Once upon a time in the late eighteenth century there lived a group of monks by a fast mountain river that flowed from the hills and through the serene woods where the monks lived in a modest monastery. These monks lived a very simple life doing what they were supposed to do, and taught by their master. They cooked and ate and then preached the Lord Buddha’s teachings among the poor village folks that came to see them. Out of all the monks the brightest was Chen who lived the life of a true hermit never seeking more than what was given, never saying more than asked and never going further than his monastery. He was a pure soul yet he wasn’t ready to go and his master, despite his best efforts hadn’t been able to show Chen that he was ready and now needed to leave.
Now what these monks had never done before was cross the river that flowed nearby though they drew its sweet water each day.
So the master talked to his brother on the other side of the river and one morning told Chen to go to the other side and get a rare medicinal plant back to the monastery.
Chen took leave from his master and walked to the river but on reaching its bank he could not find a way across. The waves were big and the water roared furiously. It was deep and very cold. There wasn’t any bridge or any boat or ferry and there’s no way any human or animal could swim across such a torrential river. Chen wondered and pondered and thought why his master would send him for this impossible task. And then he saw an old master on the other side, walking along the river. It was his master’s wiser and elder brother.
On seeing the old master Chen’s spirit lifted and he screamed at the top of his voice to the old man. ‘Master, master… how can I reach the other side?’
The old master stopped and gaped at Chen and then looked up and down the river and then across, and with a warm smile shouted back, ‘But son, you already are on the other side.’
The above story is my version of an old Zen story, which I had heard a long time ago from another master sitting astride the wooden stairs of a mystical monastery deep in Spiti, while overlooking the Pin River and the snow capped mountains beyond. Perhaps the sight of the Pin River had made the master to tell me this story.
I often used to say that each time I returned to civilization from the high Himalayan valleys or any mountains around the world I felt empty and disoriented since I could never understand the frivolities of a city life and all its happenings. I still say this at times, though rarely now. But I do realize that physical dimensions are not as important as the ones that are within my heart and soul and my eyes.
No matter where my body is, I can always travel to my mountains in a blink, within the span of a single heartbeat and in less than the time I take to say it. Since if I shut my eyes to my inner world then even if I sit in the mountains I will still see the failings of the kind of life I do not lead in the same way that I have within me the capacity to see my beautiful mountains through shut eyes even when engulfed by the smog and dirt and noise of humanity.
I hate labeling my posts spatially but this one is intended this year for Valentine, wishing that each one of you may find within yourself where you want to be and with whom you wish to be.
Much love and joy forever…