Stories of the Excluded

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

The drunkard disciple

A Zen master had hundreds of disciples. They all prayed at the right time – except one, who was always drunk.

The master was growing old. Some of the more virtuous pupils began to wonder who would be the new leader of the group, the one who would receive the important secrets of the Tradition.

On the eve of his death, however, the master called the drunkard disciple and revealed the hidden secrets to him.

A veritable revolt broke out among the others.

“How shameful!” they cried in the streets. “We have sacrificed ourselves for the wrong master, one who can’t see our qualities.”

Hearing that din outside, the dying master remarked:

“I had to pass on these secrets to a man that I knew well. All my pupils were very virtuous, and showed only their qualities. That is dangerous, for virtue often serves to hide vanity, pride and intolerance.

“That is why I chose the only disciple whom I knew really well, since I could see his defect: drunkenness.”

Does the master not suffer with bad disciples?

A disciple asked Firoz:

“The mere presence of a master causes all sorts of curious people to gather round, to discover something beneficial. Can’t this be a hindrance and negative? Can’t this divert the master from his path, or cause him to suffer because he could not teach that which he wished?”

Firoz, the Sufi master, replied:

“The sight of an avocado tree laden with fruit whets the appetite of all those who pass by. If someone wishes to satisfy his hunger beyond his needs, he will eat more avocados than necessary, and will be sick. However, this causes no indigestion to the man who owns the avocado tree.

“The path must be open to all; but it is for God to set the limits of each individual.”

Isaac is necessary

A certain rabbi was loved by his community; everyone was enchanted by the things he said.

Everyone except Isaac, who never lost a chance to contradict the rabbi’s interpretations and point out flaws in his teachings. The others grew angry at Isaac, but they could do nothing.

One day Isaac died. During the funeral, the community noticed that the rabbi was deeply sad.

“Why such sadness?” someone commented. “He was always finding fault in everything you said!”

“I am not sad for the friend who today is up in heaven,” answered the rabbi. “It’s myself I am sad for. While everyone else paid me reverence, he challenged me, and I was obliged to do things better. Now that he is gone, I’m afraid that I will stop growing.”

© Translated by James Mulholland

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