A thief once approached the great Buddhist teacher garju. He had heard a few of the master's sermons and was completely taken in by his persolity. An infinite grace seemed to radiate from the master. The thief felt he was on the threshold of something vast, yet he was diffident.
Mustering up courage at last, the thief asked garju, "Is there some possibility of my growth too, O Master? I am willing to learn at your feet, but I have to make two things clear beforehand. I am a thief, and I cannot stop stealing. Many a times in the past, I tried to give up stealing but failed always. So I have come to accept my destiny --- that I am a thief and will remain a thief. Please do not try to make me give it up, because I cannot."
garju smiled, "Who is talking about you being a thief? Why do you fear I will bring it up?"
The thief replied, "Whenever I go to a priest or a monk or a saint, they tell me to first stop stealing."
This time the master laughed out loud: "Then you must have gone to thieves! Else, why should they be concerned? I am not bothered. After all, I am not a thief!"
The thief was relieved. Happily he said, "Please accept me then as your disciple".
garju took him into the fold. But there was a catch. "You can go and do whatever you like. There is only one condition you must follow --- be aware! Go, break into houses, take things, steal right and left. Do what you want --- but do it with full awareness."
The thief was mystified. Surely if this was the condition his master was setting for him, it was very easy! After all, was he not aware he was a thief and could not give up stealing? And had he not told that fact plainly to his master? So scarcely understanding what he was getting into, the thief said, "I will seek to fulfill your condition, O Master."
Before a month elapsed, the thief was back. garju saw at once that his disciple was in a great quandary. When he asked the reason for such disquiet, the thief replied: "I am in a fix. Once I become aware, I cannot steal. If I steal, awareness disappears."
garju smiled inwardly and said, "Did I not tell you before I do not want to talk about what you do? Your thieving ways do not bother me. It is for you to decide whether you want to be aware. If you don't want awareness, then carry on as before."
The thief then tried to explain his predicament. "The other night for the first time, I was able to sneak into the palace of the king. I got inside the vault and opened it. A huge treasure lay shining before me. It could have made me rich beyond my wildest dreams. But then...," the thief's voice trailed off.
"But then what?", the master prodded.
"Just then, I remembered the condition you had set for me. I tried to be aware of what I was doing. Suddenly, I did become completely aware. And can you believe it? The diamonds looked just like stones, ordiry ones at that! Then just as suddenly, the awareness left me and the treasure was there."
"So what did you do?"
"It was the most amazing thing. I waited and did it many times. One moment, I would become completely aware and feel like the Buddha must have felt. I could not even bear to touch the treasure. The whole thing looked so foolish, so meaningless! What was I doing running after stones? Losing myself over such worthless things? But the next moment, the awareness would leave me. The treasure would reappear in all its dazzling beauty."
"What did you decide filly?", asked garju.
"The illusion was good as long as it lasted. But illusion it was. Filly I decided it was not worth it."
Having unburdened himself thus to his master, the thief said with resolve: "I know it is difficult to be aware. I have tasted it a little. And I do not want to let go of it. I am at last ready to leave everything and follow you, O Master!"
And thus garju taught his disciple the precepts of emptiness, the ture of reality as we perceive it, and the reality that is underlying and ultimate. A spiritual realm opened up before the disciple because he chose to be completely aware.
— the harbinger