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29. Inner truth

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

The monk sat in the centre of the lake. He was surrounded by a circle, and from the circle radiated precise concentric lines of water; each line was a small ripple, and the ripples extended almost to the bank of the lake. The monk had been there for six months. He surprised the fishermen when, one day, he materialised on the lake. They called to him when he appeared and turned their boats to meet him; but, when they came close, they fell silent and, at last, returned to their village. They had remained close to shore for the rest of the year. Only a young boy—impudent, according to his father—had ventured out to see the monk. He offered him fresh fruit and wine, but the monk merely smiled. When the boy returned to the village he found a great lotus flower at the bottom of his boat. The men of the village took it to the temple and it sat there for many weeks without decaying.

One day, a man in a dark robe arrived at the village and asked to be taken to the monk. The men of the village were afraid to comply at first, but when he offered them several bags of gold they finally agreed. The boats swung out into the lake. The man in the dark robe seemed concerned; he gripped the sides of the boat very tightly, even though the water was very still. When they approach the monk he levitated several metres higher. The man in a dark robe took a pebble and, swaying in the boat, threw it at the monk high in the air. At this, he fell back to the lake with a splash and disappeared beneath the surface. The fishermen shouted and pushed the man in the dark robe. He had murdered, so they thought, a good man—a saint.

It was not so. A few moments later, the monk appeared again. This time his robe had turned to a scarlet red. While he was under the water, the ripples that formed a circle around him had not moved. Now, the ripples began to grow in size and the fishing boats began to shake in the water. The man in the dark robe smiled. The ripples grew until full-sized waves were breaking on the lake’s edge. Then, just when the fishermen thought their boat was going to be upset, the waves decreased in size and became very small ripples again. The man in a dark robe ordered his boat back to shore. None of the men from the village were sure what had happened, but they all talked about it over the fires in the tavern that night.

At the solstice, the monk vanished. The children on their way to school noticed first; they called and cried to the elders, and soon everyone was straining to see what had happened to their monk. The ripples were gone from the lake, and some of the men were secretly pleased that they could at last get at the richer fishing grounds. They took their boats out and, when they reached the centre, they found that there was a great lotus there. Some of the men wanted to cut it and take it back to the temple, but others wanted to leave it where it stood. Some said it was the monk himself, just in a changed form; others said the monk had left for distant parts, but conjured the lotus as a parting gift. Finally, the men agreed to leave the flower alone. It is still there today, so many years later. If you pay the men at the village they will row you out to it. Their grandfathers first saw it, but the lotus is as fresh today as it was when the elders first glimpsed it. Put your hand out and touch the petals; you will experience a great surprise, a kind of lightning flash behind the eyes; a subtle little thunderstorm.


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