Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, worship, psychic control or philosophy — by one, or more, or all of these — and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, dogmas, rituals, books, temples, and forms, are but secondary details. -- Swami Vivikenanda
Monday, August 19, 2013
The Samurai and The Monk
A samurai who was known for his nobility and honesty went to visit a zen monk to ask advice. However, the moment he entered the temple where the master was praying, he felt inferior and concluded that, in spite of having fought for justice and peace all his life, he hadn’t even come near the state of grace achieved by the man before him.
“Why do I feel so inferior?” he asked, as soon as the monk finished his prayers. “I have faced death many times, have defended those who are weak, I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. Nevertheless, upon seeing you meditating, I felt that my life had absolutely no importance whatsoever.”
“Wait. Once I have attended to all those who come to see me today, I shall answer you.”
The samurai spent the whole day sitting in the temple gardens, watching the people go in and out in search of advice. He saw how the monk received them all with the same patience and the same illuminated smile on his face. But his enthusiasm soon began to wane, since he had been born to act, and not to wait.
At nightfall, when everyone had gone, he demanded, “Now can you teach me?”
The master invited him in and led him to his room. The full moon shone in the sky, and the atmosphere was one of profound tranquility.
“Do you see the moon, how beautiful it is? It will cross the entire firmament, and tomorrow the sun will shine once again. But sunlight is much brighter, and can show the details of the landscape around us: trees, mountains, clouds. I have contemplated the two for years, and have never heard the moon say: why do I not shine like the sun? Is it because I am inferior?”
“Of course not,” answered the samurai. “The moon and the sun are different things, each has its own beauty. You cannot compare the two.”
“So you know the answer. We are two different people, each fighting in his own way for that which he believes, and making it possible to make the world a better place; the rest are mere appearances.”
I grew up in a culture and an upbringing that thrives on comparing one person’s success against another, and where worth is tied to accomplishments and material possessions. This story describes some of the sentiments that many feel about themselves when they compare their own vocation and accomplishment against others.
The idea of ‘inferiority’ and ‘superiority’ is the voice of the ego. The ego is constantly seeking to make itself feel significant, either through accumulation of accolades or possessions or through association with those who do. When we are overcome by the voice of the ego, we fail to see the contribution each of us bring with our own skills, ability, talents and experience. So, if you feel a sense of inferiority or superiority over others, remind yourself that you are seeing the world through the filter of the ego, not the spirit. The spirit knows that no one person is more important than another. Each of us are here to experience a unique life experience, so we each have our own paths and destiny. No two paths are exactly the same. Ultimately, we are all created from the same source, we only appear in different forms, that’s all.