By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times
Christianity: The chess game
A young man said to the abbot from the monastery:
“I’d actually like to be a monk, but I haven’t learned anything in life. All my father taught me was to play chess, which does not lead to enlightenment. Apart from that, I learned that all games are a sin.”
“They may be a sin but they can also be a diversion, and who knows, this monastery needs a little of both,” was the reply.
The abbot asked for a chess board, sent for a monk and told him to play the young man.
But before the game began, he added:
“Although we need diversion, we cannot allow everyone to play chess the whole time. So, we only have the best players here; if our monk loses, he will leave the monastery and his place will be yours.”
The abbot was serious. The young man knew he was playing for his life, and broke into a cold sweat; the chess board became the center of the world.
The monk began badly. The young man attacked, but then saw the saintly look on the other man’s face; at that moment, he began playing badly on purpose. After all, he would rather lose; a monk is far more useful to the world.
Suddenly, the abbot threw the chess board to the floor.
“You have learned far more than was taught you,” he said. “You concentrated yourself enough to win, were capable of fighting for that which you desire. Then, you had compassion, and were willing to make a sacrifice in the name of a noble cause. Welcome to the monastery, because you know how to balance discipline with compassion.”
Judaism: Forgiving in the same spirit
The Rabbi Nahum of Chernobyl was always being insulted by a shopkeeper. One day, the latter’s business began to go badly.
“It must be the Rabbi, who is asking for God’s revenge,” he thought. He went to ask Nahum’s forgiveness.
“I forgive you in the same spirit you ask for forgiveness,” replied the Rabbi.
But the man’s losses just kept increasing, until he was reduced to misery. Nahum’s horrified disciples went to ask him what had happened.
“I forgave him, but he continued to hate me deep down in his heart,” said the Rabbi. “Therefore, his hatred contaminated everything he did, and God’s punishment became more and more severe.”
Islamism: where God is
In a small village in Morocco, an imam was contemplating the only well in the whole region. Another Moslem came up to him:
“What’s in there?”
“God is hidden in there.”
“God hiding in this well? That’s a sin! What you are seeing must be a statue left by some infidels!”
The imam asked him to come closer and look over the edge. Reflected in the water, he could see his own face.
“But that’s me!”
“That’s right. Now you know where God lies hidden.”
© Translated by James Mulholland