The Mater went on to tell off the astronaut who returned from a 500-orbit voyage round the earth. When asked how he felt, he said "Exhausted! Think how many times I had to say the morning, noon, evening and nights prayers prescribed by my religion!"

For the Master all rules, no matter how sacred, had a purely functional value, and had to yield to Reality which alone was Law Supreme.

When his teen-age daughter following the fashion, wanted to wear an off-the-shoulder dress, her mother felt she wasn't old enough for that sort of grown. A hearted argument ensued - for days.

When the Master was finally appealed to, he said "Let her try one on. If it stays up - she's old enough to wear it."

The man was a religious writer and asked for a word of wisdom. Said the Master:

"Some people write to make a living; others to share their insights or raise questions that will haunt their readers; others yet to understand their very souls."

"None of these will last. That distinction belongs to those who write only because if they did not they would burst."

As an afterthought he added: "These writers give expression to the divine - no matter what they write about."

When asked what enlightenment felt like, the Master said "it is like going into the wilderness and suddenly feeling that you are being watched."

"By whom?"

"By rocks and trees and mountains"

"an eerie feeling."

"No, a comfortable one. But because it is unfamiliar one feels the urge to rush back to the commonplace world of people - their noise, their words, their laughter - which has cut us off from Nature and Reality."

When asked if he was never discouraged by the little fruit his efforts seemed to yield, the Master told the story of a snail that started to climb a cherry tree one cold, windy day in late spring.

The sparrows on a neighbouring tree had a good laugh at his expense. Then one flew over and said, "Hey, blockhead, don't you know there are no cherries on this tree?"

The little fellow did not stop as he replied "Well, there will be when I get there."

A disciple was prone to fits of prolonged depression. "My doctor insists I take medication to keep my depression at bay" he said.

"Well, then, why don't you?" said the Master.

"Because it might damage my liver and shorten my life."

Said the Master "Would you rather have a healthy liver than a happy mood? One year of life is worth more than twenty years of hibernation."

Later he said to his disciples: "It is with life as with a tale: not how long it is but how good, is what matters."

One day the Master said "Good deeds done by unconscious are superior to those that are willed."

This produced a flurry of questions that the Master nimbly side-stepped as he always did when he judged that the time to answer them had not arrived.

One day everyone went to the performance of a world-famous pianist. Said the Master in a whisper to his neighbour, "The movement of that woman's fingers over the keyboard is something that cannot be willed. Work of that quality must be left to the unconscious."

"Does it ever bring you joy to see the fruits of your endeavours?"

"How much joy does it give a tool to see what the hand has done?"

A visitor to the monastery was particularly struck by what he called the Master's radiance. One day when he happened to meet an old friend of the Master's, he asked if there was any explanation for it.

Said the friend "Let me put it this way: Life is a Mystery. Death is the key that unlocks it. The moment you turn the key you disappear into the Mystery forever."

"Do we have to wait for death before we turn the key?" said the visitor.

"No! You could turn it now - through Silence - and dissolve into the Mystery. Then you too would become radiant - like the Master."

Someone asked the Master the meaning of a phrase he had heard: "The enlightened person travels without moving."

Said the Master "Sit at your window each day and observe the ever-changing scenery in your backyard as the earth carries you through its annual trip round the sun."