In life we get to meet and lose many people – some only for a short time, others forever. The more we wish to see and have them back in our lives, the more impossible it gets. Only once we give up, let go of our desire and forget, it happens that the people we wished for so badly return to our lives. Only when we are detached fully, our experience can be pure and for our highest good.
Things happen when we least expect them
Late one afternoon, I found myself on a bus with a friend I met during a silent retreat, heading towards his little home village in the countryside, far away from everything. Sitting on the bus, I remembered the number of emails sent and phone calls made without any success to reach a Tibetan monk I once met in my country, who I wished to see again. No matter how many times my friends confirmed the email address was correct and that they had received replies from him, it seemed as if he did not exist any more. As I relaxed and started to look forward to the bus journey through nature, two monks, dressed in red cloths entered the bus and sat down behind us.
One of them seemed very familiar and I was sure he had visited my country a couple of years ago with another monk, who I really wished to visit. I turned around and asked where they were staying. To my great surprise – they were living in exactly the same monastery as the monk I was looking for and the monastery happened to be only a couple of kilometres away from my friend's home. I did not think they would know him but mentioned his name anyway. The boy started smiling, saying: “Oh, this is my master. I call him.”
Once things get rolling, it is hard to stop them
I did not even have time to say it was not necessary. Still trying to get some air, I started to introduce myself to him over the phone and did not know what to say. I was not sure he would still remember me. He then replied: “Come tomorrow at 11. Call me when you are here.”
This was it? I gratefully said “thank you” to the young monks and sat there for a while in silence. Finally, I was about to meet him. I found it funny how hard I had tried to get in touch with him, to then explain to him who I was and all he said was: “Come tomorrow.” I knew he was a busy person and I was no one very important, so he could have easily said he had no time for me. But he did not.
The next morning, I tried to have as few expectations as possible. We started the day with a walk in nature, through the rice fields. A friend invited us for tea and a wonderful breakfast and asked me to stay with their family so I could experience their culture. As we finally returned back to the house, I noticed an iron, I never ironed clothes, yet today it seemed necessary.
Time and distance do not matter to true love
As I entered the big red monastery and asked for him, everyone directed me to the main hall, where there was a prayer going on. As I could not see him anywhere and all the monks were chanting, I decided to sit down next to a Korean girl, who was actively involved in the prayer. She seemed like a Buddhism student to me. After one hour of chanting and trying to understand what was going on in there, I still could not find the monk. Then, I left the main hall and asked some other monks if they knew him. One of them, another student of his called him for me and then he came and met me.
As he approached me, there was a shield of love and light around him. I felt as if I had returned home after a long, long journey. It was as if we met yesterday. I could not explain what happened, neither could I understand where it all came from but he was so dear to me. My heart melted and I was so grateful and happy that he received me. He invited me into his room, where at first I was given a coffee and then after a while lunch. We were talking about my country and about his plans to visit it soon to build a Buddhist temple. We did not talk about religion or meditation. It was as if after a long time I had met up with an old friend and we had so much to tell each other. Yet, I could not recall any of the conversation.
What if everything is OK, just as it is?
I turned to him saying: “You know, during my journey and whilst being in silence I realised that it does not matter which God we bow down to and which technique we practice. It is not even a bad thing if we practice different techniques. They all bring us to the same state of mind and even if we do not practice any of them at all, it is still possible to reach the same level of peace within, naturally.”
He looked at me smiling and with a peaceful expression. It was as if his eyes were giving me support, love and approval. It was as if he was hearing what I was saying: “Yes, I think the same. It does not matter.”
He then turned to me to tell me something very important: “It is so obvious, when we are flexible and open, beautiful things happen to us. At the end of the day, no matter the race or religion, deep inside we are all the same. We all look for the same thing. Therefore, it is important not to focus on being alone. We do need other people. It is important to surround ourselves with others to be able to give and share.”
Love we cannot hide
I brought him the water from the Himalayas and told him about my trip. He was smiling and listening, although I had a feeling he already knew everything about it. He was so humble. As it started to rain, we went outside so he could show me his flowers that he took care of with so much love and dedication. The children were playing outside. He was so caring towards the children and at the same time tried to act strict but no matter how hard he tried, he could not do it. One could feel his love for everyone. I then left him for a while, so I could to go and meditate in the temple.
As I was leaving, I was so happy, so light and so filled with love, I felt like I could fly. He told me to come again the next day. I was worried that I would take up too much of his time, but he ensured me that he had nothing else to do and I was more than welcome to come and spend more time with him.
Honesty is one of the greatest gifts
Next day I met him at his sisters’ restaurant, where he usually spent his days off. As I entered, he was sitting at a table with a little boy (his student) and watching television. He sent him away to order us some fresh juice. The monk was so peaceful and did not even notice I was late. Apparently, time did not matter!
The little boy returned with our juice and was very pure and sweet. As soon as he told me he could speak English, I could not stop myself from asking him some questions. I smiled: “Do you like your teacher? He is great isn't he?” He turned to me and looked straight into my eyes: “He is OK.” Then there was a smile on his face and I asked him to tell me what was on his mind. He did not wait a second before these incredible words came from his mouth: “He is fat.”
His answer was so honest and pure that no one could be angry at him. There was no viciousness in his statement, as it was only an observation and a fact. I looked at the monk and we all burst out into a loud laughter. The moment was so precious. I felt so happy and relaxed as if I had just popped home for the weekend to see my family. Our interactions with each other were so natural and no one was trying to be something/someone they were not.
When experience speaks more than a thousand words
As the rain stopped, we went for a long walk around the rice fields. We were silent. It was so beautiful to walk with him. Actually, it was one of the best walks I had ever been on. Once again my mind stopped and happiness entered my body. It was as if I had been there before, it was as if I was reliving a moment from my past.
After our walk, he insisted I stay for dinner and afterwards offered to walk me back to my friend's place, as he did not want me walking alone in the dark. I insisted that I would be fine walking alone. Then, just before I left, he disappeared and came back with a present for me. A silk scarf the Buddhist monks give to their friends. The scarf was made out of silk and contained hand stitched pictures. As he put the scarf around my neck he gently said: “It was so beautiful to have you here. I wish you could stay longer. I am sorry we only got to see each other for a short period of time.”
Love is simple and always giving
I was looking at him, and those words were the last thing I ever expected to hear from a monk. I was constantly aware that I was taking up too much of his time but his humbleness was bringing me to tears. I could not believe how simplistic and compassionate this person in front of me was.
I wished one day I could be like this man. So simple, yet so giving. He was spreading so much happiness and love to his surroundings and all its people. It was such an honour to be in his presence. Just by being close to him and just by watching his actions, I learnt more than a thousand words could say. I learnt what it meant to be humble and how to surrender!