Nagarjuna and the Thief

The great Buddhist saint Nagarjuna moved around naked except for a loincloth and, incongruously, a golden begging bowl gifted to him by the King, who was his disciple.

One night he was about to lie down to sleep among the ruins of an ancient monastery when he noticed a thief lurking behind one of the columns. “Here, take this,” said Nagarjuna, holding the begging bowl. “That way you won’t disturb me once I have fallen asleep.”

The thief eagerly grabbed the bowl and made off — only to return the next morning with the bowl and a request:

“When you gave away this bowl so freely last night, you made me feel very poor. Teach me how to acquire the riches that make this kind of lighthearted detachment possible.”

This is from The Heart of the Enlightened, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.

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