Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Wise Man and a Student

"Wise teacher", the pupil asked. "Why is it that when I am more closely aligned with the Way that I am more plagued by troubles and find it harder to follow what you teach?"
"Walk with me," he replied.

As night approached, they came to a clearing with a small fire surrounded a small handful of travellers as they paused on their way. They stood in silence, facing the flames, until the teacher finally spoke.

"Do you see your shadow?"
"No, teacher; I do not."
"Because it is behind me."
"Turn to look at it. Is it very clearly defined?"
"Not as defined as a man face to face, but I can distinguish it as my own."
"Is the shadow dark?"
"Dark enough that I can see it clearly, Sensei."

The wise man stepped closer to the flames, watching the sticks crumble, spitting sparks as they fell. The disciple stood beside him.
"Do you see your shadow?"
"No, teacher; I do not."
"Why is this so?"
"Teacher, you know as well as I! It lies behind me."
"Turn to look at it. What does it tell you?"
"It is sharper than before; more defined. It also appears darker than the previous shadow, in contrast to the light around it."
"So you tell me that as you came nearer to the source of the light, the shadows became more pronounced and darker, more easily distinguished?"
"Can a man very far from the flame trace his own shadow?"
"Not without another source of light, no."

"And where do you stand in relation to the shadow and the flame?"
"I am between them, sir."

"You have spoken wisely. The closer you are to the source of the light, the darker shadows seem. Coming closer to the light makes the darkness appear darker, making the distinction between darkness and light less grey.  Even things that did not appear as shadows in dim light are exposed as such when brought near to the flame's brightness.
"Notice also that as long as you face the light, the shadows are unnoticed. But turning away from the light shows you a dark reflection of yourself, not the true you. Only the Light can expose what you truly are.

"Both the shadow and the Light fall upon you. You choose which to face."

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