“Life’s little secret is this,” said the master to his visitor as they conversed over tea. “Never take it too seriously. Learn to laugh — at everything — and you learn to live,”
The visitor pondered on this, and the master continued, “I have had a total of four disciples under me. When they began their training, I gave them a set of rigorous physical and spiritual exercises. The first disciple was too weak and couldn’t handle the pressure so he ran away. The second was too meticulous in trying to follow every minute detail of the exercises that he drove himself crazy. The third tried to challenge himself to do more than what the exercises required and one day he injured himself fatally and died. Only the fourth disciple remained healthy and sane.”
“And how did he manage to do that?” asked the visitor.
“Well, he took one look at the exercises and said, ‘No sane man would do those things and you must be crazy if you think I’d do them,’ so he refused to do them,” replied the master, chuckling.
Word spread around the kingdom that a holy man had moved into a hut near the base of a nearby mountain. The king wanted to see this man to ask for advice on how to handle the many problems he faced. So one day, he rode out to the mountain with a dozen soldiers and came to the holy man’s hut.
He saw a young, well-built man chopping wood outside the hut and thought this must be the holy man’s apprentice or servant.
“Hey there,” said the king. “I would like to speak to the holy man. May I come in and see him?”
“Of course, your majesty,” said the young man. “Please come in.”
The young man showed him inside the hut, which contained only a small table, a couple of old chairs, some utensils and a cot in the corner. The king stood and looked around, wondering where the holy man would come from. The young man sat in the corner and said, “After you’re done, you may leave whenever you wish.”
“I don’t understand,” said the king. “I said I wanted to see the holy man.”
“You already have,” said the young man. “And if you want my advice, here it is. See every man or woman you meet as holy. That should take care of most of your problems. Good day, your majesty.”
The new disciple approached the master and said, “I cannot take this any more. You are slowly stripping away all my traditions, all the beliefs I had ingrained in me since childhood. Why are you doing this? I need some solid ground.”
The master replied, “What is the solid ground of the fish swimming in the vastness of the ocean? Or of the migratory bird as it glides across continents?”
After breakfast one day, the master addressed his disciples and said:
“All I do is sit by the riverbank selling river water. And all you fools come, and line up and wait to buy this water, not realizing that any time, you can go to the river and draw water for yourselves.”
Back when I was still unmarried and living in another city that was close to the sea, I used to hang out with my friends at the beach. Sometimes we would even spend the night there.
I remember this one night. It was near midnight and we were outside sitting on the sand chatting and feeling the sea breeze blow through our hair. One of us suddenly says, “Hey, look at the moon.”
It had been cloudy a bit earlier but now the sky was clear and the full moon hung like a big ball of light in the sky. The sea was calm and the moon’s reflection on it was quite breathtaking, the ripples of the waves caused the light to glint and dance. It seemed the reflection was even more beautiful than the moon itself.
Earlier tonight, I walked on the dirty, wet streets of the city I now reside in. The heavy rain from earlier on had abated. A passing car almost splashed muddy water on me as it sped across a small puddle. I glared at the car’s tail lights and was about to move on when I caught the moon’s reflection on the puddle. It was a full moon and it was beautiful.
Too often in life, we chase after those things that are beautiful and try to avoid those that are ugly. We run after prestige, money, power, good food, good wine. We don’t like pain, and we don’t like to experience hardships.
Yet, we should remember that the moon casts a beautiful reflection whether it casts it on the sea or on a muddy puddle. The moon is still the moon and its beauty is not marred by the medium of reflection.
Life has so many facets and forms but underneath it all, our substance is the same. We should learn to see the beauty in life, whether it takes the form of a rose or of a rat. These are just external manifestations of the same inner core and substance.
In the end, we should recognize the beauty of all things, of all people, and accept that we are all reflections of the one truth, that we are all part of each other, and that there is no beauty or ugliness apart from ourselves.