"Who is a happy person ?"
"One who has no resources and no hopes - and doesn't desire any" said the Master.
The Master never let a statement about God go unchallenged. All God-statements were poetic or symbolical expressions of the Unknowable; people, however, foolishly look them as literal descriptions of the divine.
When the preacher said "This much I know of God, that he is wise and good".
The Master countered with "Then why does he stand by helplessly in the face of evil?"
Said the preacher: "How should I know? What do you think I am, a mystic?"
Later the Master regaled his disciples with this Jewish tale:
Two men sat sipping tea in silence. After a while one said "Life is like a bowl of lukewarm soup"
"Like a bowl of lukewarm soup?" asked the other. "Why ?"
"How should I know? What do you think I am, a philosopher?"
The Master once referred to the Hindu notion that all creation is "leela", God's play; and the universe is his playground. The aim of spirituality, he claimed, is to make all life a play.
This seemed too frivolous for a puritanical visitor. "Is there no room then for work?"
"Of course there is. But work becomes spiritual only when it is transformed into play."
Someone asked the Master what "disinterested action" meant. He replied, "Action that is loved and done for its own sake, not for any approval or profit or gain."
Then he told of a man who was hired by a researcher, taken to a backyard and given an axe.
"Do you see that log lying there? Well I want you to go through the motions of chopping it - only you must use the reverse side of the axe, not the blade.
You'll get a hundred dollars an hour for that.
The man thought the researcher was crazy, but the pay seemed excellent, so he started to work.
Two hours later he came to say "Mister, I'm quitting."
"What's the matter? Don't you like the pay you're getting? I'll double your wages!"
"No, thank you" said the man. "The pay is fine. But when I chop wood I've got to see the chips fly!".
To a couple anxious about the upbringing of their children, the Master quoted a rabbinical saying:
"Do not limit your children to your own learning, for they have been born in another age."
"The principal reason why people are not happy is that they get a perverse satisfaction from their suffering" said the Master.
He told how he was once travelling on the upper berth of a train at night. It was impossible to sleep because from the lower berth came the ceaseless moan of a woman, "Oh, how thirty I am… God, how thristy I am…!"
On and on went the mournful voice. The Master finally crept down the ladder, walked through the windy corridor of the whole length of the train, filled two large paper cups with water, brought them back and handed them to the tormented woman.
"Lady, here, water!"
"God bless you, sir. Thank you."
The Master climbed back into his berth, settled down comfortably and was on the verge of falling into blissful slumber when from below came the lament "Oh, how thirsty I was… God, how thirsty I was…!"
A social worker poured out her woes to the master. How much good she would be able to do for the poor if she did not have to spend so much time and energy protecting herself and her work from slander and misunderstandings.
The Master listened attentively, then responded in a single sentence "No one throws stones at barren trees."
"Could action lead to Enlightment?" the Master was asked.
"Only action leads to Enlightment" was his reply.
"But it must be non-profit action, done for its own sake."
He explained how he once sat in the stands with the little son of a soccer star who was playing a practice game.
When the man shot a brilliant goal, everyone cheered, the kid wasn't impressed; he just sat there looking bored.
"What's the matter with you?" said the Master.
"Didn't you see your father score the goal?"
"Yeah, he scored it all right - today, tuesday. The match is on Friday - that's when the goals are needed."
The Master concluded "Actions are valued if they help you score goals - not for themselves, alas."
The Master wasn't given to practices of devotion.
When questioned about it, he said:
"A lamp loses its rays when beside the sun; even the tallest temple looks so tiny at the foot of a Himalayan mountain."
"My temple priest tells me that the temple is the only place for me to worship in. What do you say?"
"Your temple priest isn't the best person to consult on these matters" said the Master.
"But he's the expert, isn't he?"
In reply the Master told of an experience he had in a foreign country as he glanced through two guidebooks he had brought. His guide frowned at the guidebooks, pointed to one of them and said:
"This one very bad guidebook, Other one better."
"Why? Does this one have more information?"
The guide shook his head. "This book say the guide five dollar. That one say give guide fifty cent."
One reason you join a religious organization is the chance it offers you to dodge religion with a clear conscience" said the Master.
And he told of a conversation he had with a woman disciple who had just got engaged to a traveling salesman.
"Is he good looking?" asked the Master
"Well, he certainly wouldn't stand out in a crowd."
"Does he have money?"
"If he does, he won't spend it."
"Does he have any bad habits?"
"He certainly smoked and drinks a lot more than is good for him."
"I don't understand you. If you can't find anything good to say about him, why marry him?"
"Well, he's mostly on the road and away from home. That way I have the satisfaction of being married without the burden of a husband."
The Master hardly ever spoke of spiritual topics. He was content to eat and work and play with the disciples - and join with them in conversation on a thousand different topics ranging from the political situation of the country to the latest bar-room joke.
A visitor once said "How can the man teach you when he'd rather tell a joke than speak of God?"
Said the disciple, "There are other ways of teaching than through the use of words."