In continuation of my post yesterday on a God-with-skin (also my post last year on the same subject), here’s another one of my favorite stories:
High in the mountains was a monastery that had once been known throughout the world. Its monks were pious, its students were enthusiastic. The chants from the monastery’s chapel deeply touched the hearts of people who came there to pray and meditate.
But, something had changed. Fewer and fewer young men came to study there; fewer and fewer people came for spiritual nourishment. The monks who remained became disheartened and sad.
Deeply worried, the abbot of the monastery went off in search of an answer. Why had his monastery fallen on such hard times?
The abbot came to a guru, and he asked the master, “Is it because of some sin of ours that the monastery is no longer full of vitality?”
“Yes,” replied the master, “it is the sin of ignorance.”
“The sin of ignorance?” questioned the abbot. “Of what are we ignorant?”
The guru looked at the abbot for a long, long time, and then he said, “One of you is the messiah in disguise. But, you are all ignorant of this.” Then, the guru closed his eyes, and he was silent.
“The messiah?” thought the abbot. “The messiah is one of us? Who could it be? Could it be Brother Cook? Could it be Brother Treasurer? Could it be Brother Bell-Ringer? Could it be Brother Vegetable Grower?
“Which one? Which one? Every one of us has faults, failings, human defects. Isn’t the messiah supposed to be perfect? But, then, perhaps these faults and failings are part of his disguise. Which one? Which one?”
When the abbot returned to the monastery, he gathered all the monks together and told them what the guru had said.
“One of us? The messiah? Impossible!”
But, the master had spoken, and the master was never wrong.
“One of us? The messiah? Incredible! But, it must be so. Which one? Which one? That brother over there? That one? That one?”
Whichever one of the monks was the messiah, he was, surely, in disguise.
Not knowing who amongst them was the messiah, all the monks began treating each other with new respect. “You never know,” they thought, “he might be the one, so I had better deal with him kindly.”
It was not long before the monastery was filled with new found joy. Soon, new students came to learn, and people came from far and wide to be inspired by the chants of the kind, smiling monks.
For once again, the monastery was filled with the spirit of love.