sat in the chariot like a king, and the king sat in the chariot very sad, looking a little silly. And people were watching in the streets: “What is happening? The naked fakir…!” And he was really sitting like an emperor, and the king was looking very poor compared to this man. And he was so joyous, so bouncing with ecstasy! And the more ecstatic he was, the more sad the king became: “Now, how to get rid of this man? I have become caught in his net on my own. All those detectives and spies are fools – they could not see that this man has a plan.” As if he was sitting under that tree for years so that the king would become impressed! All these ideas came into the head of the king.

The king had arranged the best room for the saint, if he would come. But he did not believe that he would ever come.

[…] The saint reached the room – he had been sitting under the tree for years – and he said, “Bring this, bring that. If you have to live in the palace you have to live like a king!”

The king was getting more and more puzzled. Of course, he had invited him so whatsoever he asked for was brought. But it was heavy on the heart of the king, it was becoming heavier every day, because the saint started living like a king – in fact, better than the king, because the king had his own worries and the saint had none. He would sleep in the day, in the night. He would enjoy the garden and the swimming pool and he would rest and rest. And the king thought, “This man is a parasite!”

One day it was unbearable. He said to the saint…. The saint had gone into the garden for a morning walk, and the king also came and he said, “I want to say something to you.”

The saint said, “Yes, I know. You wanted to say it even before I left my tree. You wanted to say it when I accepted your invitation. Why did you wait so long? You are unnecessarily suffering. I can see you have become sad. You don’t come to me anymore. You don’t ask the great metaphysical, religious questions that you used to ask me when I used to live under the tree. I know – but why did you waste six months? That I can’t see. You should have asked immediately, and things would have been settled then and there. I know what you want to ask, but ask!”

The king said, “I want to ask only one thing. Now what is the difference between me and you? You are living more luxuriously than I am! And I have to work and I have to worry and I have to carry all kinds of responsibilities, and you have no work, no worry, no responsibility. I am feeling jealous of you! And I have certainly stopped coming to you, because I don’t think there is any difference between me and you. I live in possessions, but you live in more possessions than I. Every day you demand, ‘Bring the golden chariot! I want to go for a walk in the country. Bring this and bring that!’ And you are eating delicious food. And now you have stopped being naked, you are using the best clothes possible. Then what is the difference between me and you?”

The saint laughed and he said, “The question is such that I can answer it only if you come with me. Let us go outside the capital.”

The king followed. They crossed the river and they continued. The king asked again and again, “Now what is the point of going on any further? Why not answer now?”

The saint said, “Wait a little. I am in search of the right spot where to answer.”

Then they came to the very boundary of his kingdom, and the king said, “Now it is time, this is the very boundary.”

The saint said, “That’s what I have been searching for. Now I am not going back. Are you coming with me or are you going back?”

The king said, “How can I come with you? I have my kingdom, my possessions, my wives, my children – how can I come with you?”

And the saint said, “Now you see the difference? But I am going and I will not look back even once. I was in the palace, I lived with all kinds of possessions, but I was not possessive. You are possessive. That is the difference. I am going.”

He undressed, became naked, gave the dress to the king, and said, “Keep your clothes and be happy again.”

Now the king realized that he had been foolish: this man was rare, a rare gem. He fell at his feet and he said, “Don’t go. Come back. I have not understood you yet. Today I have seen the difference. Yes, that is true sainthood.”

The saint said, “I can come back, but remember, you will become sad again. For me there is no difference whether to go this side or that side, but you will become sad again. Now, let me make you happy. I am not coming, I am going. “The more the saint insisted on going, the more the king insisted on him coming back. But the saint said, “Once is enough. I have seen you are a stupid person. I can come, but the moment I say ‘I can come,’ I can see in your eyes the old ideas coming back: ‘Maybe he is cheating me again. Maybe this is just an empty gesture, giving me the clothes and saying that he is going, so that I become impressed again.’ If I come you will be miserable again, and I don’t want to make you miserable.”

Remember the difference: the difference is not in possessions, the difference is in possessiveness. A simple person is not one who possesses nothing, a simple person is one who has no possessiveness, who never looks back.

Osho, The White Lotus, Ch 6, Q 1 (excerpt)


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

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