Of all places in the monastery, the library has always been my favorite. Choosing one of the many books available, sitting in one of its comfortable armchairs and splitting my attention between the letters and the wonderful landscape of the mountains, whose view the huge windows allow, provide moments of pure magic. Many a time I found the Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order, seated in a corner, entranced by readings or traveling in the deep seas of reflection. On that day I had just picked a book when I realized he had been watching me. He arched his brow as if asking which book I had selected. I showed him the cover and he smiled approvingly. It was a collection of lectures by Yogananda. There was an empty armchair next to his, so I took it. I asked him what he was reading. He answered in a whisper: “The Sermon on the Mount.” He had once told me he read this small text every day before reading anything else, but I did not think he meant that literally. Seeing my display of surprise, the Old Man said: “The words of the Sermon are alive, and have always provided me endless teachings.” I had read it many times, and asked him what part he was meditating about. He said with his soft voice: “That part that says that ‘small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.’” I said I knew what he was talking about, and wanted to show off all the knowledge I thought I had. I said that the purpose of that excerpt was to drive us away from the wide roads to perdition. I added that its interpretation was not that hard, suffice that we be honest. As simple as that. The Old Man thanked me in form of a sweet smile and returned to his reading and thoughts. I was proud of myself.
A few days later, I met the Old Man again. I was pretty upset. A family dissent about the estate left by a deceased relative was causing grievances among people who had had a lifetime relationship and, apparently, loved and respected one another. But it seemed they were all strangers. I was made propositions for the partition that were absurd, under claims and allegations so convoluted they verged on the ridiculous. However, they were all being serious, and I foresaw a huge financial loss. I asked the monk for advice to soften my heart from the sorrow I felt. He gave me a kind look and said: “It is time to cross the narrow door”. He paused on purpose, and continued: “Be honest.” I rebuked by saying I was being absolutely honest, it was the others who were being unreasonable to me. They wanted to usurp what was rightfully mine. This is why I was suffering. The Old Man furrowed his brow and said: “If you crossed the door for being honest and, if beyond that door is the Road of Light, why do I see you bewildered and distressed?”
I asked if I was wrong in being honest and in considering my interests first. The monk answered in a serious tone: “Absolutely not. Being honest is an obligation of the walker. It is an essential virtue to achieve dignity, so that he can tread the Path. However, honesty alone is not enough. In order to cross the narrow door and continue on the difficult Road of Light you need more.” Ashamed, I lowered my eyes. In a gesture of humility, I asked him to teach me something about the door.
We walked to the refectory, poured ourselves a cup of coffee and sat. Then, the Old Man said: “The narrow door is a choice, perhaps the most important one can make in life. It is so valuable that you must reaffirm it every single day, as huge are the temptations that will relentlessly try to divert your steps. The narrow door is the choice of the virtues of the soul over the values of the ego; it is the golden road of the heart. It is the beginning of the Path.”
“Let me begin by telling you it is not easy. First, you must see the door; there are still many who are not capable of seeing it. Then you have to cross it and remain on the ‘narrow road’. There are those who succumb to the appeals of the world or the hardships found on the way. Finally, you will have to imbed the Path to your way of being. This means, walker and path merge and become one; it is time to open the curtains for a new stage. This means you have reached the High Lands station”. He made a brief pause and added: “Do not forget: the journey is tough, and yet sweet. Furthermore, it is endless.”
I said I understood some of it, not much. I asked him to explain it better. The Old Man tried to be didactic: “We are all raised according to society’s standards that value empty fame, lightless glitter, easy applause, celebrities who make no transformation, money used as an instrument of power, appearance rather than essence. These are social, cultural and ancestral conditionings so ingrained into the ego that we almost never question the importance of such goals. We act out of automation, with no further questionings, as these are the achievements that will make us be recognized and admired by most of the people around us.”
“Continuing in this quest is easier, as it goes along the trails of the ego that have been laid centuries ago, without any objection. It is pleasant, as the ego desires material achievements in the form of luxury, sensorial pleasures and reverence. The shadows of vanity and pride will make themselves big and will convince you that you are better than the others. You will believe you were born to have the world at your feet.”
“However, this is not the symphony of the universe. Life is unrelentingly committed to evolution. Evolution is related to the liberation and plenitude of the soul. In order for one to be free from mundane oppressions, one should learn how to be more with less. The less one needs, the freer one will be. This is the equation of freedom. The wish of having causes dependency and conflicts because of essential unnecessariness; the beauty of constructing the being is forgotten in a corner. What makes the continuation of the journey possible is not the size of your mansion or bank account, but the greatness of your heart.”
“The unrestrained desire for unending purchases makes existence frail, because it causes dependence that grows more and more, making you delusional about achieving peace and happiness. Beautiful external ornamentation not always mirrors the internal truth. Often apparent luxury hides a tremendous misery of the essence. This reflects people who are arrogant in order to convey a power they lack; the inner strength they do not have. They nourish pride and vanity because they need to hide, even from themselves, the weakness they feel; it is like a palace built without the basic foundations, making it vulnerable even to a mild gale. What exalts the walker is not the number of countries he has visited, but the deep inner journey he makes to know himself.”
“Currently, the desires of the ego have created a sad legion of sufferers and distressed people who are in the world but lost in themselves. They may use drugs to try to escape from themselves, entertain themselves in noisy places to muffle the silent voice that comes from the heart; wear sunglasses to hide from the eyes of others the open wounds of their soul. Depression, therapies, anxiolytics, antidepressants and the illusion that they will always be able to stay away from the mirror that, sooner or later, will reflect the accurate image of someone who craves light.”
“The desires of the ego make existence heavier and slippery when, in fact we need the lightness of the soul so that its wings support us over the abysses of existence. In the height of plenitude, they may tear your clothes, set your house on fire, put you in an unsanitary prison; the plentiful soul will remain untouched, unscathed. Plenitude heals the frailties of the ego. It is the internal, eternal peace, so powerful it will keep you from the evil and curses so common on the planet.”
I asked him what would happen if I refused to cross the door. The Old Man shrugged, as if saying there was no way out, and explained: “Bear in mind that the universe is connected to your evolution because of the unavoidable need for expansion of the entire cosmos. Do not forget that you are part of the whole; hence, the whole is within you. This is your power and also your commitment. Therefore, after each choice a new learning cycle will ensue. Smooth or harsh, it will always be in fair reaction to your choices.”
“If you refuse to improve yourself, the lessons will become harsher and harsher. Bankruptcies, diseases, conflicts are closely connected to the need of the being to review their own ideas. Financial hardships are capable of showing the wealth of noble and immaterial values of life; diseases tend to become a pharmacy for the soul; conflict allows more refined perspectives and attitudes regarding the wisdom and love necessary for happiness. These are situations that hit the core of the ego; however, they improve the soul on its course towards freedom and plenitude. In the end, we come to fine tune the ego according to the tuning fork of the soul by understanding the opportunities for transformation that emerge. The shadows turn into light. Yes, life is always very generous. What the wild ego calls a disgrace the illuminated soul sees as grace.”
I asked him to advise me in this particular case, and told me what to do. The Old Man arched his lips in a discrete smile, revealing his extreme kindness, and spoke with his soft voice: “I don’t have a clue, Yoskhaz. Managing the life of others is a frivolous and arrogant action. Each one is their own master, and fully accountable for their choices. This is the only way to move forward.” He paused briefly and continued: “Deeply analyze yourself and your priorities at this point. Only then will you know the battle you are ready to fight: either to confront your relatives to defend the ownership of assets that are rightfully yours, or give up this confrontation to focus on other achievements.”
He furrowed his brow and spoke, gravely: “Whatever your decision may be, forgiveness and compassion for all who are involved are necessary, so that sorrow and resentment do not hamper the joy and lightness of the walk. You have to choose out of love, as only love has this power.” He arched his lips in a broad smile and added: “The narrow door is the one that will reveal the road to freedom and plenitude. It is the choice that will lead to personal transformations. It is the trail that will allow to blossom the best in the walker that is still hidden.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.