Challenging the Teacher

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

Is the bird alive?

The young man was at the end of his training; soon he would go on to be a teacher. Like all good pupils, he needed to challenge his teacher and to develop his own way of thinking. He caught a bird, placed it in one hand and went to see his teacher.

“Teacher, is this bird alive or dead?”

His plan was the following: if his teacher said “dead,” he would open his hand and the bird would fly away. If the answer was “alive,” he would crush the bird between his fingers; that way the teacher would be wrong whichever answer he gave.

“Teacher, is the bird alive or dead?” he asked again.

“My dear student, that depends on you,” was the teacher’s reply.

The unwanted apprentice

“We have no doors in our monastery,” Shanti said to the visitor, who had come in search of knowledge.

“And what about troublesome people who come to disturb your peace?”

“We ignore them, and they go away,” said Shanti.

“I am a learned man who has come in search of knowledge,” insisted the foreigner. “But what do you do about stupid people? Do you just ignore them as well until they go away? Does that work?”

Shanti did not reply. The visitor repeated his question a few times, but seeing that he got no response, he decided to go and find a teacher who was more focused on what he was doing.

“You see how well it works?” said Shanti to himself, smiling.

The yogi and the wise fool

Nasrudin, the wise fool of Sufi tradition, passes in front of a cave, sees a yogi in deep meditation, and asks him what he is seeking.
– I am contemplating the animals, and I learn many lessons from them which can transform a man’s life – says the yogi.
– Teach me what you know. And I will teach you what I have learned, because a fish has already saved my life – answers Nasrudin.
The yogi is surprised: only a saint can have his life saved by a fish. He decides to teach everything he knows.

When he finishes, Nasrudin says:
– Now that I have taught you everything, I would be proud to know how a fish saved your life.
– It is simple. I was almost dying of hunger when I caught it, and thanks to it I was able to survive three days.

Enlightenment in seven days

Buddha told his disciples: whoever makes an effort can attain enlightenment in seven days. If he can’t manage it, certainly he will attain it in seven months, or in seven years. The young man decided that he would attain it in one week, and he wanted to know what he should do: “Concentration” was the reply.

The young man began to practice, but in 10 minutes he was already distracted. Little by little, he began paying attention to everything that distracted him, and thought that he was not wasting time, but was getting used to himself.

One fine day he decided it was not necessary to arrive at his goal so fast, because the path was teaching him many things.

It was at that moment that he became an Enlightened one.

© Translated by James Mulholland

Filed under: Paulo Coelho

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