© From an anonymous friend sharing stories that were given to her verbally long ago. This parable / story is retold in her words as a kind of “sacred teaching.” This second by a Rinpoche Tan living in Malaysia. Her re-telling of the tale……
He traveled the countryside with his retinue, majestic and awe inspiring in his robes of purple and gold. When he sat to teach the gathered crowds, they brought gold and incense as offerings for receiving his blessings and wisdom, and those that could afford neither gold nor incense, nor silks nor items of value, would bring food, or they would offer their time and work to serve this great and famous master.
In his private moments this teacher might question his own spirituality, because there was a voice he could not always silence, whispering that there was some truth that was missing from his practice and his sermons.
But that inner voice was drowned out by the adulation of his students and followers, and the wealth and reverence he garnered from them convinced him that he was, indeed, divinely inspired in his message, and truly then, he must be a blessed, and even ascended, master.
His private spiritual practice centered around repetition of an ancient sutra – repeated like a mantra, over and over again. This mantra was very powerful, and required precise attention to ritual details, including how many candles of each color were needed, the placement of the flowers, wine, and rice on his altar, and most importantly of all, the precise pronunciation of the sutra, for it was written in a language long lost to the living.
It is possible that this man’s travels to teach the masses were also secretly compelled by his silenced inner voice… For surrounding his sermons in villages near and far, he would also send out scouts seeking to locate other revered spiritual teachers – holy men and women – and healers too – all that were rumored to have great spiritual gifts. He wanted private audiences with any such figures that might be known to the local population.
He had long heard rumors of one very great holy man – a hermit and a sage that had long removed himself from daily interaction with our ordinary world. He was very difficult to find as the reputation of his spiritual wisdom and healing was so great that many believed he was only a character from myths, rather than a human man that walked the earth.
Scouts returned to the famous teacher after one of his sermons, saying that they had located this mythical hermit. At once the teacher instructed his retinue to pack their camp, acquire guides and even boats, that they should make haste to arrange an audience with this hermit. He was said to live on an island in a lake, with only a cave and the trees for shelter.
Of course the famous teacher began to doubt the spiritual elevation of this hermit, because if he were truly divine, surely he would have a palace… But the teacher pressed on with his retinue, slashing a larger path through the forest to accommodate his followers, and setting sail for the island in a small fleet of hastily assembled fishing boats and rafts.
I do not know the content of all the conversation between the famous teacher and the humble hermit. Much of it was private, and out of earshot of those reporting this story. The hermit expressed some surprise, some honor, and great delight that such a famous teacher would travel so far to meet him! For even isolated on his little island, those that came to leave him food and firewood offerings, and would seek him out for healing medicines and prayers, had spoken of the teacher’s great fame and wisdom.
What I DO know of, for this was witnessed, was the discussion around the famous teacher’s secret and powerful sutra. The hermit also knew this sutra, and repeated it daily as part of his own spiritual practice.
The teacher was very proud of himself indeed, for the hermit had been pronouncing the words incorrectly – and he did not always have candles or wine or even rice, much less the silver and gold goblets and cups required for the ritual, for the mantra repetition to have any effect.
The hermit accepted the teacher’s teaching of the correct repetition and ritual with great humility and gratitude, and the famous teacher once again reassured himself that indeed he must be himself divine. The teacher and his retinue sailed off home with great pride….
As the retinue disembarked on shore and began the long march back through the forest, a deep voice called out to “please wait, worshipful master!” It was the hermit who, with great respect, was calling out to the famous teacher. The hermit explained that he was an old man with an old memory, to look upon him with forgiveness, and to please again instruct him in the correct pronunciation of the ancient sutra, because he could not remember all of the corrections …
The teacher, though annoyed by the delay, was also filled with pride, for all could see this revered holy hermit beg him for instruction.
After the sutra teaching, the humble hermit expressed his gratitude and turned to return to his island. The teacher asked, suddenly in shock, how the hermit had caught up to his retinue in time! Because all boats had left the island to escort the teacher…
The hermit again apologized and agreed that there were no boats left on his island, and he had no boat to return home. But that he was so grateful for the Teacher’s instruction, and being aware that the teacher was in a hurry to get his journey underway, rather than waste time he had just walked as fast as he could, hoping to catch the teacher in time.