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Sweetened Condensed Milk

Sweetened Condensed Milk

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Published by RoseAvePress
Sweetened Condensed Milk is a modern retelling of ancient wisdom in old stories. From African tales about spirit and reincarnation, to Zen stories about acceptance, Sufi stories about Beauty, and Hindu folktales about monkeys who save the world through discovering their own innate divinity, this book seeks to inspire through the vehicle of Myth. It reflects the particular insight of a former life-long monk who has grown pragmatic and realistic in his approach to grief and sustained joy. Myth and metaphor have a way of revealing the inexplicable, hopefully free of dogma… and whatever truths you may uncover are yours and not the storytellers.


Sweetened Condensed Milk is a modern retelling of ancient wisdom in old stories. From African tales about spirit and reincarnation, to Zen stories about acceptance, Sufi stories about Beauty, and Hindu folktales about monkeys who save the world through discovering their own innate divinity, this book seeks to inspire through the vehicle of Myth. It reflects the particular insight of a former life-long monk who has grown pragmatic and realistic in his approach to grief and sustained joy. Myth and metaphor have a way of revealing the inexplicable, hopefully free of dogma… and whatever truths you may uncover are yours and not the storytellers.


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Published by: RoseAvePress on Jun 13, 2009
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Sections

  • Author’s Note
  • Introduction
  • The Bumblebee
  • Sweetness Gets Sweeter
  • Jumping Fish
  • A Japanese Story about Living from your Heart
  • An Indian Story about Desire
  • Stonecutter
  • A Story about being Fearless
  • Old Fish
  • When Rumi Met Shams
  • A Story from Northern India
  • Four Signs
  • Tangerine Sutra
  • Marpa
  • Wisdom that comes with Age
  • Don’t Change the World…
  • On a Lonely Street Corner
  • Rough Medicine
  • Delhi
  • The First Two
  • An African Story
  • Zumbach
  • The Blind King
  • Amnesia
  • Father has Returned
  • Me Jump Up White Fellow
  • Acceptance
  • The Meeting Place
  • Happiness comes from the Inside and Outside
  • The Little Raja
  • Story from Bhutan
  • Do not Sink into Sadness
  • Beyond Words
  • The Poet Rumi
  • Do you want me to die?
  • A Perfect One
  • With your Eyes so much of Heaven can be Seen
  • A Story about Beauty
  • The Love of One Human
  • The Bird in the Field
  • Flower Sutra
  • How He became a Saint
  • Falling in Love…
  • An Indian Story about Presence
  • Cross of Christ
  • How many signs do you need?
  • What We Do
  • Real Warmth
  • Prayers
  • When you’re in Love Everything is Your Friend
  • Thirty Day Fight
  • A Cloud Spirit
  • From his own Heart
  • The Last Forty Days
  • The Touchstone
  • Both Worlds
  • Not Yet
  • The Story of Hanuman
  • After Note
  • Appendix

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Sweetened Condensed Milk Copyright © 2009 Shyam Dodge ALL RIGHTS RESERVED No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. Book and Cover Design by Scott L. Hartwig Rose Ave Press LLC 309 ½ Rose Ave Venice, CA 90291

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Contents
Author’s Note. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 The Bumblebee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Sweetness Gets Sweeter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Jumping Fish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 A Japanese Story about Living from your Heart . . . . 15 An Indian Story about Desire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Stonecutter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 A Story about being Fearless . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Old Fish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 When Rumi Met Shams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 A Story from Northern India . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Four Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Tangerine Sutra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Marpa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Wisdom that comes with Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Don’t Change the World… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 On a Lonely Street Corner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Rough Medicine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Delhi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 The First Two. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 An African Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Zumbach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 The Blind King . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Amnesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Father has Returned . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Me Jump Up White Fellow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 3

Acceptance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 The Meeting Place . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Happiness comes from the Inside and Outside . . . . 50 The Little Raja . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Story from Bhutan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Do not Sink into Sadness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Beyond Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 The Poet Rumi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Do you want me to die? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 A Perfect One . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 With your Eyes so much of Heaven can be Seen . . . 64 A Story about Beauty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 The Love of One Human . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 The Bird in the Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Flower Sutra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 How He became a Saint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Falling in Love… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 An Indian Story about Presence . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Cross of Christ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 How many signs do you need? . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 What We Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Real Warmth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Prayers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 When you’re in Love Everything is Your Friend . . . . 83 Thirty Day Fight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 A Cloud Spirit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 From his own Heart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 The Last Forty Days . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 The Touchstone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Both Worlds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Not Yet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 The Story of Hanuman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 After Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 4

Author’s Note
Sweetened Condensed Milk is a modern retelling of ancient wisdom in old stories. From African tales about spirit and reincarnation, to Zen stories about acceptance, Sufi stories about Beauty, and Hindu folktales about monkeys who save the world through discovering their own innate divinity, this book seeks to inspire through the vehicle of Myth. I began collecting these parables and myths after taking Monastic vows at age five in a Hindu Ashram owned by my parents, who passed down ancient wisdom to their children, in the backyard beneath a large plum tree, through storytelling and dramatic re-enactments of Indian folktales. Refining my own observations after twenty years of teaching in inter-religious communities worldwide I have come to appreciate the power stories have for growth and transformation, by condensing and sweetening age-old observations on the meaning of life through drama and humor. Sweetened Condensed Milk reflects the particular insight of a former life-long monk who has grown pragmatic and realistic in his approach to grief and sustained joy. Myth and metaphor have a way of revealing the inexplicable, 5

hopefully free of dogma… and whatever truths you may uncover are yours and not the storytellers.

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Introduction
A Sutra is a condensation and compression of deep spiritual insight, a wisdom written in concise and direct language. A Book of Sutras, contain a few carefully chosen words to communicate a profound and intricate truth. It’s sweetened condensed milk. The Milk of words have been refined and condensed into a sweet and rich medicine for the burning heart. It is a stirring of honey into cream. This is a rich and potent mixture. I see this book as a cup of condensed milk. Each chapter or sutra is a sip from this thick potion. I suggest you savor each mouthful and allow it to penetrate your heart and mind. It is a kind of nourishment and its fullness will satiate the wanting creature within your chest. A book of sutras is meant to be read slowly, for each word is like the hatching of an egg. Something breaks open, the eyes are given more light from within, and you are born into a new world full of feeling and vision.

This book contains sacred teaching stories, poems and observations on the meaning of life. These sutras are offered here as a vehicle towards opening the heart. 7

The Bee drinks nectar from many flowers

The bee condenses this sweetness in the hive. The golden honey from the hive is richer than any flower.

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Sweetened Condensed Milk VOLUME I *** Shyam Dodge *** Sacred Stories from many Cultures 9 .

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his mane like curling tendrils of fire. It simply waits in the grass and whatever animal passes by becomes the python’s dinner. The wild creature burned the boy’s fears and doubts with the warmth of his heavy breath. As a young man he wanted to dip his heart deeply into the waters of prayer once more. “From the python I learned that whatever you need will come to you. he saw God with the face of a lion. Just such a Raja has housed and fed me until now. And I have been carried on large palanquins by the servants of kings and queens. golden and blazing with love. One large and 11 . I soon became friends with the bumblebee and the python.The Bumblebee A young king went looking for wise ones. Many years before. They were my teachers. as a small boy. subsisting on the stray cricket or grub… whatever passed my way.” The fat sage said. with the brightness in his fierce eyes. After many days of travel he came upon a large naked fat man lying in the grass. There is no need for striving in life. The king asked this large sage why he was so fat and lying lazily in the grass instead of meditating? “I sat in stillness many years ago. I have been nothing but skin and bones. A python does not hunt or search for food.

I had given all I could to the wise king.” the sage paused for a moment.rich feast was given to me after another. from the feast of a king to the splendor of the grass in a land with nothing but sunlight and birds. This allows me to be carried by the wind to so many flowers rich with nectar. as he stretched his massive frame in the sun. without attachment. “From the bumblebee I learned to draw nectar from many sources. And so I draw wisdom from many sources. I am filled with the honey of so many teachings. But I left knowing it was time to move on.” 12 .

Every human that drinks from the well of wisdom increases the sweetness and potency of the water. 13 . Seekers of the truth make truth sweeter. it’s tasting. A mango bitten by a parrot is sweeter than it was before. Everyone that loves makes love sweeter. ripens the sugar of the fruit. they say parrots make fruit sweeter. The world gets sweeter with every human life.Sweetness Gets Sweeter In India. Something about it’s mouth. increases the amount of love in the world and deepens the experience of God for everyone.

Jumping Fish The Fish who leap from water Into the air Are Learning about Water 14 .

dragging your head behind you.A Japanese Story about Living from your Heart A Zen master asked some pilgrims on the road if the world was inside the mind or outside.” the teacher said smiling. The travelers said yes. your mind is filled with rocks and you’ve been walking backwards. They replied. “The mystics teach that everything is subjective. “Listen.” 15 . Learn to move from your heart. “Your head must be heavy carrying so many heavy stones.” So the teacher asked if the big rock they were sitting on was only in their minds. with your butt in the air.

When he pulled the vessels upstream his feet would have a soft path to tread. The boat-puller would spend his days dreaming. He and another man stood on opposite sides of the water and dragged small vessels upstream. 16 . Rocks and thorns pierced his skin and bruised his bones. Every night his wife would clean and bandage his feet with strips of old cloth. He dreamed that one day he would be the richest man in the world.An Indian Story about Desire There once was a poor man who tugged a boat by rope alongside the river everyday. With his great wealth he would cover the muddy banks of the river with silk and soft cushions. He would no longer come home with bloody toes. His feet were always bruised and cut from walking the muddy banks barefoot.

Stonecutter
A stonecutter was laboring in the hot sun. His whole body ached. The man cried aloud, “I wish I were wealthy and could lie in a silk bed all day!” An angel said, “You are what you wish.” The man found himself lying comfortably in silk pillows. Soon a king passed by with many attendants, a large golden umbrella was held above the king’s head. The man, seeing this, felt disgust for his bed. He said aloud, “I wish I were a king.” The angel said, “You are what you wish.” The man was a king with a golden umbrella. No matter where he went the sun baked down upon his head. The umbrella was useless. The man said, “I wish I were the Sun and therefore ruler of all.” The angel said, “You are what you wish.” The man was the sun. The sun burned the grass in the fields, burned the heads of all earthly rulers. Then one day a cloud came between the earth and the sun. The sun became depressed, he no longer ruled the earth. The sun said, “I wish I were a cloud.” The angel said, “You are what you wish.” 17

The sun became a cloud. The cloud gave shade to the grassy fields. The cloud rained upon the earth and made things grow. Trees and huts were torn down and washed away by its heavy downpours. Mountains became smaller after decades of rain. One day the cloud poured gallons of water upon a stone. No matter what the cloud could not destroy the stone. The cloud said, “I wish I were a stone.” The angel said, “You are what you wish.” The cloud became a stone. For many centuries the stone did not move and was glad. Then one day a stonecutter came with his pickaxe. He chipped away at the rock. The man was stronger than the stone. The stone said, “I wish I were a man, a stonecutter.” The angel whispered to the stone, “You are what you wish.”

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” 19 . The thief left with the clothes and a feeling of weird failure. The sage sat naked on the mountain gazing at the night sky thinking to himself. Seeing that the criminal was empty-handed he demanded that the intruder accept his clothes. “I wish I could have given him this moon.A Story about being Fearless Once a thief came to the hut of a sage in the forest but found nothing. The shack was empty with wind whistling through the cracks in the bamboo. The sage returning from the river caught the thief.

“What’s Water?” 20 .Old Fish Two young fish are swimming along and an older fish coasts past them and says. “Hey boys! How’s the Water?” The two young fish keep swimming and a little while later one of them says.

Francis of Assisi with the fire of divine love. a man rumored to have burned St. A wild man entered the park. This was Shams. 21 . “Now is the time to live what you’ve been reading and talking about your whole life.” the wild one said. with intense love burning behind his enormous and complicated eyes. He walked over to Rumi and kicked the young theologian’s books into the fountain pool.When Rumi Met Shams Rumi was a young religionist. One day he was giving a discourse on the lip of a beautiful fountain. This was the beginning of Rumi becoming alive. He looked like John the Baptist.

as she hid behind a bush. Most Beautiful…Most Beautiful…Most Beautiful… Every night God came here to listen to the sound of pure longing. One night she decided to follow him. Each strand of the saint’s hair whispered to God. The saint’s hair hung over the side of the bed. Inside the house a saint was asleep.lifted it into the air and let it fall. As he left their bed and walked out into the moonlight she crept behind him. She felt his absence and made a small river of tears in their bed. She made sure not to be seen. Soon they reached a house and God turned to her.A Story from Northern India Every night for three weeks God left his home just as his wife fell asleep. 22 . God bent down and grabbed a tress . For many miles they traveled through fields of mustard and small trees holding the cold stars with their slender branches. and motioned for her to follow him.

” Many years passed and the child grew to become a man.” And the prophet wept. a soothsayer. He asked the prophet what would turn his son away from the business of ruling to the path of saints. Maybe the seer was some kind of mountain wildman. animal bone thrower or simply someone whose eyes burned through reality. The boy’s father was a king. He would not live to see the day when the child would grow to wake up. a contained universe free of suffering. One day in late summer the young man went into his father’s city. This sage was well past autumn and into deep winter. His father kept these realities as a profound secret from him. “This one will turn the great wheel of suffering. He never grieved or understood the seasons of life. A man with skin 23 . He never knew a day of sickness. The boy had never left the walls of his father’s palace. The old man said. These four signs will change his heart.Four Signs A prophet spoke on the day of the boy’s birth. A procession of sadness with men carrying a wooden stretcher led down to the river. “Your son will see four things. The prophet said. Poverty was unknown to the young man. This one will bring awakening to a world of sleepwalkers and sleepers holding hands against the light.

never get old. An old street sweeper walked past with his wife. The young man said. “I have left behind everything to find the meaning of life. He begged his son not to leave. the women and children crying.” The young prince went home and asked his father for permission to leave the palace and wander the world in search of the meaning of life. A pyre was made. the fire had already burned to hollow remains.as white as the moon and silent eyes was propped upon the woven twigs. Something in the solemn ceremony. a day full of vivid unanswered questions. The skin on the old woman’s face was as cragged and rough as the body of a pine tree. As the prince stumbled away a man grabbed his leg. never die and that my wealth 24 . holding onto his arm. The man’s cloth was torn and faded with age. Sores covered the beggars face and a soft dry mumble came from his lips. “If you can promise me that I will never get sick. The king’s heart broke. All that was left was a shell like a piece of charred wood. The next day the prince went back into the city. On a dusty road behind some mud huts a man with a wooden bowl approached him. The man was already gone. The man said. The prince asked him why he wandered the streets like this. turned his heart to a deeper fear. Everywhere I turn I see the end of what is beginning. The young prince felt like saving this sleeping figure. Clarified butter was poured around the silent man and a torch was thrown to the dry wood. The young prince ran home confused. her spine hunched. He owned nothing but the bowl and his robe.

A young girl found him. The prince traded his fine silks for the simple robe and disappeared into the forest. fed him and brought his emaciated body back to life. As the sun broke over the smooth water of the river the prince dismounted his horse. He had three younger siblings who he cared for and supported all by himself. He gave the sword and horse to his servant. “Go home and give them this message. He sat beneath a tree and meditated in the small forest outside of her village as his strength grew back.’” A hunter emerged from the tall grasses. It is wrong to stop a man escaping from a burning house. I will come back for them. A buffalo boy befriended the homeless prince. some way out of death. dressed as a monk to fool the animals. ‘I will find the Truth or die trying. On the muddy bank he drew his sword and cut off all of his black hair. *************************** Many years later the prince fainted from long days of fasting in the mountains.will never be threatened then I will stay. The prince said.” That night the prince watched his wife and son sleep. The boy grazed and washed a rich man’s herd of buffalo and was paid in buffalo milk and rice. This boy had known grief for a long time. His mother and father had both died before he was eight years old. If I do discover something about this life. Just before dawn he saddled his horse and made his most faithful servant follow him to the Anoma River. 25 .

He was a buffalo herder and was beaten by his rich master.The prince and the buffalo boy spent long days by the river. The next day the buffalo boy came to visit his friend. I left my family and home to search after a solution to death and suffering. After forty days and forty nights of meditation underneath the pipalya tree. Their conversations were about the meaning of life. Everything ends that begins. the warmth of their friendship. Something had cracked open and more light was coming through. I met a young orphaned boy who cared for his three siblings. Sometimes the prince would watch this child scrub the buffalo in the river. It was as if a great distance and many years had held them apart. That little buffalo boy worked to keep his family 26 . The boy never complained and was never cruel to the beasts. When the prince returned to his family he told them a story. At times the boy carried bruises from the rough treatment his master gave him. whose eyes burned so clearly all those years ago had been waiting for. What I have come back with is love. and through the friendship of the buffalo boy. This simple moment. The prince noticed a kind of rare joy in the child. the prince saw through into the meaning of existence. The prince and the buffalo boy embraced each other. is what the prophet. He simply did what was necessary to keep his family alive. “In my travels. Upon seeing the prince’s smiling face the boy broke into tears. Something rich and deep grew between them. The hot sun would make steam rise from their massive bodies.

” 27 . he simply loved and he was happy. he had no care for philosophy or enlightenment. In the face of imminent death and suffering we must choose to love. I see now that being present for the life we are given is all that we can do.alive. He was the key to my awakening.

Tangerine Sutra
Buddha sat in the shade of a great tree. The sun was high and golden, pushing light through the green leaves of the banyan. The buffalo boy and his siblings sat with a humble offering of tangerines in a woven basket. Buddha pealed a tangerine and passed a thick juicy petal to each child. He asked them to close their eyes and breathe for a few moments. Then feel the weight of the fruit in their hands. Smell the sweet citrus syrup of the tangerine. Gaze at its orange and white texture in the light. And then place the pungent fruit in their mouths and allow the flavors and textures of the tangerine to consume their awareness. This was his first teaching on the Dharma.

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Marpa
A man hears of a great master in the mountains. He goes to the teacher and becomes his disciple. The man says, “What shall I do?” The Guru says, “Just chant my name. Anytime you are in need, remember me.” The man bows, grasps the guru’s feet, and leaves. A few days later the man is seen walking on the surface of a deep cold lake in the high mountains. Some longtime disciples of the guru witness the man performing this miracle. They run back to the master and say, “You underestimated a man the other day. You initiated him and now he walks on water!” The guru goes to the lake. The man is dancing and running freely upon the shining mirror of the water. When the man returns to the shore a crowd is waiting for him. The guru asks, “How have you done this?” The man says, “Why, don’t you know? I have simply said your name! I remembered you in my heart before stepping onto the water. Your name is capable of anything.” The master says, “Well then… Would you mind climbing to the top of that cliff and jumping off?” “Your wish is my command, O’ great one.” The man says as he climbs to the top of the mountain. No one in the 29

crowd expects to ever see him again. Maybe a few stray pieces of his shattered body can be collected for his funeral pyre. The man leaps off the cliff and lands half a mile away from the lake. The master and his band of disciples find the mysterious man sitting cross-legged and smiling underneath a tree. The guru says, “You used my name again?” The man replies, “Yes! By your name I have done this.” The guru decides to test his own miraculous power. They go back to the lake. The master whispers his own name and then steps off onto the water. Immediately he sinks. Somehow his disciples manage to save him. The guru is gasping on the sandy shore struggling to breath. The man says, “What happened master?” The guru says, “I am so sorry. I am not a master. I am a pretender.” The man says, “If you are a pretender then how did your name work?” The master says, “My name did not work. It was your faith. It does not matter whom you have faith in – it is the trust, the love, and the totality of it. I don’t even trust myself. I am always afraid of being cheated because I cheat others. How can I trust? You are an innocent man, you trusted me. It is because of your faith alone that these miracles have happened. It is because of the depth of your love.”

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” The son builds a coffin and carries it up to the porch. “That old man sits and does nothing all day while I toil in the dirt! He’s just taking up space.Wisdom that comes with Age An old man sits on the porch watching his son work in the fields. A soft knock comes from within the coffin. He thinks to himself. He makes his father get into the wooden case and wheels him to the edge of a cliff. why don’t you just throw me off the cliff and spare the coffin? Your children will need it someday.” 31 . “Son. The son opens the lid and the old man says. One day the son is fed up.

The court jester laughed. “Do you think me foolish?” The jester said.Don’t Change the World… A king was tired of walking on the hard ground full of sharp pebbles and thorny grasses. “Cut the animal hide and tie it to your feet.” 32 . “Yes my lord. The king said. He ordered that the whole kingdom be covered in animal hide.” “Then what would you have me do?” The jester smiled and said.

He became a monk and lived for sixteen years in a monastery. burning underneath the skin of the world. On a street corner in New York he was overwhelmed with a profound ecstasy. He had abandoned everyone to heal his heart. One day he left. Devotion had not healed the crack in his heart. He was in love with each and every person with all of his heart. There was this light. After many years he went back into the world and everyone healed him.On a Lonely Street Corner A man lost his family in the Great War. 33 . Bitterness and loss had broken his friendship with the creator. suddenly fed up with his community of fellow seekers. hundreds passing him by on the sidewalk.

Rough Medicine Once a great saint was on his way to Mecca. The sleeper dry heaved until bile came from his lips and then finally the serpent writhed and fell from his throat. Dirt and dung poured from the sleeper’s mouth. He grabbed a stick and began to beat the sleeper. The saint tried to catch the snake’s tail but was too late. Along the way he saw a man sleeping. 34 . A serpent slid into the man’s mouth. The saint continued to beat the man and then forced him to eat dirt and donkey dung. The man woke up and wailed. The sleeper pleaded for mercy and another pilgrim walking by interfered. The pilgrim held the saint as the man coughed.

“How far is it to Delhi?” The old man says. A car stops in front of him and the driver says. you will have to travel the whole earth to get there.” 35 . very far.Delhi An old man. sits in the warm sunshine. “If you continue the direction you are going it is very. If you turn around it will take only a few minutes. Delhi is three miles behind you. a few miles outside Delhi.

” The bird then flies to a faraway branch on an olive tree. “By the way within my belly is a ruby the size of a chicken egg.The First Two A man catches a small bird in a trap.” The man agrees and releases the bird from his cage. “First never believe an absurdity. “Did I not just say.” The man begins to weep and yell like a mother who has buried her child. Let it go. It was meant to be your great fortune and your children’s inheritance. do not grieve for what is past? And never believe an absurdity? My entire body is barely the size of an egg! How could something so large fit in my belly?” 36 . “You have eaten so many large beasts and still you are not satisfied! The little meat on my bird bones won’t satiate your endless hunger either. If you let me go I will tell you three priceless truths. The little bird says. do not grieve for what is past.” The little bird then hops to an even higher branch. “Second. The bird hops to the man’s head and says. The bird wails. It is already gone. But you let me go and lost it.

“So.The man wipes his cheeks. “Oh like you did so well with the first two?” 37 . sniffs his nose. and says. what was the third truth?” The bird replies.

Underneath is a brighter world… This world is a skin 38 .

An African Story
There once was a man who owned ten cows. He loved his cows. The man bathed and fed them tenderly. One morning they produced less milk than normal. Each day for a week they gave less milk. So the man stayed up late one night to see what was happening. As he looked up at the sky, a star began to descend. It came before him as a glowing ball. A beautiful woman could be seen behind the light. Once her feet touched the earth the brilliance faded away. The man asked if she was the one who was taking milk from his cows. “Yes, my sisters and I love your milk,” the woman said. The man got up his nerve and asked, “Will you marry me? I will never beat you and you won’t have to tend to the cows all the time. I’ll tend to them some of the time as well. Will you?” “Yes,” she replied, “But under one condition. I have this basket. You must promise to never look inside the basket. If you do I will leave immediately.” The man agreed to the terms. They lived happily together for about a year. One day while the woman was herding the cows the man sat in his hut. The basket was in a corner behind the door. He said to himself, “She is my wife and so what’s hers is mine. It’s in my house and so technically this makes it mine as well.” 39

The man opened the basket and then began to laugh. “There’s nothing in the basket! There’s absolutely nothing in the basket! Nothing! There is nothing in the basket! There’s nothing! There is absolutely nothing in the basket! Nothing!” The man kept saying these words and laughing. He was so loud that his wife heard him howling from the fields. When she returned to the hut she said, “So you opened the basket?” The man began to laugh again, “Yes! I did! And there is nothing in the basket! There is absolutely nothing in the basket! Nothing! There is nothing in the basket!” She said, “I have to leave now. It’s time for me to go back.” He cried and begged her not to leave. “I have to go back now. What I brought with me in the basket was spirit. It’s so like human beings to think that spirit is nothing.” And she disappeared.

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“Zumbach. the right sleeve is longer than the left!” “No.Zumbach One day a man decides to purchase his first tailored suit. The man says. No. He goes to Zumbach the tailor for measurements. I’ll fix it!” 41 .” Zumbach says. “See?” Says Zumbach. You’re not holding your head right. “I was right. Your left shoulder is too high!” Zumbach tugs at the man’s left shoulder forcefully until both sleeves are the same length. Three weeks later he comes back. “Look at the collar behind my neck!” The back of the coat is bunched up in the space between the man’s shoulders and the collar is riding at the man’s ears.” The man says. When the man slips the coat on he finds that the right sleeve is three inches longer than the left. Zumbach says. “Its just your posture. Picks a fine cloth and pays half up front. “Zumbach. “Ah! See it’s your posture again.” The man looks in the mirror.

yes he did. “How did you know?” “Because only a tailor as great as Zumbach could ever make a suit to fit your grotesque deformed body!” 42 . The man walks to the bus stop and waits. The man leaves the tailor bent over with his nose an inch from his kneecaps and his left shoulder scrunched and dislocated from the joint.Zumbach pulls and tugs at the man’s head until the back of the coat straightens out. An older gentleman peers inquisitively at him from a park bench and says.” Zumbach says. “Did Zumbach make you that fine suit?” “Why.” The man says. “There that’s better.

“I do not need to heal your eyes for you to see me. with a tenderness that melted everyone to tears. 43 .” God laughed deeply. the queen and royal guard gasped in awe. The jester. The king trembled. God said. “Lord. The blind king prayed silently in his heart. A thrill of august rapture rolled like a tidal wave through the palace.” The blind king with internal eyes saw the Divine One and weeping bowed his head to the ground. the advisors. God came to his court.The Blind King There once was a blind king. heal my eyes so that I may see you.

the sky like a tin pan reflecting dull light. His breath was colorless in the sunshine as the moist heat of his mouth made invisible smoke. his knees by his ears. He came here for alms. He may have even come in search of redemption. Behind the lady the man could see a picture of himself with the woman in a happier time. The clouds above him were thick and gray. This man had spent the morning crouching low to the ground in a squat. 44 . as he counted small round copper coins.Amnesia A man knocked on a blue wooden door. “You came back. his fingernails ruined with bitter thick notches split down to the cuticles. A woman opened the door and began to weep. He came to this door begging alms. He only knew his grievances and his need. for a kind of forgiveness. His hands moved delicately as if he were handling ancient papyrus. The man did not speak.” The man could not recognize the weeping figure bowing at his feet. The woman whispered on the ground like a child.

Father has Returned
On a red autumn morning a child was born to a young man and his wife. A great famine had come through the dry plains two years before. A collection of old men and women, their hands like burnt grass in the sun, their faces as deep and dry as a dead river, along with a few stubborn adolescents were all that remained in this ocean of sand dunes and cracked earth. A dust storm had turned the heavens into a mass of blood, land and sky merging into one palpable color. The new father carried his son out into the brilliant rusty glare of the morning. The boy, so small in the large hands of his father, bathed in the burning light of the desert. The man named the child ‘Father has returned.’ This small boy was the only family the man and wife could claim. Something had finally come back to them. Two years passed and another famine and drought cracked the earth into a deeper red. Mother and father fed ‘Father has returned’ every morsel of food they could gather. The woman wept silently at night. On the third year of the boy’s life he did not wake up. Mother and father buried him on a tender slope overlooking the vast dry plains. The sky was incredibly blue that day.

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The man and woman made love in the middle of a warm night, knowing that everything that leaves returns again to the earth. At dusk nine months later, the sky a deep purple, a second child was born. They named him, ‘Son has returned.’

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The rope tightened. The wind blew softly through the eucalyptus and oak trees. 47 . The little man laughed. The dead man smiled. It was a dry and colorless day. fearless.Me Jump Up White Fellow They took the small aborigine up to the wooden platform. “Very Good! Me come back more powerful! Me jump up white fellow next time!” The bottom dropped.

crosses his arms. He then lies down in the dirt. His student tries to stop him.Acceptance An old man lays sick in bed. looks at the sky and dies. The old man says. After three days of keeping his eyes closed he gets up. I’m dying. “Leave me alone.” The old master walks to the cemetery and digs his own grave. 48 .

He was beaten and kept in a cell no bigger than a closet.The Meeting Place St. John of the Cross was imprisoned for his ecstasy. 49 . In his most lonely and darkest hour he met God. Sometimes your own private hell is the chosen meeting place for you and God.

And I know how deeply you love your God. “Dear one. 50 .” John left that night and escaped to the high mountains. She said.Happiness comes from the Inside and Outside After meeting God in the dark night St. John of the Cross was visited by mother Mary in his cramped and cold cell. Leave now! There is no reason to suffer. But now is the time to escape. I know how much you’ve suffered.

The Little Raja
One day a young boy sat happily on his father’s lap. His stepmother entered the room and yanked him to the floor. She said, “You will never sit on that throne. I am your father’s favorite wife and only my son, my flesh and blood, will be king.” The young queen then placed her own son on the king’s lap. The boy ran in tears to his mother and asked her if what he had heard was true. She looked at him softly, petted his head, and said sadly, “Your stepmother is right. Your father favors her. She is younger than I. You will never be king.” The boy said, “Isn’t there anything I can do?” “Only God can help you now.” “Where do you find God?” the boy said. “The forest…that’s where the sages go to find Him,” The mother said. That night the boy left the palace in secret and entered the forest. He was five-years-old and took his mother’s words far too seriously. In the darkness of the forest he found a man sitting underneath a giant tree with his legs twisted into the shape 51

of a lotus. The man was silent. In the deep shadows the boy suddenly saw the whites of the man’s eyes flicker. He could feel his gaze on him. The boy asked, “Who are you?” “I am a friend.” “Do you know where to find God?” The man smiled, his teeth shining in the perpetual night beneath the tall trees. The boy became the man’s pupil. He learned how to meditate deeply within his heart. For weeks he ate nothing but fruit, then nothing but leaves and roots. Within a few months he was subsisting on river and rainwater. The man left with the promise to return before autumn. The boy continued his fierce endeavor until he lived on nothing but air. His inhale took fourteen days. His exhale another two weeks. The boy chanted a simple prayer the man had taught him, “I surrender to God, who is present everywhere.” His mind began to burn up to heaven. He could see angels in the sky. One day the boy sat meditating within his heart. He saw God within his chest. The boy opened his eyes and God stood before him smiling. The boy fainted. When he woke the mysterious figure was kneeling beside him. The boy bowed with tears in his eyes. He prayed, “I was searching for broken pieces of glass and stumbled upon the greatest Gem.” “What do you want?” The boy replied, “Now that I see you…I want nothing but to be your friend.” 52

God whispered, “You will be king. This desire is what brought you to me and is therefore holy. Whatever desire or circumstance has carried you into the garden of prayer it is worthy of worship. You should never be ashamed of what has brought a diamond into your possession. You will not see me again in this life but when you die I will give you the Pole Star. You will rule forever in the night sky and I will live with you as your friend.”

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the gentle trees. Deep in the mountains he came to his cave. The monk could only make peace and meet these monsters with open arms. There was a cry in his chest for how much he had now come to love this world. his lonely cave. He could only surrender to what was in the moment. collected wood for his lonely fire in the hills. with the warmth of deeply felt love. His skin was pale beneath his robes. He fell to his knees in tears. he had unexpected visitors. the birds in the dewy morning. The monk was filled with panic. There in the dank hole that he slept and meditated in was a roomful of monsters. and the growing softness of his mind – how the earth looked in winter covered with white snow. the clear streams where he bathed. now a saintly monk. this is where he grieved and wept for what he had taken from the world. 54 . He did not know at first if he should run or take his long blade for cutting wood as a weapon to these fierce characters. For twenty years this was his home. This time something was different. All the savage demons that can rage within a human soul were waiting for him. his wood wet as he tied it to his back. the dirt and straw bed. Something in his heart had given up running and fighting a long time ago.Story from Bhutan In the middle of a glorious night full of thunder and rain a famous madman and murderer.

He embraced each frightening reality and in that moment accepted them within himself. As he held each one within his heart they disappeared like smoke from a fire that no longer burned. 55 .

“Why do you grieve your losses? Men curse the fates and the goddess of fortune when times are rough. A ceremony delayed his execution by a year. Then one day his friends turned on him. All turning goes as it will. One day you are shining in silver and the next moment the seasons have changed. 56 . She said. One night Lady Philosophy came to him in a dream. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death by hemlock. The last year of his life he wrote a book on philosophy to soothe the grief stricken. No one curses winter or autumn. you are left bereft and penniless. Its all part of life.Do not Sink into Sadness Brotheus was head of the Senate and had written many books on philosophy. Brotheus was bitter with grief and anger.” Brotheus woke in his cold cell. But fortune is just like the seasons.

Every night for three weeks he did the same thing. The man could not fight anymore. The man began to curse God in anger. He closed his eyes and listened to his heart. The moon was never so beautiful. Every bitter emotion in his heart he took in violent prayer to his creator. the sand never so warm and soft…something beyond words spoke to him.Beyond Words A man lost his wife to another man. He screamed and thrashed on the ground. He was spent. He could not eat. the ocean never so blue and deep. 57 . The man went to the ocean at night and howled at the moon. Anger and sorrow overcame him. He could not work. A profound fatigue overcame him. One night under a large yellow moon the man fell to his knees.

the warmth behind the flesh. His search was made in trembling and grief. Rumi knew he would never be alone. knowing in his heart that he was dead.The Poet Rumi Rumi lost Shams (his teacher and deep friend) one night. no separation. He went looking for him. Because he was still in love there was no death. When you lose someone you love there is a body within your body that you both share. It was a friendship of the inner body. This hidden body never dies. On the streets of Damascus Rumi realized that their love was the friendship. 58 .

He had found a love for the divine that exceeded all human boundaries. riverbanks. A small number of wise men began to seek the saint’s counsel. Hari das whispered the name of his Beloved with tenderness 59 . He lived in Mohammedan India and was considered an ‘untouchable’ by everyone. Hari das was homeless and slept on sandy beaches. passing camels pulling heavy loads and elephants clearing tree limbs. They asked Hari das to stand and then they beat him. His lips grew sweet with the praising. They whipped and kicked and punched the saint. The men found the saint praying underneath the shade of a tree. caves and underneath great banyan trees. The men were ordered to beat Hari das through every village and town in the region to make an example of him. The Mohammedan ruler grew fearful of Hari das’ influence and sent fifty men to capture him. his body vibrant and golden.Do you want me to die? Hari das was a Muslim who fell in love with a Hindu saint. He whispered the name of the Divine One every waking hour. They beat the saint down the dusty road.

fell to the ground and kissed the earth. crying. You just keep saying the name of God. Hari das was beaten through eleven towns and twenty-two gates. “What’s wrong?” The men said. He went down to the riverbank barefoot and begged for God to forgive him for murdering a saint. Hari das collapsed to the dirt road. The beaten man did not cry out of pain or sadness. Some prisoners working on the roadside saw something glorious and heartbreaking. a close one to Allah. taking their clothes off and clawing at their own hair. He took the punishment without any resistance. The prisoners fell in love. Every time he was kicked to the ground he picked himself up softly with reverence for the dust. Hari das heard the weeping and turned around. The sun boiled the air into waves of steam. with love for the earth. 60 . A man covered in golden dust. A messenger on horseback went to the ruler. It is said all of the prisoners that day became Allah’s close ones.” “You want me to die?” The men nodded. his tears were filled with gratitude. Upon hearing how Hari das died the ruler began to weep. They’d never seen something so soft and tender in all their lives. No one has survived this long! Our master will execute us for not doing our job.as he was beaten. his mouth bloody. “We were ordered to kill you but you won’t die. The king’s henchmen began to weep. and the man. The henchmen then picked up his lifeless body and threw him into the river. viciously beaten by fifty men… a completely forgiving acceptance of the abuse.

” Hari das embraced the king in silence and love. The Mohammedan king grabbed the saint’s feet crying and whispered. “I was blind. Before the kings eyes Hari das stirred and woke up on the muddy bank.At that moment Hari das’ body washed up on shore. 61 .

The brother was in a rage to see his divine sibling kneeling on the ground with a river of blood pouring from his head. They were drinking fermented coconut and smoking hashish. He quickly brought back the perfect one’s brother. He said that in his own heart these two men had done no wrong and the moment he was struck by the jug of wine he had already forgiven them. He was ready to kill the drunks. The perfect one intervened holding back his own raging brother. broke the hearts of the two 62 . The saint ran for help. There was love glowing in the heart of the perfect one. The divine men approached the drunken killers. Blood poured from a deep wound. One day they entered a town terrorized by two murderous brothers. and with nothing but kindness in his eyes. in the tenderness and humble affection in the man’s voice. kneeling. Something in these words. The wild drunk smashed his clay jug of coconut wine on the perfect one’s head. Both men grinned and laughed at the shining one holding his bleeding skull. He extended his hand to one of the murderers.A Perfect One A perfect one and a saint were traveling together.

rubbing their foreheads into the dirt in grief. The perfect one smiled and held the two weeping brothers tenderly in his arms. “Forgive us!” the brothers cried. 63 . tearing their clothes and hair.killers. They fell to the ground weeping.

With your Eyes so much of Heaven can be Seen Meditate on the laughter of a child. Feel the rain from a distant sky on your skin. 64 . a single moment is separate from God. Look into the heart of a flower. Listen to the sound of the wind in the trees… And you will know that not a single thing.

65 . As a young man he delivered bread. He vowed to have his heart’s desire. These poems soon became famous all over Shiraz. One day he went to a mansion with a delivery. In the daylight he delivered bread. He would sing them as he delivered bread. He did not know that his words had touched so many hearts. Hafiz fell in love. This was destined to be unrequited.A Story about Beauty Hafiz is Persia’s greatest poet. On the dawn of the forty-first day the angel Gabriel descended. For months Hafiz would compose elaborate love poems for the girl on the veranda. For forty nights he kept a vigil at the tomb of a saint. And for those forty days he did not sleep. Finally Hafiz became desperate with love. He was born short and ugly. On a high veranda stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“What do you want?” Upon seeing this angel Hafiz forgot about the girl on the veranda.He asked the young poet.” 66 . Gabriel was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. If God’s messenger was so beautiful then what must God be like? Hafiz said. “ I want God.

67 . Who knows what gods will enter your earthly body? Sleep on your prayer rug. Eat on your prayer rug. Who knows what magnificent dreams will come? Live every moment in your heart… Only God knows what you will feel.Who knows what food will nourish you? Make love on your prayer rug.

In the moonlight the teacher came home. The saint would pick up the tender creature and place it back into his own body…the worms needed to live just as much as he did. Small worms lived in his open wounds. The enormous moon hung low almost as if to consume our world. as white and brilliant as crushed ivory. At times a maggot would fall from a bleeding sore into the hot sand. glistening from a long swim in the sea. The blue ocean rolled softy onto the white sand. became steaming embers. with palm fronds for walls and doors. The sand on the beach. coals from the day fire. The saint walked for days in the hot sun. 68 . At the door of his teacher’s thatched roof hut the saint rested for the night. The saint’s feet were covered in bloody blisters. He gave his humble shade beneath the Banyan tree. He suffered from deep sores in his waist and belly.The Love of One Human A saint decided to see his teacher. His ecstasy was so deep he did not notice his cooked feet. close enough for the poor man bleeding on the sand to feel the weight of its heavenly gravity. to a less fortunate lover of the Divine. The saint was known as an untouchable leper.

Upon seeing his dear student the teacher wept. his long full tears dripping down his face like translucent pearls. “Master please do not touch me.” 69 . Your love is healing me.” He then kissed the wounds on the saint’s body and bathed them with his tears. Your bleeding wounds are more sacred than any temple or deity. “The love of one human being is greater than the mercy of God. The teacher whispered.” The teacher began to tremble. He embraced the saintly leper. The saint tried to squirm away from his teacher. He said. I am not clean. his tears flowing like a gentle river onto the body of the saint. “Your body is more purifying than all the holy rivers in India.

as long as your devotion is praised. The saint realized that the ego can grow large even in prayer. “Why do you care so much about being saintly and how close you are to me? Your spiritual progress means nothing! The bird in the field has no concept of improvement. Your prayers are useless!” The man woke with a smile. 70 . He grew furious. He began to take pride in being abused. One day he arrived late and had to pray in the back of the mosque. From that day forward he fell in love with the world. He thought he had rid himself of pride. All things except for man respect the intelligence that made it. He knew that his devotion was real and that anyone who prayed openly was a fake. His heart filled with contempt.The Bird in the Field A famous saint went to the mosque and prayed every day. He began to judge those who prayed in public. One night God came to the man in a dream and asked. The saint cherished slander and the slow degradation of his own name. From then on he prayed alone and kept his heart a secret.

There was no lesson. Mahakasyapa stood for fifteen minutes with love in his eyes. The crowd of monks. brilliant in their ocher robes – shining with smooth faces. glowing with dewy sunshine. grew anxious. Birds and insects could be heard in the green foliage. Just silence. that Mahakasyapa had understood 71 .Flower Sutra Buddha sat with a flower in his hand. the humid Indian climate. The Buddha did not speak for forty-fiveminutes. Buddha said everything. He gazed deeply into the heart of the flower. The air was filled with sunshine and thick with moisture. There was no talk on the Dharma. Suddenly Mahakasyapa stood up smiling. completely consumed by the flower. He gazed deeply into the heart of the flower.

His heart compelled him to value another’s happiness more than his own. for he knew how starved for love that poor suffering man must be. 72 . A leper whose mouth had rotted away asked for alms.How He became a Saint Francis of Assisi was traveling on the road. He then emptied his pockets and gave the beggar everything he had. Francis grabbed the man and kissed him fully on the lips.

Falling in Love… Sometimes you need two To recognize the invisible third Shining in between all the empty spaces 73 .

Two men met on the dusty road of pilgrimage. There is so much happening behind what the eyes can see. Jesus said.An Indian Story about Presence The story is simple. telling stories about the One. 74 . until the third presence was known. At night in a temple they passed the glowing cup of nectar. merciful as a rain cloud full of mischief. know that I am present.” This life is but movement and light. “If two or more are gathered in my name.

Francis walked across the carpet and stood before the throne of the sultan. Francis of Assisi traveled by donkey to a faraway land. The king laughed. This cross I carry in my heart. “Dear Francis. You are not as they say you are. The sultan then had his men capture the saint and bring him to his palace.” 75 . you are not a real Christian. “These symbols on the rug are not the cross of Christ. the most holy symbol of your religion. The true cross of Christ is the love of someone willing to die for the sake of another.Cross of Christ St.” Francis looked at the floor and said softly. The sultan of this country had heard of Francis. You have walked over dozens of crosses. He made a giant carpet with hundreds of crosses woven into the fabric and laid it down onto the marble floor of his court.

How many signs do you need? The king of thieves saw a great saint walking with many dear ones. The thieves broke into argument and fighting over who would get what. One thief carried a pike. They beat each other senseless with their weapons and went home bloody and bruised with stories of wild animals for their wives. They decided to raid the saint’s hut the very next night.” Another claimed the ruby necklace and yet another put dibs on the diamond earrings. The thieves told their wives that they were going to a prayer vigil. The jewelry was an illusion. A hundred yards from the saint’s hut the men hid behind some bushes to plan their strategy. The saint was covered in precious gems and gold. His heart became greedy. One man said. “I have dibs on the gold bracelets. Each criminal in the league carried a special weapon. The guards howled in joy every 76 . another a trident and another an axe. That night the king of thieves held a meeting with his cohorts. The thieves waited a week for the new moon. In the cover of darkness they hid behind the bushes once more. Two massive eight-foot tall men with bluish skin stood guard in front of the saint’s home. The thief could only recognize spiritual beauty as material wealth and so his eyes saw a richness inside as diamonds and rubies.

and weeping. “I could only see your beauty as material wealth. The thief bathed in the cool waters and came naked to the hut of the saint. With tears the thief fell at the feet of the saintly man. snoring until dawn. Soon every thief was sound asleep. A thunderstorm rolled in and drenched the thieves in torrential rain.” 77 . I recognized who you really were. They were cut badly and their bodies were sore from the fall. No Guards were in sight. removed his clothes. The sudden and strange fit of sound sleep was caused by Shiva and now this wild and ferocious weather could only be the anger of Indra. walked to the river. They gathered together behind the bushes. They woke confused and embarrassed vowing to not be thwarted the next time. The king of thieves led his band of criminals into a deep ditch filled with thorny bushes. his shoes. the ruler of heaven. I meant to rob you and God had the great mercy to thwart me at every step until. It turned into a hailstorm and pelted the men with rock-sized pieces of ice. As a thief I am blind. The king of thieves pulled himself bleeding from the thorns. The Giants were heavenly creatures sent by the Divine One. How could so many things go wrong? The argument over who claimed which jewels could only be confusion caused by angels.few minutes sending thrills of fear into the hearts of the thieves. This saint must be real. A few hours passed and a profound ignorance fell upon the criminals. in misery. A few days later the thieves plotted once again to raid the hut. The king of thieves said. The men were alert. In the midst of absolute misery the king of thieves had a sudden realization.

“What you meant to take by force is freely given in love. 78 . He was blind from that day forward to external wealth. I now lay a curse on you that from this day forward you will long day and night for others to possess the happiness you carry in your chest. “Your greed has brought you to God.” The king of thieves became famous for saintly weeping and giving charity to rich men.” The saint said.

What We Do A band of thieves captured the sun and broke it into a million pieces so each could have his share …it did not matter. 79 .

The handsome monkey asked for a warm hug.Real Warmth A wild monkey saved the world from losing its own divinity and God asked him what could be given in thanks for such bravery. 80 .

His prayers had only brought more anger into his heart. Her dark hair captured him. full of fish. Her breasts swayed. The man was filled with a deep lust. her white teeth shone brightly. After another sleepless night the man walked out into the dawn. The fire of longing burned in him. Birds were dark shapes against the morning light. He prayed for his body to be emptied of desire and bitterness overcame him. The man could not sleep at night. Smoke billowed 81 . The man prayed to have his heart cleansed of greed and found himself incredibly jealous of everyone. He lit incense and saw his envy burn to ash. On his way to the market one morning he saw a young woman carrying a large clay jar of water on her head. He went to the temple and fell crying at the altar. The old river. The man was free and happy for many days. was a long shining mirror. Soon he became obsessed with money.Prayers One day a man sat by an old river meditating and found many dark things in his chest. The anger left. He prayed to God to have his anger taken from him.

A calmness entered his body. Let me be what you want.” 82 .from mud huts. A cloud swimming through an autumn sky needs no admiration. It needs no listener. A human being is alive. A child shivered as she milked a cow in the cold morning. The man prayed. “The singing of a bird is perfect.

and whispered to the sun sweet prayers of affection. The saint’s sleeve caught on fire. He was known to dance in ecstasy naked in the snow. His friends sat around him eating thick Tuscan bread and clear water from the stream. He tended the fire under a vivid night sky. bright with cold stars. While his friends stamped out the flame he cried. their bare feet dirty and bruised from a long days walk. His church was filled with singing and beautiful animals – lambs and butterflies. He lived among lepers. in the acres of sunflowers covering the land. in the rain and thick sunshine. “Please don’t hurt Brother Fire!” 83 .When you’re in Love Everything is Your Friend There once was a saint who spoke to birds in the rolling fields. Their brown robes were rough.

One day a glowing man is seen taking the gem from the child. Wrestling and throwing and punching…the battle lasts for thirty days straight. Incredible blows are made. He’s fighting God. The King of the Bears thinks to himself that no one alive is as strong as him. He is the King of the Bears! Who is this mysterious opponent? He begins to feel himself weakened. He found inside the mouth of the carnivore a giant precious gem. The king went home to his cave and gave the shining treasure to his son as a plaything. A brilliant fight ensues.Thirty Day Fight The King of the Bears killed a lion with his bare hands. God holds the king until all resistance is gone and only love remains. His sparring partner is getting the upper hand. The King of the Bears embraces the shining man and weeps. He attacks the man. The king cares nothing for the gem only that his son was cheated. 84 . Then something occurs to him.

A Cloud Spirit
A man was traveling through the desert in search of treasure and his camel died. He walked for days in the hot sun. On the brink of death, a wise spirit came to him from the clouds. The spirit dug a hole in the earth and a clear thin stream of water welled up from the ground making a small pool in the sand. The cloud spirit then rubbed his hands together. The dust from his palms became a pile of bright gold, enough to buy a small kingdom. “Choose,” Said the spirit.

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Nimai. The boy grew up hearing stories of his father. There the woman told the boy of her husband. who left her to become a monk. The woman began to weep. Nimai held his head low as a barber scraped his scalp with a long razor. inexplicably went mad for one year. She told him how her family and fellow villagers had tried to stop Nimai. There on the muddy banks he met a woman washing her sari. Srinivas crossed to the other side of the Ganges. The mob was making an ocean of grief. The woman saw the boy’s father in his eyes and invited him home. A pile of black hair was strewn on the dusty ground. Nimai. Nimai from that day forward was remembered as a great saint. Srinivas. a sound that could be felt in your bones. in the center of a sea of weeping villagers. The man died soon after the birth of his son. Srinivas then asked if this was the day his father went mad. At the end of the year his wife was pregnant. the man. 86 . Upon seeing this spectacle.From his own Heart A man crossed the Ganges and passing through a town saw his dear friend from school. At fifteen.

Three days away from the village a man on the road told him that the great saint had died the day 87 . In grief. Srinivas traveled there to find the secret of his inspiration. He heard that a great saint named Sanatam was living in the land of Braj. He took a robe and dyed it the color of saffron. You need to go to Benares and get me another book. “The master told me you were coming. But look at my book. Upon seeing her son she fell to her knees in a swoon. For many weeks. “He died yesterday. The ink had melted away. Some secret current was flowing into him from the clouds. By that time the old man had died. Giant tears stains covered the manuscript. An old man recognized the boy and took him to a quiet alcove overlooking the sea.” The boy set out and in six months returned to the temple with the book. Srinivas tore apart the palm leaf manuscript.Srinivas swam home. He asked me to teach you. Srinivas wanted to uncover the mysterious force that drove his father and Nimai from this world. He wandered all over India and one night beneath a great Banyan tree. The boy traveled for three months to Puri in search of Nimai. He then shaved his own head and stood in the courtyard waiting for his mother.” The old man opened the frail palm leaf book. When he arrived at the temple everyone was crying. the boy found the voice of the old book speaking through him. he wandered the moonlit fields and sandy banks of the Ganges reciting the pages of a book he never read. the stars pushing their cold light through the dark branches and leaves.

His words carried the texture and flavor of someone steeped in the wisdom of grief – thoughts spun from divine inspiration. He felt a profound sweetness enter his chest. For twelve months the boy drank in the honey of the saint’s presence. The boy fainted in exasperation. The temple was filled with heartbreaking music. still lived and carried the same devotional power. For nine long months the boy searched for the manuscripts. 88 . Srinivas became the saint’s student. Jiva. Upon arriving in the small village he found a sea of people weeping and clawing at their hair. Then one day without thinking he spoke. Srinivas listened to the talks humbly for many weeks. Then Jiva sent him to Bengal to distribute devotional books. He was looking for his father’s spirit in someone living. was playing a two-sided drum. a famous scholar and saint. the books were gone. The rich man was secretly the king of thieves.before but that his younger brother. Srinivas took heart. The next morning. He did not sleep the entire time. The first night Srinivas slept in a field. Rupa. Srinivas woke the next morning lying on the temple floor. The boy carried the manuscripts in a cart drawn by a bull. the younger saint. a rich outpouring of love. What came from his mouth was sweetened condensed milk. One day he heard that a local rich man was holding spiritual gatherings at his house. Everyone was mourning the death of Rupa.

“Nine months ago I had a dream in the middle of the night. He began to weep.just as that first palm leaf manuscript spoke to him from some unknown corner of his being. A great treasure was sitting unprotected in a cart on the roadside. He realized his heart contained every line in those frail pages.The king of thieves asked the young boy who he was. Srinivas told him how he had lost the sacred books. was already living in his own chest . Underneath the bed was a trunk filled with the missing devotional books. When they came back it was simply a pile of books. He burned clarified butter and incense in a ritual of worship. Srinivas performed a ceremony.” The king of thieves then took the boy into his bedroom. I gathered my men and told them to retrieve the contents of the cart for me. The king of thieves became very quiet and then said. Everything he’d been looking for in saints. in teachers and in books. 89 .

The Last Forty Days Hafiz lost his wife and son. All desire had left him. The poet sat there praying. He went to his teacher and said. Hafiz could take it no longer. He drew a circle in the sand and vowed not to leave it for forty days and forty nights. On the dawn of the forty-first day the angel Gabriel descended and said. My wife and son are now gone. And still I am no closer to God. his body not moving an inch. Give me what you promised. He did not leave to go to the bathroom. With tears in his eyes he said. “What do you want?” Hafiz looked within his own heart and found he did not want for a thing. “I have given you forty years.” 90 . his heart burning with grief for five weeks. He neither ate nor slept. “Let me be of service to others.” His teacher asked him to be patient.

Once the sky fell in love with the grass.They made love and humanity was born from that union. 91 .

” The man sorted through the trash-filled heap of ‘forgotten things’. He knew that the stone must be somewhere among all these riches. 92 . He prayed with every fiber of his being until each moment was a secret plea… “Make me Rich. The man spoke of his dream and that he desired the stone. it turns to gold. When he got there the old one was sitting halfnaked in the dirt. A touchstone is a magic mineral. Silk garments and rubies and pearls spilled over many dense shards and nuggets of gold. a fieldstone from heaven. The wonder of this rubbish pile were the treasures hidden among the old rags and broken clay pots. “I remember having once owned such a thing…it might be hidden among forgotten things in the rubbish pile behind the hut. Soon enough. The man traveled to the small village in search of the old teacher. If you find it you can keep it. God told the man that in a small village an old teacher possessed a touchstone. his hand revealed the stone.The Touchstone A man prayed every night to be made wealthy. Whatever it touches. The old one said. His prayers became a sweetness in the dusk and a rich honey in the morning.” One night God came to him in a dream. This stone would satisfy all of his desires.

but one thing haunts me. Many years passed and the man grew unhappier with each passing day. He found the sage sitting exactly as he had left him. The rubbish pile he once searched through to gain his fortune haunted his dreams. In a moment of ecstatic tears he gathered dirt and bathed the stone with the soil. Riches meant so little to the old one that he gave away a touchstone! A magic mineral from heaven! The man could not sleep because a question burned in his chest…“Why?” It was a ghost. The old teacher had a rubbish pile filled with treasure. Are you crazy! What secret treasure do you possess that made it so easy to give away a touchstone?” The old one simply smiled and said.” The old teacher told the man that he too had used the stone to gain the world. You gave the stone not even a second thought. Yet his heart grew more empty with every pulse of his veins. Why would someone give up the one thing everyone else is so desperately seeking? Something he had prayed for in earnest until his mind ached? The rich man went back to the village in search of the old teacher. “LOVE.He was overjoyed! Without thinking. He owned everything a man could want. He soon had a handful of gold dust. The sage found that the more he used the stone to change things into gold. “Years ago you gave me a gift. The man let the wind carry it away as an offering to the grace that brought him the miracle of endless wealth. the more his 93 . One night the man woke in his golden sheets and satin pillow in a cold sweat. Now I am fabulously wealthy. he ran through the streets rubbing the stone all over his clothes until he was dripping in golden fabric.

heart grew empty. To sit with love inside meant more than a kingdom and fame. Some say the old teacher was the real touchstone. With love I can walk on the surface of the sun even though I sit here anonymous and unknown by the world. and the man received what his heart desired. once more. among forgotten things. 94 .” The touchstone now rests. “I’d rather be a witness to tiny things…events small and fast or long and silent.

They could witness themselves from multiple points of view. The other side chose to believe in what could not be said. It was not enough to be warmed in the sun. The world of the unspoken developed elaborate rituals of lovemaking. They 95 . touch.Both Worlds The earth was once divided in half. In the world of words novels were written. The world of the unspoken was rich in the arts of cooking. sound and psychic awareness the fullness of unexplainable human emotion. The world of the unspoken smiled at how the language and art of the others could never say the truth but could only point to or indicate the deepest feeling places of the human soul. One side chose to live in a world where the only truth was what could be communicated in words. massage and love. quantified or recorded. There were whole evenings dedicated to mass laughter under the stars and events focused on expressing through sight. poetry was refined to an art and great plays were performed. It was not enough to simply be happy they wanted to feel themselves be happy. There were innumerable hugs that expressed different emotive realities. hugging and weeping. musical notation and mathematical equations. It was still an ineffable and quickly vanishing experience. In the world of words a strange awareness grew in the consciousness of the people.

You had to have a conscious awareness of what you were feeling. Many people in the world of words could not feel content in their life experience unless it was recorded by one or more audio/visual technologies. This grew into a mass anxiety. They never knew that poetry helped you to pray with the grass in the meadow and share wisdom with the butterfly or connect to other human beings in a million unspoken ways. If it was not recorded it did not happen. Nothing had meaning or real value unless it could be recognized and felt in multiple layers of awareness with an ever-expanding objective perception of what they were feeling. Without self-awareness they could not overcome moments of rage or pass down wisdom through the generations. What the butterfly knew in the field or how the grass prayed as it drank dew in the meadow and what the bird felt in the ocean of the sky. Soon they wanted to feel themselves feeling what they were feeling. There was a satisfaction in simply being with no need to do or feel anything other than being. There were audio and visual devices designed to record events and daily activities. These recordings could be viewed afterwards and created rich textured layers of experience from many points of view and references of time. Technologies were developed to assist in the making of meaningful experience. A day was not fully lived unless you knew you were fully living it. Everyone was desperate to know that they were feeling their lives. But as a population they were unable to know anything other than what they felt in the moment.wanted to feel themselves warmed in the sun. That language could be a way 96 . In the world of the unspoken a deep respect grew for what could not be said. What only breathing and hugging and human eye gazing could express.

of expressing the un-say-able. They only saw her strength. She then whispered in his ear… No one knows what she said but this they say was the moment the world began to heal. 97 . One day a woman from the world of words met a man from the world of the unspoken on the tide line of the earth. dipped it into the ocean and then let it soar in the sky before touching her heart. And that what could be expressed mattered. Even if it could limit your thinking it could also free you. She had never felt so understood in her life. The man raised his hand. No one in her world could see how deeply she needed to be protected.

“I don’t know.” 98 .Not Yet A student once asked his teacher what happens after death.” “But how can that be? You are a Zen Master. “But I’m not a dead Zen Master.” “I know.” He said. The Zen master said.

The Story of Hanuman
A band of monkeys stand at the end of the world. A giant bird, once burned by the sun, sits perched on a dune waiting to eat them. The monkeys talk of their journey. They had searched through all of India for the kidnapped wife of their friend and now there is only ocean and sky. The bird, flightless-his feathers burned off by solar fire, takes compassion on them. He says, “I saw the woman you speak of being carried away by an evil man in a flying chariot. My wings are broken but my eyes are still sharp. He took her to an Island far off the coast. It is hundreds of miles away over the ocean. If I still had wings I’d fly you myself.” The monkeys talk amongst themselves. No one can jump that far. Then Jambavan, the king of the bears, steps forward. He points to Hanuman and says, “He can do it.” Hanuman, a large monkey, says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t.” The bear tells the monkey a story. Once the Wind fell in love with a beautiful female monkey high in the Himalayas. The heat of their passion gave birth to a son. They named him Hanuman.

99

The boy one day mistook the Sun for a giant mango hanging in the sky and jumped to catch it. The three-yearold Hanuman left planet earth and hurtled toward the Sun. The gods became fearful and the lord of Thunder struck the boy with a powerful bolt of lightning. Hanuman fell to Earth with a broken jaw. The Wind caught his son and took him to a lonely cave in the mountains. Hanuman’s father wept as he held the boy. The Wind in grief became still. The universe could not breathe. The gods began to panic. Humans and animals and trees were gasping in a vacuum. The gods went to the cave and begged the Wind to move otherwise all life would end. The Wind said, “If you heal my son and promise that he will always be protected then I will fly once more.” The gods agreed but under one condition. The boy must never know his own power. The gods would heal his jaw but also cast a spell of forgetfulness over him. Hanuman would never know the strength inside him. He would just think himself to be like any other normal monkey. “So dear brother that is your divine heritage,” the bear says smiling, “You are immensely powerful. You’ve just been suffering from amnesia.” Hanuman climbs to the top of a large cliff over the rushing sea. He takes in a deep breath, digs his feet into the earth, and with a roar, leaps out into the sky.

The sound of that large monkey hurtling forward is that of the heavens breaking open. 100

101 .

After Note 102 .

There are things we will never be able to understand. And yet what happens here on earth is so small and incredibly fast that in the vast scale of the stars it almost doesn’t happen at all. The time scale and largeness of the known universe is seen from the white deserts sands. The flowers and tides carry immense value. whatever giant events took place they happened a long time ago. the ocean cliffs and mountain ranges of earth as something bright and incredibly small. Floating on the edge of something so dark and incredibly large we choose to be a witness to extremely small things that happen so fast no one will know except us. To be warmed by other human bodies as we sleep and dream. To become devoted to finite things is the only solace and comfort we have underneath the night sky. The stars are only tiny points of light and are meaningless to most of us here on earth.The Night Sky The night sky is filled with things so large and ancient that we might need old stories to feel needed in this endlessness. A human life is smaller than a living cell and it dies just as quickly. Most of the universe is dark matter. to worry over the 103 . Humans on earth make love and birth children. I have been a witness to things so incredibly far away that it takes millions of light years for me to see them. The sun in the daytime is meaningful. Looking into the night sky is a kind of time travel.

Some would think it silly to love a small flower or a little dog. your sunflower is still the only one in existence. to love a swiftly dying planet no bigger than a speck of dust in an endless vacuum. 104 . To pay attention and believe that each little thing is of immense value is not a choice it is a necessity. Some of us choose to be remembered by some observance of beauty.little things in the lives of very perishable beings is not so much a choice but a necessity. a poem or a painting-maybe a little song. Our praise of little things will not even flicker like a lightning bug in a jar for a moment in the night of a distant world. Our dreams might seem ridiculous under the night sky. when you love something it becomes yours. If you love one sunflower in a sea of golden faces. The thing is.

Appendix 105 .

It’s the story of a man seeking eternal life (though of course Scheherazade does attain immortality through the power of storytelling). is very different from the original but I hope it cuts more clearly to the essence. it tells many exciting tales and it’s ultimate context is death but. no one in this vast narrative is trying to escape physical death. the lessons of the python and the bumblebee. The fat sage. In the first chapter there is a discussion concerning parrots and mangoes. unlike Scheherazade. The theory behind itihasas is that story is a more powerful tool for transformation than dry philosophy. It’s original source is an ancient scripture known widely as the Bhagavat Purana. His message is simple and applicable. The story. represents the very honey and cream of the Bhagavat Purana. for me. This particular scripture reminds me of Arabian Nights. Sweetness Gets Sweeter This also is drawn from the Bhagavat Purana. is my own interpretation of this ancient tale. Parrots are believed to possess a special chemical in their saliva that increases the sweetness of sugar in fruit. 106 . The idea of waiting and gathering. I think it is a wonderful metaphor for the sweetening and enriching of human knowledge and human feeling through time. as I tell it.The Bumblebee I heard this story as a child growing up in the Ashram. It is one of those great epic metanarratives contained within the branch of Hindu literature known as the puranas but I feel it belongs more fittingly within the itihasas or histories.

If the man became wealthy.Jumping Fish Leaping fish is a common metaphor in the Sufi tradition. especially when we dive back into our source. so that he can keep his job. An Indian Story about Desire This falls directly into the category of the Hindu teaching story. It speaks to the meaning of human life. A Japanese Story about Living from your Heart This is a classic Zen story. this man can come up with. It speaks volumes about getting too caught up in theoretical spiritual talk. Sometimes we may feel like a fish drowning in oxygen but then we learn more about water and how it feeds us. It narrates how limited our thinking can be. we’re spirits leaping into physical form to learn about spirit. is to cover the muddy banks with his wealth. he wouldn’t need to pull the boats upstream anymore. 107 . But the best dream.

We can go for a long time deaf and blind until someone or something shakes things up like that old fish. When Rumi Met Shams This is a good story for fundamentalists to read.Stonecutter The original source of this story is Japanese. It illustrates so clearly how love can overcome the pain of impermanence and loss. Old Fish I don’t know where I first heard this parable but it’s completely brilliant. Throw away your books and dive head first into human experience! 108 . I heard it from a student of Osho when I was about six-years-old in the Ashram. A Story about being Fearless This story is Japanese. We can swim through life wrapped up in our own little worlds and never know what it is we’re swimming in.

a biography of Buddha’s life by Thich Nhat Hanh. If Buddha doesn’t come back with love as the answer then it is a very sad story.A Story from Northern India My mother told us this story growing up underneath the plum tree in our backyard. My theory is that the buffalo boy is the reincarnation of the prophet who predicts Buddha’s awakening. Four Signs This of course is the story of Siddhartha Gautama. Each strand of hair is ceaselessly whispering praise and this praise is irresistible to the Divine One. a story of a deadbeat dad with a pseudo spiritual fanaticism. They say. that each hair on a saint’s head is in love with God. My interpretation of the story is a dramatic departure from how it is traditionally told. 109 . It’s my favorite Buddhist sutra. in Bhakti schools of meditation. Tangerine Sutra This story is drawn from Old Path White Clouds.

The old man is persistent in his love for family and a long-term vision. this story illustrates the selfish tendency of youth and the sense of personal sacrifice that matures with age.D. He was the teacher of the famous saint Milrepa. I love how pragmatic it is! This perspective on teachers and miracles was good for me to come to terms with my own guru experiences. Wisdom that comes with Age Chinese in origin. even in the face of his imminent death.) was a famous Tibetan Buddhist teacher.Marpa Marpa (1012-1097 A. 110 . it humorously approaches the human tendency to externalize problems that are inherently internal. Don’t Change the World An old Indian story about the invention of shoes. This is the story of how he first became awake.

He came out of the wilderness crying.On a Lonely Street Corner This is a loose adaptation of a true story. John the Baptist was wild and crazy. 111 . I heard it told by people on the street many times in Northern India. Fear would have overcome the sleeper if he had been told the truth and it would have been too late. Rough Medicine This is an Islamic story that I first heard as a child and then rediscovered in a translation of Rumi poems. “Repent! Turn around! The direction is inward! Go beyond your limited perspective. The Dalai Lama credits Thomas Merton for destroying his own sectarian views. He did more for modern Inter-religious dialogue than almost anyone else in the beginning of the twentieth century. Sometimes medicine is administered in silence and the friend is difficult to recognize. because the whole world is within your own heart!” This is another story about externalizing and searching for something outside when the change has to happen within. His whole life was a bright fire. Delhi In India people find this joke very funny. Thomas Merton was a Catholic monk and scholar.

We often slip on. An African Story I don’t know where this story comes from in Africa but it illustrates with profound clarity the metaphysical plight of human beings. Zumbach A Yiddish joke in origin. the divine is seen through the eyes of the heart. 112 . If we’re not careful to keep our minds free of limiting ideas we might end up like that poor man. tied up in Zumbach’s coat. a crippling idea of who and what we are.The First Two This is a popular joke in Turkey. this story discusses a common theme in Hindu philosophy. The Blind King Originally from India’s great epic poem the Mahabharata. such as being old. I believe that this story is about the affects of a limiting identity. like an old coat.

inspired by Yorubo and Edospeaking tribes in Africa. who name their male children ‘Father has returned’ and their female offspring ‘Mother has returned’ reflecting their belief in reincarnation.Amnesia A story of my own. inspired by the Hindu and Socratic theory of spiritual amnesia. Me Jump Up White Fellow This statement. Father has Returned Another original story. “Jump Up!” is that they’ll spring back to life and exact their revenge when the roles have karmically switched in the cycle of rebirth. who would courageously face their execution without fear. They believed in the transmigration of the soul and the law of Karma. I believe this is how we are with God…when we could so easily go inside and make love. “Me Jump Up White fellow!” comes from the aboriginals of Australia. What they mean by. 113 .

John of the Cross. 114 . Happiness comes from the Inside and Outside St. The Meeting Place I first heard this story from my father. that happiness can only be found within. came to profound states of mystical awareness and still his earthly life. He used it to illustrate the central theme of acceptance and grace when facing death that is present in all eastern religions. John spent the rest of his days seeking inner and outer joy. had value. John of the Cross. This usually leads to disappointment and a gradual decline in self worth. disregarding the importance of outside circumstances. which is a work of spiritual and literary genius. the author of the classic poem The Dark Night of the Soul. Early on the path many believe. a big fan of St.Acceptance This is a Zen story that I heard Ram Das tell in a live lecture. his physical existence. myself included.

is a much more relatable character than Socrates. Twenty years later he faces these internal demons and through love overcomes them. Then seeing what he had done became repentant. He would make Milrepa build monuments. gazing at the stars. Ancient Hindu belief placed this boy. I believe. A Story from Bhutan This is the story of Milrepa. Do not Sink into Sadness Brotheus. Marpa tested his troubled student for twenty years before teaching him. 115 . in the night sky and as king of the brightest star. Druva. to the gods and then knock them down and tell him to start again.The Little Raja At night. who first studied black magic to kill his family. He actually goes through angst and grief unlike his other Greek brother who simply is too wise for any normal human. I trust someone who suffers and then comes to a sense of peace much more than a teacher who has never been human. my parents would point out the pole star and tell us this story about the boy who sought God in the dark forest. high towers. Finally Milrepa got spiritual instruction and moved to the mountains to meditate and pray. Milrepa sought many teachers but finally settled on Marpa.

signed his poems as Shams. Rumi. Do you want me to die? Originally this story was documented in a biography of another saint named Caitanya who was Hari das’ teacher. The story of their friendship is a rare gift. Many people draw connections to the story of Jesus and the suffering and resurrection of Hari das. 116 . signifying the source of his inspiration. who disagreed with the wildman’s influence. from then on. Shams changed Rumi forever. The Poet Rumi Rumi gives a whole new depth to the poetry of grief and love.Beyond Words This story is a reflection of my dad’s perspective on prayer. and how Rumi saw through loss is a lesson in healing. Shams is rumored to have been murdered by jealous disciples of Rumi.

it has the feeling of Hafiz. 117 .A Perfect One A story of forgiveness. In modern day Iran. Hafiz captures God’s beauty in this world through poetry so purely that he makes it into a thing of even greater beauty. The forgiveness and clarity of the Perfect One I left unchanged. to kill the murderous brothers. A Story about Beauty The Sufi tradition says that God’s greatest power is beauty. The original story is a little different. I grew up performing this as a play adapted from the Nityananda Caritamrita. it is the title of someone who has memorized the entire Koran by heart. God arrives on the scene. With your Eyes so much of Heaven can be Seen An original poem. a 15th century Bengali classic. people still memorize Hafiz poems by heart. Whether this story is true or not. said to be the brother of the Perfect One. Hafiz means ‘memorizer’.

I love that word Omnibus. The Bird in the Field An original story about my own experience with prayer. I hope I captured it. 118 . He would simply sit and smile at the audience. The book is as thick as a college dictionary with very thin almost transparent pages.The Love of One Human This story comes from a little known Bengali hagiography called the Caitanya Bhagavat. Mahakasyapa was known for giving Dharma Talks without words. Buddha’s wordless lessons are the basis for Zen practice. Francis of Assisi Writings and Early Biographies English Omnibus of the Sources for the Life of St. Flower Sutra After Buddha’s flower lesson. How He became a Saint This story was drawn from a book I studied with my father called St. Francis. The original is a bit more sectarian but the flavor of divine love pours through.

Cross of Christ Again from the book. What We Do An original poem.Falling in Love A poem I wrote in honor of everyone I love. A Story about Presence My father and I loved this story. How many Signs do you Need This is from the Bengali hagiography Nityananda Caritamrita. when we read and discussed devotional philosophy together. 119 . We felt the Third Presence every night. Omnibus of Sources. The translations I have read are very funny and maybe even a little cruel. I would perform an adapted version of this story as a play every Christmas growing up.

Real Warmth This is part of the story of the Ramayana. When You’re in Love Everything is Your Friend A story about St. Francis’ immense love and reverence for all things. This story is drawn from the Bhagavat Purana. This is also from the Omnibus of Sources. even the fire burning his sleeve. When I surrender to my humanity and the beauty of life these so-called attachments no longer feel like chains but become anchors to a world I dearly love. Thirty Day Fight Sometimes when you fight so long and hard you have to wonder why there is such strong resistance…maybe you’re fighting something much larger than you could ever imagine. The monkey is Hanuman. Prayer An original story about all of my attempts at changing and correcting my behavior/inner desires and my ultimate failure. 120 .

From his own Heart I discovered this Bengali story after my dad died. The Last Forty Days The life of Hafiz is a perfect allegory for the spiritual journey. leaves the guru and tradition to seek God on his own and then finally arrives at selflessness and love. It’s not an easy road. 121 . From a very secular want he is accidentally placed on the path. It resonated very deeply and I am grateful for the chance to retell it. gains a higher taste through devotional practices and then commits himself to searching for the divine. his life was full of grief and loss but in the end his heart becomes saturated in love.A Cloud Spirit An original story. becomes disappointed and disillusioned. Once the Sky Fell in Love This is a Hawaiian creation story I grew up with.

Both Worlds An original story. the leader of the famous Bengali Six Goswamis of Braj. dance and theater renaissance of 15th century India. I altered the structure of the story so that the payoff is greater at the end. in no way mirroring the slow maturation of real life. Not Yet A classic Japanese story told in Monasteries. This did wonders for cutting through the caste system. In the original. 122 . literary. musical. This Swami with his younger brother and a close student single handedly inspired the spiritual.The Touchstone The old man in the story is Sanatam Goswami. the seeker of wealth realizes the truth far too quickly. He was at the forefront of literature written in colloquial tongues rather than the exclusive Sanskrit of the Vedas.

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