Osho comments, “Only a master can save you who comes near to you and at the same time is far away from you.”
Let us begin with a small story. It is a story from the Hassids.
An emperor had an only son – a drunkard, a gambler, he went to prostitutes. The emperor was worried. He tried to persuade him in every way, but it didn’t work. In despair, as a last effort, the emperor sent him into exile so that perhaps this would bring him to his senses.
The emperor thought that he would repent, that he would come back and apologize, but nothing like that happened. His son went away and did not return again. He wandered around the boundaries of the empire.
Finally, he sought shelter in a pub.
He was the son of an emperor, he had the potential for leadership, so he was no ordinary member of the pub. He soon became the leader. He was lost for twenty-four hours a day in gambling, alcohol and prostitutes.
The old emperor waited for years, but his son did not return.
When the emperor was counting his last days he became very worried and distressed, so he sent one of his ministers to bring his son back.
He said, “However he is, it is better to have him here. After my death he will inherit all this. He is a drunkard, let him be so. Perhaps after my death he will understand. Perhaps he may become a little conscious after becoming the ruler of this empire.”
The minister went in his royal dress, sitting in a golden chariot – he was the messenger of the emperor. But the emperor’s son paid no attention to him. He tried hard, but he was not successful in even catching his attention. He returned defeated.
The emperor then asked his second minister to go.
The second minister thought that the way the first minister made his approach, by keeping such a great distance, was a mistake. He had gone in a golden chariot to persuade a beggar! The distance was too much, communication was not possible.
So he entered the pub disguised as a beggar.
He became like the emperor’s son – he drank alcohol, he gambled. He made friends with the emperor’s son, but things went wrong. The minister himself became so lost in alcohol and prostitutes that he forgot about taking the son back. He became one of them.
The prince did not go back and he even seduced the minister.
Months passed. The emperor said, “Now things have become even more critical. At least the first minister returned, even if he did not bring my son. Now the second minister has lost himself.” The news started to come that the second minister had become one of the drunkards. He did not even remember that he was a minister, he stayed drunk for twenty-four hours a day.
It happens many times. There is no way to save a drowning person by standing on the bank. If you want to remain on the bank, if you want to save your clothes, if you don’t want to get wet and not take any risk, then there is no way to save a drowning person. However intelligent you may be, how can you save somebody by standing on the bank? You need the courage to enter the river. But then there is a danger: a drowning person can also drown you.
The first minister remained on the bank, the second minister entered the river. The first one returned saving himself, but the second one was lost.
The emperor told his chief minister, “Now you are the only hope.” This minister was old so he had not been sent before. He told him, “Now you go, you are my last hope. After this I will not be able to do anything.”
The minister went. He went like the second minister, disguised as a beggar. He pretended to drink alcohol, but did not drink. He showed interest in the dance of the prostitutes, but in truth he was not interested. He gambled, he bet, but inside he remained as aware and untouched as a lotus flower in water. He was there, but he was not there. He entered the river and he also stayed on the bank. He went in to save the drowning man, but he also did not leave the bank.
One day he returned to the palace with the prince.
Hassid mystics say that this is the quality of a master. If the master stands too far from you, then he will not be able to save you, although he may be able to save himself. If the master comes near, where you are drowning, if he comes to save you, then there is a risk – it is possible that you may drown him.
Only a master can save you who comes near to you and at the same time is far away from you. He will apparently come close to you, but he will actually never come close. This type of master will remain on the bank, but will also enter into the flow of the river. His one hand will save you and the other hand will never leave the bank. He will be exactly like you in one sense and totally different in another sense; he will appear to be an ordinary human being and yet divine at the same time. On the outside he will be like a friend to you and on the inside he will be in the state that you will some day attain. On the inside the center is never lost and on the periphery he will be able to show you that he is just like you.
That is why it is so difficult to recognize a master.
Osho, Showering Without Clouds – Reflections on the poetry of an enlightened woman, Sahajo, Ch 5 (excerpt)