The Monk and the Traveller

Dec 2022

(Based on a previous essay. It’s one of the short stories I’m happy with)



“You, Venerable One, may indeed be a seeker, for, striving toward your goal, there is much you do not see which is right before your eyes.”

– Herman Hesse, Siddhartha


 “The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being.”

Eckhart Tolle


The wise monk sat atop the mountain in a small monastery and meditated with the wholeness of his being for days and nights without rest, only ceasing to quench thirst and to satisfy hunger with the sweet fruits and the cold water from the flowing lake.

Many years before, a younger man had attained enlightenment and become one with the supreme knowledge and Kami of the eternal spirit of nature and life.

A foreigner, a gaijin, had travelled many lengths, crossed many paths to seek this wise monk and to learn and feel the wholeness which radiated from his self.

“Teach me all that there is to know about the eternal and the infinite, of the supreme knowledge and the enlightenment. I have travelled for much time, to seek and to learn from one who has mastered all in this life,” asked the foreigner of the monk, who did not acknowledge but stared blankly into space.

After a time the monk said of the foreigner “It is a long road, a tough road to learn all that can be learnt, to master all that can be mastered and know all that is knowable. If you believe that patience resides within you then I invite you to sit beside me and begin your journey.”

So the foreigner sat beside the monk and came to lead the life of solitude and poverty, of loneliness and thought. For many years he sat beside the monk, living in his step and practicing the ways of the enlightened, weeping when his efforts proved futile, when his energies felt wasted and went unappreciated.

The years wore on and the foreigner grew tired and restless with the shamble his life had become. Many times he questioned the monk, pointing and prodding until he could see some truth in these ways.

“Why have I not yet seen the unseeable?”

“Because you do not seek with open eyes.”

These cryptic answers confused the foreigner and he grew furious with frustration. He began to mock the ways of the monk and grieved for the passing years. Unrest grew within his mind, a vine that chokes the tender plant and he decided to leave the monastery, to forego the path he had chosen.

The monk finally spoke to the foreigner, in a gentle and understanding voice. “You are close to what you seek. Sit for one more month and you will undergo a transformation.”

So the foreigner sat and after one month had passed he questioned the monk again.

“I feel no different. What must be felt to know that I have reached the enlightenment?”

“Sit for one more month and you will see” replied the monk.

So the foreigner sat for one more month.

“What is left for me to know?”

The monk examined a rock and showed it to the foreigner. “Everything there is to know is within this stone. Sit for one more month and you will understand.”

So the foreigner sat for one more month.

This carried on for many months before finally the foreigner, confused and frustrated raised his hand against the monk, giving him the fury of his life force. The foreigner felt ashamed and vowed never to return.

“I will never ascend this life and become one with the knowledge and undergo the eternal transformation of the spirit and soul. I must leave now.”

The monk was calm and spoke softly:

“Sit for one more night. If you do not become enlightened tomorrow, then I’m afraid you will never learn. You would do best to kill yourself.”

The next day, the foreigner became enlightened.

He left the monastery to spread all that he had learnt.

The monk laughed for an eternity before resuming his daily prayer.