The Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order, had been invited by the vicar of the church in the small and charming village close to the mountain that is home to the monastery, a long-time friend, to deliver some words during mass on Sunday. He asked me to go with him, and made us arrive early and wait on a bench in the square across from the church. The Old Man liked to feel the sun warm his body up in the chilly morning of Fall. The sun, the cold, the squirrels, parents walking with their young kids, adult sons and daughters walking with their ageing parents, the noise of children, the gardens, the birds, in short, life pulsating in its many manifestations, fascinated the monk. “All of this nourishes my silence”, he said.
The mass went smoothly until the Old Man was called to the pulpit. The vicar warned the parishioners not to be surprised by the monk’s speech, who, despite being a devout Christian, belonged to a lay esoteric order dedicated to the study of philosophy and metaphysics. The Old Man thanked him, and began: “I will say a few words about the greatness of gratitude, a virtue that is so poorly understood.”“Some of you are here, in distress, seeking help for problems you feel incapable of solving; others, for the favors received; others yet just to bathe yourselves in the energy of love and light that overflows this House. Each one of you has your reasons, motives feelings and faith. Everyone deserves acceptance, respect and affection. But I have always asked myself two questions: what criteria does the spiritual sphere follow to bestow a grace, as some are granted and others not? The second question is what is the best way to give thanks for all the good things that were bestowed? I took a long time to think about these issues in my meditations.” He paused briefly for everyone to reflect about that for a moment, and added: “I know people who make donations “preventively”, so that they can “look good” in the eyes of divine friends, to ensure protection and privileges. There are also people who fill out generous checks in favor of religious or philanthropic organizations to “settle the debt” of a grace received. For either group, I can assure you their intentions are equivocal. Heaven, the spiritual plane or whatever name you call it, is not a business.” The Old Man’s voice had its usual serenity, and despite being too soft, it reached the last pew so absolute was the silence.
“One does not buy favors beyond the visible world, nor is money used for trade. There are other interests and values. You think you are special because you have more money, more education or you are on TV? Forget it. Having the best tools and possibilities only increases your responsibility for transformation. Do you know the promises you make about adopting a child if you win the lottery and become a millionaire? Forget it. One does not bargain with love, much less with God.”
“The logic of the invisible plan is different. It does not care for what your ego desires. The concerns of the spiritual benefactors are connected only to the needs of your soul, to all that you need to evolve. The job, the house, the children and even your health, or lack thereof, make up the perfect reality for you to Learn, Transform yourself, Share and Move on.”
“No, do not regret not having what you want; on the contrary, be thankful for the opportunity and make the best use of what has been offered to you. This is wise. This is sheer gratitude. Even though at this moment there may be difficulties in understanding, I am sure there is nothing lacking for you to be in peace other than what you have to reach in the core of your own being: the courage to add your gifts and talents to your life; to stop bargaining with the shadows; to hone your choices in searching for Light, and to learn how to love too much.”
“As ludicrous as it may seem, all that happens in our lives is for our own good. The good warrior is thankful for the harshness of the battles for perfecting his fighting skills. Your evolution is a priority for the Universe, all the rest is transient, accessories with no healing power. Therefore, be always grateful. Frustrations are the fertilizers of personal growth; hardships are lessons that will enlighten and strength the spirit; the problems and opponents are hidden masters that will bestow us with wisdom and will enhance our ability to love. Hence we metamorphose ourselves, breaking the crust that holds us prisoners so that the wing of a new being may flourish”.
“How about prayers, are they important? Yes. Just like meditation, they raise the vibratory standards and bring masters and invisible guardians closer, for aid and protection, as long as there is an honest wish for transformation within the limits of the Unwritten Laws that regulate universal evolution, in accordance with need and merit. Unexpected events; the sudden appearance of people as if they were angels; the many signs; intuition, which is the perfect cosmic connection, are some of the many ways of collaboration we receive. Realize it and be thankful. However, pay heed: they will always help you, but will never do what you are supposed to do. These are different things.”
“Going to mass and aligning yourself with the shadows that dwell within you will not result in the expected effect. On the other hand, whoever walks on the Sunny Side of the Road does not have to fear darkness. The scent of flowers draws birds and butterflies; the smell of sewage infests it with roaches and rats. That is how we select our company”. He paused briefly and added: “Therefore, there is never reason to complain.”
Many of the people at mass were visibly uncomfortable with that speech. The Old Man looked at the vicar, who arched his lips in a smile of approval.
“Every kind of charity is welcome, and a nice way to show gratitude. There is no question material help is essential to those who are cold and hungry. However, the ones with more meaning and importance are those in which our hearts go along our actions. This is why emotional charity is infinitely more valuable than the financial one. After all, what can be more precious than your heart? A hug generally has more value than a check.”
“I don’t know a more beautiful word than mercy. In Latin, mercy is signified by “misericordia”, a combination of two words, “miseria” or misery, and “cor”, meaning heart; together, they mean offering love as remedy to the suffering of others. Historically, those who gave more of themselves had nothing else to give other than themselves, other than their hearts. And that is how they accomplished all they did. Do you think it is nonsense? Ask Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In order to be great, one must feel small in face of the smallest of all. It isn’t enough to have the heart of the world, one must feel it pulsating and not wash one’s hands like Pontius Pilate.”
“And I mean it in everyday life, in our relations with everyone. Do not expect an invitation for a ceremony of transformation; it is during our daily chores and obligations that life takes place. It is in the small things that you reveal yourself, you learn and walk on; it is in the almost undetectable details that miracles manifest themselves, invisible to inattentive eyes. Everything happens all of a sudden, with no notice. This is the magic of life.” Once again he paused briefly, so that the words could settle in the audience
“I dare go further. Gratitude is sincere, and simple in its manifestation. The purest feelings, fruits of sheer humility, are discreet and anonymous. They are not revealed to be applauded; rather, they are connected to the inner core and the beauty of sharing, as any action of true love. They emerge from the responsibility for perfecting the work that had been conferred upon us as co-authors. Yes, the world was created but is not finished. This makes us creators and creatures of this fascinating show, with its wonders and disarrays, as we help writing the script at the same time we play the leading role of the scenes. Not everyone has realized the opportunity that was granted. Be thankful and go beyond the rhetoric, by making each gesture or word irreproachable. Do not forget that, even while it is far, the perfect world starts in you.”
The Old Man knew that he had only a few seconds left, not to disrupt the smooth progress of mass: “To conclude, I apologize if I spoke too much, and I would like to leave you with two questions. As we tend to complain a lot about how imperfect the world is, I ask you what was your best action towards a better world?” He waited for a few moments and asked the second question: “What is the best way to give thanks for all the blessings Life keeps on bestowing on us?”
At the end of the mass, the vicar thanked the Old Man for his words and they hugged each other warmly. Outside the church, many people grimaced at the monk; others went over to shake hands with him, and he spoke to everyone with attention and affection. Back to the square, just the two of us, I asked him about the questions he posed. I thought they did not address the same matter, just like his speech addressed two different subjects. The monk looked at me in the eyes, smiled mildly and shook his head, as if saying I had not understood anything.
We sat in a cafe close by. The Old Man spoke quietly: “The Unwritten Laws adjust life and leverage the evolution of everyone. We move forward willingly or due to imposition. The difficulty comes from us refusing to learn the lesson in order to liberate ourselves from a cycle. Do not regret, but rather be thankful, learn, transform yourself and move on. The walker of the Path sees himself distant, does not make criticisms and seeks self-improvement. He always offers his best. Each choice we make defines our destiny and heritage. In this or in another station we shall collect the fruits from our own reaping. We receive the precise lessons to understand the greatness of the Garden. We are the gardeners, the seed, the flower and also the fruit. The seed is deposited and, at some point, it will germinate. Even if, for that, the soil makes strong pressure on the shell for it to break, germinate and flourish in all its enchantment.”
We remained silent for a while; then I revisited the questions he had asked everyone at church, and what their answers would be. He looked at me with eyes filled with mercy and joked: “You are the worse disciple we have ever had at the Order, Yoskhaz! There is only one answer, and it is good for both questions.” He paused, we laughed together, he ate the chocolate bite that came with the coffee, and added: “The best way to give thanks for the blessings received is also the most effective way to harmonize the planet: disseminate joy wherever you go. Rejoice, rejoice! Love has the colors of joy. Nothing is more powerful that giving cause for people to smile.”
“Joy is the best way one has to show gratitude for all the blessings of the Path.” He looked at me deeply into my eyes and added: “Joy is the bread of the soul; it is a gift of love. Joy reveals the patience we have with what we have not yet become, of seeing the hidden beauty in everything and everyone. Joy has the gift to invite hearts to dance, relieve pains, give wings to the dreams of mankind, and keep alive the necessary hope in yourself and in everyone. It allows your attitudes to portray the perfect world your heart longs for. Joy reveals good will, courage and respect for life. Learn with joy, transform yourself with joy, share with joy, move on with joy. The best of all is that you don’t need to pay anything for it; it is a cheap seed available to everyone. All you have to do is retrieve it from the bottom of your heart. Joy is Love’s creature, and brings in itself all the power of the Creator.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.