The Great Spiritual Paradox.
There was once a novice monk who wanted to know the secret to everything. What was life about? Where does it all go? Who are we? What are we?
He searched and searched, high and low, going from one teacher to the next, looking for what he could only articulate as “the truth”.
“What is the truth?” He would ask each of them…
“Become seated in meditation, then you will know.”
“Listen to the wind, the trees, and the forest; each of them has their own answers.”
“Abstain from all that is material and you will become free.”
“The body is temporary, waste it not.”
“Death is the only permanence.”
Plagued with uncertainty, but most of all insecurity, the novice monk lay on his bed pondering each of these answers…
Unable to sleep that night, the next morning he set out on a quest that he had decided for himself the night before. “I will go out to the highest mountain top that I can find, and I will live there — all alone, for as long as it takes, until I truly understand.”
Coming upon a vacant mountain top which appeared to have been untouched by human hands, it was there that the monk found it; a secluded cave.
Here, he spent the next 20 years of his life. Abstaining from all materialism. Living solely off of the land. Becoming one with nature. Achieving total silence; kept completely away from the rest of the human world.
One day, while looking up at the sky, the monk watched a thought cross his mind, “I wonder what the other people are doing nowadays…” Out of desire-filled curiosity, he bargained with himself, “I will just go and have a look,” “…I just want to see.”
Decidedly, he climbed down from his sacred mountain top and walked and walked until he came across a small village.
Upon entering the village, he was instantly greeted by a young girl no older than 5, dancing with her doll. A sudden pang of joy seared across his heart and he knew — “This is what I have been missing for so long…”
The now-aged monk continued down the cobble stone street and was stopped yet again, but this time by the scent of cooling pastries emanating out of a nearby bakery window. “Heavens,” he thought to himself, “I haven’t had a pastry in so long! How I missed those decadent treats.” Seeing the monk longingly staring from outside of his bakery window, the baker quickly rushed outside with a small paper bag. Handing it over to the monk, he wished the monk a “good day” and put his hands together in prayer, as if accepting some sort of blessing from the now-confused monk.
Peering inside the paper bag, the monk was astounded to see three small cakes! Gobbling them up as fast as could, the now-aged monk let out relieving sigh and he knew — “This is what I have been missing for so long…”
Continuing further along the cobble stone street, the now-aged monk came across an old man laying at the side of the road, looking as though he were right on death’s door. The now-aged monk sat down beside the old man, offering up his company as a from of comfort during the old man’s passing. As the old man’s eyes slowly began to close, a lingering smile passed across his face as if to say “thank you” for the time spent as he moved on from this world into the next. Gently patting the old man on the arm, it was then that the now-aged monk knew for sure — “This is what I have been missing for so long.”
You see, the secret to enlightenment isn’t in separating yourself from the rest of the world as a means of escape. It isn’t about avoiding the bad in place of what you only believe to be the good. No, it is in appreciating the experiences you have been given in this life.
In the end, the monk had finally come to know what it truly meant to be alive. The truth of our existence is that we are here. It was only in dying to ‘the material’ that he could come to realize the true beauty that ‘the material’ actually holds. It isn’t that ‘the material’ should ever control you; rather, that you should have control over your perspective of it — for it is all only ever 'temporal'. ‘The material’, our ‘attachments’, they each hold with them the gateway to experiencing life fully.
To cut oneself off completely from ‘society’, all ‘attachments’, and what is ‘material’ is not the answer; but to see what beauty each of these things holds is.
—appreciate your life. It is only ever temporary. And once it’s gone, you can never get back!