The zen monk and the emperor

June 29, 2009 at 10:02 am | Posted in The Miracles | Leave a comment

Here’s a little story that i was inspired to write…

Snow was gently falling on the ground. The zen monk stood by the pond, gazing at the crystalline blue water. He was dressed only in monk’s robes, yet he was used to the cold. There was a gentle smile on his face. He was contented. No reason, just because.

He spent his days helping others, giving them medicine and healings. In return, they brought him food and other life’s necessities. He lived simply, as zen monks usually do, and in spite of his failing health, he was never seen without the gentle smile on his face.

One day he was sent for by the emperor. Standing before the emperor in the grand hall of the palace, his gray robes were in stark contrast to the brilliant magnificence of the lavish furnishing, and the golden dragon robes worn by the emperor.

“Please come to the palace to stay” The emperor begged.

“This is not my life.” was his simple reply.

Upon hearing the zen monk’s words, the emperor’s round face scrunched up into rage. “You have always been foolish!”

For a few minutes, there was silence. The emperor kept staring angrily at the zen monk, who only looked back with the same gentle smile.

Finally, the emperor relaxed, and he sighed. “Then you may leave.” He watched the monk walking out of the palace, his movements slow and graceful. In no time, he was gone. Yet, for a few moments, the emperor thought he could still feel the monk’s gentle and kind presence around him, a balm for his spirits.

Days later, the zen monk collapsed as a result of long-accumulated ill health. On his death bed, he was surrounded by many villagers who have received his help in the past. Most of them were weeping. Yet, even as his body was on the brink of death, his eyes remained serene, and the gentle smile had never left his face. Then the crowd parted way for an important person who came to see the monk – the emperor.

“Brother!” Cried the emperor, eyes brimming with tears.

The monk only looked at him with compassion, as his mind wandered to a memory of himself as a little boy. Outside the gates of the palace, he gave his finely embroidered shoes to a poor village boy of his age. The look of happiness on the village boy’s face brought him great joy, and that was when he decided to leave his royal home, so that he may help others outside the palace.

Returning to the present, he took a last look at the emperor and villagers around him, and passed away with a smile on his face.

He felt himself leaving the body, and then he was standing at the corner of the room, looking at his body and the people who were weeping with great sadness. Beside him was a shadowy white figure.

“This was an interesting life, wasn’t it?” The shadowy white figure said to him.

The monk gave his usual response – a gentle smile.

Then he was instructed by an unseen voice to meet the soul of the emperor. Suddenly he found himself standing by the same pond with the emperor beside him. The emperor looked him with great love and sadness. “You have always been a fool.” He said. “But you have also done so much more than I, as an emperor, ever could.”

The monk smiled, and both turned to watch a budding green leaf falling into the pond, creating ripples that spreaded through the crystalline blue water.

Then the monk heard the same unseen voice to meet all the people that he had helped in that lifetime. In an instant, he found himself facing a huge field of people, too many to count. They were all very happy to see him. An old man who represented the people stepped out. His wrinkled face, creased by years of ups and downs, wore an expression of gratitude, as he spoke humbly to the zen monk.  

“If it was not for you, I would have left my family a long time ago. Because of you, i stayed on, and now i have many grandchildren. Thank you!” Pausing for a few moments, the old man’s eyes then filled with tears of regret. “If we had known you were so sick, we wouldn’t have let you continue helping us the way you did, all the way till you collapsed.”

The zen monk only smiled back at the old man, deeply touched by the old man’s words. He was so happy in giving service, that he had no idea how much he had touched others, and for a few moments, his heart was washed over by love and gratitude. All the people felt it deeply, and they gently cried with love.

Back in the zen monk’s room, the emperor and villagers were still grieving at his bedside, when out of nowhere, pale pink flower petals began to fall. People gazed around them in shock, as the petals drifted down onto their faces and over the zen monk’s body. Slowly, the shock gave way to child-like joy.

They smiled.

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