By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times
A holy man gathered his friends. “I am old,” he said.
“And wise,” answered one of his friends. “We have always seen you pray through all these years. What do you talk about with God?”
“In the beginning I had the enthusiasm of youth. I used to ask God to give me strength to change humanity. Slowly, I realized this was impossible, so I began to ask God for strength to change who was around me.”
“Now I am already old and my prayer is very simple. I ask God what I should have asked for all along.”
“What do you ask for?” insisted his friend.
“I ask for strength so that I can change myself.”
Nothing stays behind
A novice was in the kitchen washing lettuce for lunch, when an old monk, known for his extreme austerity and to whom the novice pledged obedience, approached him.
“Can you tell me what the monastery’s superior said in the sermon today?”
“I can’t remember. But I liked it very much.”
“You, of all people, with such great desire to serve God, are unable of paying attention to the words of those who know the path better? That is why today’s generations are corrupted. They no longer respect what the elders have to teach.
“Watch what I am doing. I am washing lettuce leaves. Water cleans its impurities. They do not stick to them and are eliminated through the sink’s pipe. Just like purifying words, which are capable of washing my soul, but do not always stay in my memory.
“I will not keep remembering everything I am told just to prove I am cultured and superior to the others. All that makes me lighter, such as music and the words of God, ends up being kept in a secret retreat in my heart. There it stays forever, coming to surface only when I need help, joy or solace.”
The window and the mirror
A very wealthy young man went to a Rabbi to consult him about what to do in life. The latter led him over to the window and asked:
“What do you see through the glass?”
“I see men coming and going, and a blind man begging in the street.”
Then the Rabbi showed him a great mirror and again asked the man:
“Look into this mirror and now tell me what you see.”
“I see myself.”
“And now you no longer see others! See how the window and the mirror are both made of the same material, glass; but because there is a thin layer of silver on the glass, you see nothing but your own figure. You must compare yourself to these two types of glass. When poor, you saw others and had compassion for them. Covered in silver – wealthy – all you see is yourself. You shall only be worth something when you have the courage to tear off the silver coating over your eyes, so that you can see and love others once again.”
© Translated by James Mulholland