Those were my first days at the monastery, when I hardly thought about becoming a disciple of the Order. I had been invited to spend a few days there. My life was buffeted by strong turbulence, one problem after the other. As if this wasn’t enough, I was assailed by existential doubts. I was there looking for the formula that would solve my inner conflicts. The Old Man, as we affectionately called the dean of the monastery, was the person who drew my attention the most, either due to his captivating demeanor or his disconcerting view in regards to life. On that morning he spoke about the transformational power of love. His words elicited a number of questions in my mind, but I did not hear anything that would help me in an objective way. Immediately after, I found him in the refectory, having coffee. I took the chance to tell him about a recent quarrel with a relative of mine about inheritance issues, which had escalated and spread around the family. I said I did not know how to appease it. The monk spoke with his soft voice: “You must realize that people can only travel to the limits of their own consciousness. To see the shadows of other people is an important step to illuminate yours. However, in order to transmute it, your choices should be different and better than they have been so far.” I immediately asked how I should act. The Old Man arched his lips in a nice smile and answered: “Is it bad? Sprinkle love on it.” On one hand I found that interesting; on the other, enigmatic.
On the morning of the next day, I found him in the inner garden of the monastery, pruning rose bushes. I asked if we could chat a bit. He nodded his head, and I could see his eyes smiling. I told him how the end of a long-term engagement still tormented me. The monk frowned and said: “Give thanks for the longing you feel, as it only happens when there was love. Other than that, there is only emptiness. The honey of life is being fascinated with the flight, not building cages.” Fretful, I confessed I did not know what to do to relieve my suffering. The Old Man just said: “Is it bad? Sprinkle love on it.” On one hand, I found that poetic; on the other, not very practical.
That evening, I had a new opportunity to be alone with the Old Man, immediately after dinner. I told him how unhappy I was with my job. I mentioned it was harder and harder to work with those whom I did not like. He arched his lips in a mild smile and said: “We all have a gift that differentiates one from the other. It is the way you use your gift that gives your dreams wings, whether through a trade or an art. Putting your gift into practice, as simple as it may be, goes beyond the mundane and connects us to what is sacred. Gift is the personal talent related to the dharma, one’s purpose in life. Casting off the gift makes the core of being rusty.” Before I could make any remark, the Old Man added: “Is it bad? Sprinkle love on it.” On one hand, I found that elegant; on the other, pathetic.
Extremely irritated, I said I was wasting my time there, while my life outside was hell. I thanked him sarcastically, and said I would leave at once. The Old Man softly closed his eyes, as he would do whenever he would hear something regrettable, and said no word.
I packed my things and left. In the outer yard of the monastery, used as a parking place by the visitors, a skinny man was throwing a tantrum because a car was parked outside the marked space, making it hard, not impossible, for him to maneuver. That was my car. When he realized it, the man came to me and aggressively accused me of all that was bad in the world. Very annoyed, I quickly went to a state of rage, and I seriously thought about silencing him with a punch, which would not be difficult, considering how disproportionate we were. At this precise moment, he said, shouting, that he couldn’t stay a minute longer in that place. He had come seeking help, but all he had heard was a bunch of nonsense. Those words held my fist back, and I saw him as a mirror. His deranged behavior and clouded vision were sensations similar to mine. “Sprinkle with a bit of love,” I heard the soft voice of the monk whispering in my heart. At that moment, I realized the anger of that man, even though addressed to me, was not actually for me. It revealed his distress in the face of his inability to solve his own problems. Deaths in the family? Bankruptcy? Diseases? Separation? Frustration? I did not know the reason, but for the first time I could clearly see suffering and confusion in someone’s eyes. Dense emotions that, mixed together, burst into anger and had to be passed on to someone. I saw me mirrored in that desperate man, and I realized I did not want to be like that. At that point I learned the importance of the other in my life, and also the meaning and the beauty of love, which, in that case, was manifested as compassion. I felt compassion for him and for me. It all changed inside me in a fraction of a second.
I apologized, to no avail. The skinny man kept on cursing and shouting absurd accusations. But that no longer had the power to hurt or annoy me. Love protected me. From him and from myself, as we are only offended if we are in the same vibratory frequency of the other. However, something had changed. All my anger had turned into understanding and patience. I was in a place where offenses would not reach. I understood that love is like a shield. Moreover, I started to realize the fantastic transforming power of love. As soon as I took my car off the way, he left. But first he opened his window to shout a final curse. I smiled and thanked him for the wonderful lesson. I turned on my heels and went back to the monastery.
I was told the Old Man was reading in the library. I ran up the stairs. He was alone, and greeted me with a smile I will never forget. I sat next to him and told him what had happened in the yard. I confessed I was delighted to realize the Universe always conspires in our favor. The monk laughed heartily and connected: “Yes, this is true. The Universe insists in helping us, it is us who are stubborn enough to be in the way. Even when plans go wrong, have no doubt, it is life correcting our course, adjusting the wishes of the ego to the needs of the soul.”
I beseeched him to talk further about the transformational power of love. The good monk with tremendous patience obliged: “We are on this planet only to evolve. Nothing else. It is an infinite journey with a number of stretches. These are the evolutionary cycles. Each one contains four different moments: To Learn, Transmute, Share, and Move On. That is how we continue, station after station, in our journey towards the High Lands. To evolve is to expand the level of awareness. This is possible only if, at the same time, we expand the capacity of the heart. Wisdom requires massive doses of love to reach its real value and best sense. Only then we leverage our evolution. Wisdom without love only heightens the shadows that dwell within us. Without love, the most refined wisdom is incapable of lifting the veil that covers the essence of life. Love is the path of light and the perfect destination. Nothing other than love will bring us joy or peace.”
We remained silent for I don’t know how long. I started to think about all the conflicts than stole my peace and had led me there. Looking through the lenses of love, the solutions seemed simple, and, at the same time, disconcerting, bold, not according to the standards of my behavior until that day. The self-effacing advice of the Old Man, ludicrous until then, became absolutely brilliant. As I continued to think about them, everything gained colors I did not know they existed, providing choices I had never thought of. It was sheer light. I laughed and cried at the same time.
I told the monk that all seemed to be solved like magic. He smiled and said: “For the first time you have realized you have experienced a miracle. Miracles are but transformations caused by the infinite power of love. They are very common, but, pitifully most people do not notice them, as they always wait for cinematographic situations.” He paused briefly and added: “The enchantment of this moment is due to the end of a cycle. Today you have learned a valuable lesson through an ordinary, apparently common situation, that is likely to have occurred many times in your life but went unnoticed. Now the lesson has been learned. You will spend some time transmuting ideas, concepts and attitudes. Finally, transforming yourself. Then you will share with all these people your new way of being. Love and wisdom may not be limited to theory, you must experience them even in the minor daily issues. Then you will be ready to move on.”
We became silent for a long while; the Old Man, then spoke: “I will teach you a powerful mantra.” He looked at me for a few moments. His eyes seemed to have seen a bit of everything in this life. Then he smiled, blinked an eye in a roguish way, as he would do whenever he would tell a secret, and said: “Is it bad? Sprinkle love on it.” We laughed. Then, he completed: “Love is the salt of Earth, the spice of life. Without it all is bland, inedible.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.