There is a beautiful story…. A great king, Prasenjita, had come to see Gautama Buddha. And while they were conversing, just in the middle, an old Buddhist sannyasin – he must have been seventy-five years old – came to touch the feet of Gautama Buddha.
He said, “Please forgive me. I should not interrupt the dialogue that is going on between you two, but my time… I have to reach the other village before sunset. If I don’t start now I will not be able to reach there.” The Buddhist monks don’t travel at night. “And I could not go without touching your feet because one knows nothing about tomorrow; whether I will be able again to touch your feet or not is uncertain. This may be the last time. So please, you both forgive me. I will not delay your conversation.”
Gautama Buddha said, “Just one question: How old are you?” Strange… out of context.
And the man said, “I am not very old – just four years.”
King Prasenjita could not believe it – a seventy-five year old man cannot be four years old! He might be seventy, he might be eighty, there is no problem. It is difficult to judge; different people grow old at a different pace. But four years is too much! In four years nobody can grow to be seventy-five years old.
Buddha said, “Go with my blessings.”
Prasenjita said, “You have created a problem for me by asking an unnecessary question. Do you think this man is four years old?”
Buddha said, “Now I will explain it to you. It was not unnecessary; it was not without a proper context.
“It was for you that I was asking him – really I was creating a question in you – because you were talking nonsense. You were asking stupid questions. I wanted some relevant question to come out of you.
”Now, this is relevant. Yes, he is four-years-old because our way of counting the age is from the day a person allows the master, allows his total being to be transformed, not holding back anything.
“His seventy-one years were simply a wastage; he has lived only four years. And I think you will understand that your sixty years have been sheer wastage unless you are reborn. And there is only one way to be reborn, and that is to come in contact, in deep communion with someone who has arrived. Then the real life begins.”
Osho – Osho Upanishad
Image: India postage stamp commemorating 2550 years of Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha, May 2007
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons