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Hope, Fear And Knowledge – A Sufi Spiritual Story by Osho

When a great Sufi mystic, Hassan, was dying, somebody asked, ‘Hassan, who was your Master?’

He said, ‘Now it is too late to ask. Time is short, I am dying.’ But the inquirer asked, ‘You can simply say the name. You are still alive, you are still breathing and talking, you can simply tell me the name.’

He said, ‘It will be difficult because I had thousands of Masters. If I just relate their names it will take months and years. It is too late. But three Masters I will certainly tell you about.

‘One was a thief. Once I got lost in the desert, and when I reached the village it was very late. Half the night was already gone; shops were closed, caravanserais were closed. There was not a single human being on the roads. I searched for somebody to inquire of. I found one man who was trying to make a hole in the wall of a house. I asked him where I could stay, and he said, “I am a thief, and you look like a Sufi mystic to me.”‘ His robe, his aura. ‘And the thief said, “Right now it will be very difficult to find any place to stay, but you can come to my home. You can stay with me — if you can stay with a thief.” ‘

Hassan said, ‘I hesitated a little bit. Then I remembered. If the thief is not afraid of a Sufi, then why should the Sufi be afraid of a thief? In fact, he should be afraid of me. So I said, “Yes, I will come.” And I went, and I stayed with the thief. And the man was so lovely, so beautiful, I stayed for one month! And each night he would say to me, “Now I am going to my work. You rest, you pray, you do your work.” And when he would come back I would ask, “Could you get anything?” He said, “Not tonight. But tomorrow I will try again.” And he was never in a state of hopelessness.

‘For one month continuously he came empty-handed, but he was always happy. And he said, “I will try tomorrow. God willing, tomorrow it is going to happen. And you also pray for me. At least you can say to God, ‘Help this poor man.'”

And then Hassan said, ‘When I was meditating and meditating for years on end, nothing was happening, and many times the moment came when I was so desperate, so hopeless that I thought to stop all this nonsense. There is no God, and all this prayer is just madness, all this meditation is false — and suddenly I would remember the thief who would say every night, “God willing, tomorrow it is going to happen.”

‘So I tried one day more. If the thief was so hopeful, with such hope and trust, I should try at least one day more. And many times it happened, but the thief and the memory of him helped me to wait one day more. And one day, it happened, it DID happen! I bowed down. I was thousands of miles away from the thief and his house, but I bowed down in his direction. He was my first Master.

‘And my second Master was a dog. I was thirsty and I was going towards the river, and a dog came. He was also thirsty. He looked into the river, he saw another dog there — his own image — and became afraid. He barked and the other dog barked, too. But his thirst was so much that he would hesitate and go back. He would come again and look into the water and find the dog there. But the thirst was so much that he suddenly jumped into the water, and the image disappeared. He drank the water, he swam in the water — it was a hot summer. And I was watching. I knew that a message had come to me from God. One has to jump in spite of all fears.

‘When I was on the verge of jumping into the unknown, the same fear was there. I would go to the very edge, hesitate, and come back. And I would remember the dog. If the dog could manage, why not I? And then one day I jumped into the unknown. I disappeared and only the unknown was left behind. The dog was my second Master.

‘And the third Master was a small child. I entered into a town and a small child was bringing a candle, a lit candle, hiding it in his hands and going to the mosque to put the candle there. Just joking, I asked the boy, “Have you lit the candle yourself?” He said, “Yes, sir.” And I asked, jokingly, “Can you tell me from where the light came? There was a moment when the candle was unlit, then there was a moment when the candle was lit, can you show me the source from which the light came? And you have lit it, so you must have seen the light coming — from where?” And the boy laughed and blew out the candle, and said, “Now you have seen the light going, where has it gone? You tell me!” And my ego was shattered, and my whole knowledge was shattered. And that moment I felt my own stupidity. Since then I dropped all knowledgeability.’

Osho: ”Secret of Secrets“

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of Osho's “Hope, Fear And Knowledge” Story?

In the layers of this tale lie profound spiritual teachings, each unveiling a different facet of wisdom. The first Master, the thief, embodies resilience and unwavering hope amidst adversity. The thief's relentless optimism, despite returning empty-handed each night, illuminates the power of faith and perseverance. It's a testament to the thief's unyielding belief in the possibilities of tomorrow, a belief that becomes a guiding light in moments of despair. Through this, Hassan learns that hope, regardless of circumstance, can be a potent force steering one through the darkest of nights.

The second Master, the dog, exemplifies the courage to confront fears and uncertainties. The dog, driven by thirst, confronts its reflection in the water, barking at its own image out of fear. Yet, the overwhelming need for water compels it to leap past the fear, leading to the dissolution of the perceived obstacle. Hassan finds resonance in this, acknowledging that the leap into the unknown, despite the looming fears, is the catalyst for transcendence. It teaches the profound truth that fear can dissolve once one takes that courageous leap forward.

The third Master, the innocent child with the candle, unravels the illusion of knowledge and ego. The child's playful response to Hassan's inquiry dismantles the constructs of understanding and ego. The child's act of blowing out the candle, challenging Hassan's need for definitive answers, shatters the illusion of knowledge. It brings forth the recognition that enlightenment doesn't come from accumulation but from the release of the ego-driven quest for understanding. In letting go of the need to comprehend, one opens up to the true essence of enlightenment.

Each Master in Hassan's life imparts a distinct spiritual lesson, serving as guiding beacons on the path of self-realization. The thief exemplifies unwavering faith, urging us to hold onto hope in the face of adversity. The dog teaches us the transformative power of leaping into the unknown, surpassing fears that obstruct our growth. Lastly, the child unveils the folly of the ego-driven pursuit of knowledge, inviting us to embrace the enigmatic nature of existence.

These Masters converge to paint a spiritual landscape, each stroke revealing the tapestry of life's teachings. They remind us that wisdom often comes from the most unexpected sources and that enlightenment isn't confined within the boundaries of traditional understanding. Instead, it emerges from experiences that challenge our perceptions and beliefs.

This story isn't merely a recounting of Hassan's encounters but a profound allegory for the human journey. It beckons us to embrace hope in times of despair, to confront our fears courageously, and to relinquish the shackles of ego-driven knowledge. Ultimately, it urges us to weave these lessons into the fabric of our lives, allowing them to guide our steps toward spiritual awakening.

In the tapestry of existence, these Masters serve as threads weaving a narrative of resilience, courage, and humility. Their teachings echo through the corridors of time, resonating with the seekers of truth, guiding them toward the realization that spirituality transcends the confines of dogma and doctrine. It's a journey marked by the transformative power of hope, courage, and the willingness to surrender the ego at the altar of enlightenment.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. Reflect on the unexpected sources of wisdom in Hassan's journey: a thief, a dog, and a child. How does this challenge conventional notions of who can be a teacher or a master in our lives?
  2. Contemplate the thief's unwavering hopefulness despite repeated failures. How does his attitude toward life inspire resilience and faith in the face of adversity?
  3. Explore the symbolism of the dog's fearless leap into the water despite its initial hesitation. How does this story resonate with moments in your life when you've been called to overcome fear and take a leap of faith?
  4. Consider the profound lesson Hassan learned from the child with the candle. How does this anecdote highlight the limitations of intellectual knowledge in understanding deeper truths?
  5. Reflect on moments in your own life when unexpected encounters or experiences have offered profound insights or lessons. How did these encounters shape your perspective or influence your path?
  6. Contemplate the role of humility in spiritual growth, as demonstrated by Hassan's willingness to learn from unlikely sources. How does humility open the door to deeper wisdom and understanding?
  7. Explore the theme of trust in Hassan's journey, from the thief's unwavering hope to the dog's fearless action. How does trust in oneself and in the unknown play a role in spiritual and personal transformation?
  8. Reflect on the interconnectedness of all beings, as illustrated by Hassan's encounters with the thief, the dog, and the child. How does this interconnectedness reflect the fundamental unity of existence?
  9. Consider the transformative power of simple moments or encounters in everyday life. How can we cultivate awareness and openness to the wisdom that surrounds us in the ordinary?
  10. Reflect on the overarching message of Hassan's journey: the importance of openness, humility, and trust in the search for truth and understanding. How can you apply these principles to your own quest for deeper meaning and fulfillment?