The thieving student

By Paulo Coelho

A student of the Zen master Bankei was caught stealing during a class. The other students demanded his expulsion, but Bankei decided to take no further action.

Days later, the student stole again, and the master still said nothing. Enraged, the other students demanded that the thief be punished, since such behaviour could not be tolerated.

‘How wise you are!’ said Bankei. ‘You have learned how to tell right from wrong and can go and study anywhere. But this poor brother does not know right from wrong and only has me to teach him.’

The students never again doubted Bankei’s wisdom and generosity, and the thief never stole again.

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  1. Marie-Christine says:

    must have seen the potential of the student.

  2. Marie-Christine says:

    You make me realise even more that I know nothing.
    I have never read the Bible.
    Thank you so much for such a lengthy and well written explanation.

  3. fLUXman says:

    hi leaf….!
    love_d your perception…2 ;-)
    for me jesus looks like a baba to me,
    there is sceintific proof that he was in India and found Shivaism,
    he looks so happy, stoned and eternal to me,
    when he started to preach, and predict what would be,he was so close to nature,
    the romans, and the then religious controllers of the mind decided to cull the problem,
    even then i found jesus willing to carry the whole of humanities karma on his shoulders, with the promise of crucifixion at the end of the road.
    how i wish all the churches had an idol of a smiling jesus , as a shepard or a carpenter. and not his eternal suffering. somehow i was too aghast at this image presented to me at a very young age.
    all these bibles, commandments, koran, bhagavath gita…etc feel to me like the visions of a great master on a great trance.

  4. fLUXman says:

    bo0om paulo,
    stealing what don’t belongs to you is like carrying that much of the other persons karma ( destined ). soon the thief will lose his path amongst all those other paths , sooner or later he will realize himself. for a teacher to teach a disciple is also similar. blessed are those teachers whose disciples learn to carry their own karma, respecting every others as one would ones own.

  5. Yajna says:

    Dearest Paulo,

    The teacher in this story is very wise, and the not only focused on the negativity of the situation- the student stealing, but he praised the positivity of the situation- the fact that his other students realised that the person was stealing. In many situations, we tend to focus on the obvious, the negative, and do not see the bigger picture, and the positivity. To look at things in different aspects, will help us see different perceptions in a situation. Often looking at the positive, will do us all a great deal of good. In everything in life, there are pro’s and cons. And even though at first glance, things may look bad, one must look deeper and they will realise, somehow or another good has or will come out of it.

    Thank you for being

  6. Leaf says:

    Hi Myzpax
    This is not an argument but a humble offering of thinking woman’s balance to the hedonistic orgy of love you describe – which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially when there are So many children to look after…..!

    a) I remember Jesus saying that even if you look lustfully at a person, you have already committed adultery in your mind…and that it is better to gouge out your eye or cut off one hand, than for the whole of you to be thrown into hell.
    (Hell being a world or house full of unkempt, unruly children, for sake of illustration.)

    b) Didn’t King David lose his whole kingdom, high standing etc, because of Bathsaida, before Solomon eventually became King?

    c) What if…
    Adam and Eve are the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life….?
    That is why the Fall is always taught as the grievous sin; sex, because the making love brings good and bad….Cain and Abel etc etc

    God then threw them out of the Garden and hid the Tree of Life guarded by a flaming sword…..passion
    burning in the heart of the virgin??
    who will live forever, if he dare to believe he can (the world will not unpopulate itself into oblivion.)
    or she, if she dare to believe that when Jesus returns, she is his eternal bride…He the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the End of Time…which is cyclical, and infinite…God
    After all,
    was Eve not a clone of Adam…born of a rib?
    Genetic engineering….I don’t know, maybe that’s how Moses, Noah etc lived till 400 + and we degenerates get 80 years if we lucky.
    That would make Jesus a spaceman
    biding his time till whenever
    which, as they always say
    is nigh.

    Just a theory.

    LOVE to all

  7. Myzpax says:

    I posted this as a comment in Neale’s blog, but since it talks about sex and God, themes you’ve depicted beautifully in Brida, one of my favorite books, I decided to post it here to. Here it goes:

    By coincidence, or maybe not, I’m reading a book that proves the existence of God. I’m not done with it yet, but I can tell you it’s called “God’s Formula” and it’s a story about a theory that Einstein was working on at the time of his death, to prove God exists and the reason that led him to believe that, is that the first chapters of the Bible describing the creation of the Universe, match to the detail the theory of the Big Bang. Unbelievable as it may seem it’s all based on real scientific facts.

    I’ve been reading the Bible, on and off, for 23 years now. There’s only five books in it I have not read yet. And I’ll quote Einstein words to define the God I found in it, which I’ll try to explain here. “Subtle is the Lord, but He is not malicious.” I tried to separate the things I found in the Bible from my personal conclusions and intuition, but I found it an impossible task. This is what I believe.

    All religions focus on certain passages to defend their point of view. I found that you can practically find/twist quotes in the Bible to defend whatever. As Dan Brown says, the Bible was not faxed to us from God. I believe it was inspired to the people that wrote it, and then of course, each book has a touch of the person that wrote it. Then what do you choose? My criteria is that if Jesus said something about it, He prevails. The Highest Love always prevails.

    There’s no better place to start with the Bible than at the beginning. I’ll start with Genesis. The story most people know about Adam and Eve’s expulsion out of the Garden of Eden is most incomplete (Chapters 2 & 3). You see in the Garden of Eden, God did not put only one special tree. He put two trees, the tree of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. The thing is God only called Adam and Eve’s attention to the Tree of Good and Evil – honestly I believe he wanted Adam and Eve to try it’s fruit – he said nothing about the other tree. But when He found out that they had eaten the forbidden fruit he expelled Adam and Eve, not because they disobeyed Him, but so that they would not reach the fruit of the Tree of Life, and live forever (Chapter 3, 22).

    Now what is the Tree of Life? It is no small question because the Tree of Life is no more no less God’s promise to mankind, the miracle that will cure all diseases and bring peace and prosperity on earth as the very last chapter (chapter 22) of the Apocalipse says it. To explain you how I arrived at the conclusion what the Tree of Life is, I need to talk about the opposite. The absence of life… You see in the Portuguese Bible I have read for 20 years (Difusora Bí­blica (Missionários Capuchinhos, Lisboa 1985 – 12ª edií§í£o) there is a translation misinterpretation in Mathew, 19,10, which I discovered because I’m a translator myself and decided to read the Bible in English so that I could enlarge my vocabulary. In the Portuguese Bible I read, the passage in Mattew,19, Jesus defends it’s better for a man to stay a virgin. It did not surprise me in the sense I always thought this was the passage the Catholic Church used to defend celibacy amongst clergymen. But it would puzzle and amaze me, that if absolutely everybody on earth would decide to follow that as a rule, within decades there would be no people on earth. It shocked me God would want to erase out of the Earth, His grandest creation, the one He made at His own image. I could never believe that, but for the longest time I just had to accept, that that’s what the Bible said, and had no arguments, Biblically speaking, to oppose the idea that the Church defends that sex even for reproduction purposes is a littler thing than keeping away from it, and of course, sex for sex is a sin even amongst married people. Reading the International Bible, that same passage says that if it is a man’s nature to stay a virgin, then he should stay that way. A little shift that makes all the difference.

    Even though one of the commandments is “Thou shall not commit adultery”, what would Jesus say? The first one that comes to mind is ‘If you’re without sin throw the first rock.’ But there is another passage with a sinful woman that nobody pays attention to, which I think, expresses a lot better Jesus view on adultery. In Luke (7, 36-50) we see Jesus being confronted by his host because of a woman who was washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Jesus tells his scandalized host that ‘her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Lk 7,47). I believe Jesus says in this passage that if the price we had to pay for not sinning was not loving, than He would tell us sin, but love, as much as you can, for despite the sin, the love will always prevail.

    But there is another story in the Bible, where the Highest Love, the Almighty Himself, says, through His deeds, that love will indeed always prevail. The story of David and Bathsheba. (II Samuel, chapter 11). How David called to his palace a woman he had fallen in love with but who was the wife of one of his captains. Nathan, the prophet of the Lord scolded David for his wrong doing. But the Lord didn’t. Despite the death of their first newborn, the Lord rewarded David handsomely. The Lord gave David a great son, the greatest king Israel has ever known. Solomon. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Jesus Christ the Savior of Humanity was born out of the descendancy of the initially adulterous love between David and Bathsheba, as Mt 1st chapter states. The suspicion of adultery surrounds Christ’s birth, and I don’t believe it is a coincidence. Which leads to the Virgin Mary. All the prophecies say that Jesus will be of the descendency of David. But what the Gospel really says in Mattew is that Joseph was the one descending from David. Luke sort of mingles Joseph and Mary as being from the tribe of David, and that would be acceptable as proof that Mary was also of the tribe of David, it was usual at that time to ignore all the details pertaining to women. Why is it then that Elizabeth’s ascendency is clearly stated in Luke? Mary is a much more important figure in that Gospel than Elizabeth was, and does not deserve to have her roots as clearly stated as her cousin’s?! Why? Because Joseph is the point of contact between David and Jesus!???

    Mistakes are a necessary part of the process of learning? In the parable of the Talents, (Mat 25, 14-30) the Lord did not ask the first two how many mistakes they had done in order to double their talents, He just rejoiced with them. God knows only to well that the more mistakes you make to achieve something the harder and more painful it is. Love included. Irony of the ironies in the parable of the talents the only one punished by the Lord, was the one who was to afraid to try anything, afraid to loose whatever, he lost everything. If we think about it, it all comes down to the Golden Rule, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and with all your mind. (…) Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” Mt. 22, 37-40. M. S. Peck words, from his divinely inspired book “The road less traveled” fit perfectly here, “Love was defined as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” When we grow, it is because we are working at it, and we are working at it because we love ourselves. It is through love that we elevate ourselves. And it is through our love for others that we assist others to elevate themselves. Love, the extension of the self, is the very act of evolution. It is evolution in progress. The evolutionary force, present in all of life, manifests itself in mankind as human love. Among humanity love is the miraculous force that defies the natural law of entropy.” I believe that as long as you keep in mind the Golden Rule there are no mistakes, there are only steps up in the Tree of Life.

    I hope that I’ve said enough so far, to stress the importance of each and everyone of us to be personally responsible for our own choices and happiness, to be whole all the time, that what I’m about to say doesn’t sound like one of Cartland’s/Steel’s novels, but I believe the story of David and Bathsheba is also telling us that soul mates are chosen in heaven by God Himself, and that if people believe in it there will be great rewards, for soul mates are a step into the Garden of Eden, (see also Gen, 2,22) or else, why out of all the women David had, did Salomon and Jesus had to descend precisely from the woman with whom David infracted one of the Ten Commandments with???. Not to mention all the other special couples from the Bible, Abraham and Saara, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and Mary. Relationships are bridges with the Universe and the Almighty. Women do have an important point of view to add up to life and to the world. Love is not women’s private domain. Christ is definitely the proof of that. But, with this example, I think I can explain why they think more about it. What do you do when a baby starts crying? Is he hungry, thirsty, needs a diaper change or is he crying just because he’s tired or upset at life for some mysterious reason, or worse than that, is he sick? If so what part of his body is sick? A baby doesn’t talk, the mother has to guess what is wrong with him. What I’m trying to tell you is that – despite the exceptions – nature teaches women to think how others feel, nature teaches them to care. Man isn’t the image of God, woman isn’t the image of God. Man and woman are the image of God. As the story of Adam and Eve tells, (Gen, 2,22).

    I think by now you should be able to understand why I think this is the Tree of Life. I’ll draw the tree trunk for you, I’ll let you draw the leaves. Imagine how big this tree is. It should be read from the bottom up, and imagine it in the middle of the page:

    Is the
    Is the

    Change is an intrinsic part to the Tree of Life. You live, you learn, you change. So far, with some honourable exceptions most of Mankind has been able to barely pass the first two stages of the tree. Most of Mankind hasn’t been living, it’s been surviving. And the reason for this is because it cannot understand and much less take and follow the Golden Rule for it is the link through the Tree of Life. When we all are able to understand this… who can tell what we can do? The Universe cares for you like the most loving and caring parent. Everything has a loving and caring purpose. God is so kind, you’ll believe, because He is the kindest presence you can experience. God is chapter number 13 of St Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians. He’s Beauty Itself. He’s Peace. He’s LOVE.

    We are ONE. With ourselves, with each other and with the Universe. It is important we believe that. As I’ve said before I don’t think it’s a coincidence the birth of Christ is surrounded by the shadow of adultery. The penalty for the infractors was being stoned to death, and it still is in many countries. And genital mutilation is a reality for 130 million women. In Muslim countries, a girl loosing her virginity is a dishonour for the whole family. Rape is kind of normal in Africa. Nobody knows how many Catholic priests have to choose between God’s call or getting married. Do I need to say more… If we are to progress and develop as whole human beings we need to feel thankful for life. That’s basic. But how can anyone be thankful for life, if feeling guilty about something so intrinsic to human nature as sexuality??? Christ knew this. I believe that’s what he meant when he talked about the Bread of Life, (John 6,33). He was ambiguous about it because the people of his time were not ready to know some facts (John 16, 12). And I believe that’s why Mary Magdalen started being called a prostitute. Because she knew these things, and probably was not as discrete as Jesus was, when talking about it. The big bad monster from Apocalypse, 666 is formed, obviously by the number 6 and rounds up to number 9, which as a coincidence, or maybe not,(as Deepak Chopra says “there are no coincidences, there are signs awaiting to be interpreted”) 6 and 9 are the numbers associated with Venus, the Goddess of Love and Sex and Mars, the God of War, who had a torrid affair, in numerology, . We are ONE. When we want something, the whole Universe conspires for us to have it. For good and for bad. I’m talking about Africa and AIDS. I believe that, sadly AIDS is the answer to many peoples’ “prayers”, people who believe they do deserve to be punished because they were taught that sex is a sin. Guild is a dictator, and dictators rule on fear, not on love. I believe it is our responsibility to change that, because we are ONE, and if we ignore it, one day it will be knocking on our door.

    Thank you for letting me publish this on your blog.

    Thank you for your attention

    Thank you God for inspiring me

    Love, love, love

    PS – A Fórmula de Deus was written by José Rodrigues dos Santos, one of the most credited portuguese journalists, and published by Gradiva exactly a year ago. It is already in it’s tenth edition, and I’m sure it won’t be that long before it is translated to English.

  8. Lucia says:

    Somehow, that story sent my heart into sweet depression. To be able to have someone who cares for you at a distance. Someone who smiles at everything you do from a seat a few meters away… How can I say this? Like a father.