The narrow gate

The Sermon on the Mount is the core of the studies at the Order. All other texts from different philosophical and metaphysical traditions are variants to add depth and shade to the valuable thoughts therein. I was seated in a comfortable armchair in the library of the monastery, my gaze lost in the beautiful landscape framed by its windows, reflecting on the words spoken on the mountain of Kurun Hattin when I was surprised by the Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order. He had brought from the mess hall two cups of coffee; placed one on the small coffee table by my side and went to pick a book from the shelves. I smiled in appreciation of his kindness and asked him to sit in the armchair in front of mine. I would take the chance of being alone together in the library to chat a bit with him. He accepted, made himself comfortable in the armchair, sipped his coffee and asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading the Sermon on the Mount, this precious philosophical legacy, more particularly the part about the narrow door. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” I read the excerpt. I said that the text could be a bit longer, to provide more details and explanations about its content. The Old Man shook his head and said: “The text is perfect in its concision. Remember that is was made not for some, but for all. Therefore, in a way of its own, it should reach different levels of awareness. Each one will reach the depth they are willing to dive. The Sermon on the Mount is the code for the Path; however, I respect those who consider it nonsensical.”

I asked him why the gate was narrow. The monk arched his lips in a discreet smile and said: “The gate is narrow because the self is huge; many are the unnecessary and useless pieces of baggage the ego insists on carrying along, making the journey slow, painful and heavy.” I asked him to expand on his thoughts, and he obliged: “The root of all suffering is the separation between ego and soul. The further apart one is from the other, the deeper the divide within the being, the more profuse the conflicts and distress. The full integration of the parts is plenitude, which is translated as peace of mind, that will keep you safe from the blows and poisons of the world.”

“On one hand, there is appreciation of appearances, that strongly captivate the ego; the empowerment of the shadows nourishing selfishness, vanity, arrogance, pride, jealousy, greed, envy, the ephemeral pleasures and the wish to dominate others. All these emotions stem from fear and ignorance.”

“On the other, there is the essence, the true identify of all of us, on which the soul acts; love as the loadstar, evolution as the goal, and virtues as the method for healing and freeing the spirit. These are the flowers of light.”

I wanted to know how to apply those words to everyday life. The monk explained: “We make a variety of choices every day, from uneventful ones, such as smiling to or turning our face away from the neighbor pretending we have not seen him, to the most complex ones, such as quitting a job, moving to another country or changing our lifestyle. At each choice, we will either listen to the guidance of the ego or the advice of the soul. Therefore, at all times, we will define the gate we will go through.”

I asked him about the difficulties of the way to which the text makes reference. The patience of the Old Man seemed endless: “The problem is crossing the way carrying in one’s baggage the huge volume created by values we have been conditioned to, in which the spiritual search that should take place with respect to sensibility, needs and ethics, without the hindrance of material achievements, is left in the background. To journey by the way of light, lightness is necessary. It is not easy to travel the road of an existence on Earth willing to give up what is superfluous, excessive, the empty fame, the mundane power of domination, the ostentation that elicits applause and adulation. The shine of appearances causes more awe than the light that surrounds you. Reversing the cultural values so that forgiveness takes the place of resentment; humility dissolves pride; justice is a tool for education rather than revenge; the secular principles of the Enlightenment such as equality and fraternity replacing ancestral privileges that stubbornly persist are examples of values that make the person dance according to the tune set by the universe, contrary to social customs. There should be no more taps on the back or pampering; however, there will be respect and compassion. There is a huge difference in stating for yourself that ‘the king is naked’; this means that the values that have guided you so far are illusory, and that the truth is otherwise: wealth, power and magic are within you, not outside. We should carry the baggage that fits in the heart, like joy, dignity, freedom and peace.”

“The narrow gate is the pathway for those who choose to walk with the cane of virtues. By evolutionary need, the refinement of the virtues of one’s being is a journey to bring closer together and integrate ego and soul in the act of surpassing oneself. The absolute unity between ego and soul is essential to plenitude and will be possible only for those who are willing to undertake the journey of self-knowledge. This is the true battle. This is how we initiate and follow on the Path.”

I told him I was able to list many virtues: love, justice, peacefulness, meekness, generosity, gratitude, dignity, sincerity, honesty, compassion, mercy, kindness, sweetness, patience, respect, harmony, purity, courage, joy, spiritedness, firmness, good mood, humility, simplicity, hope, faith, and others I might have forgotten at that time. The Old Man shrugged his shoulder and questioned me: “So, you answer, not to me, but to yourself, which of those you have integrated within yourself?”

I lowered my eyes and confessed that many a time I find excuses to give up the virtues in my choices. The monk agreed: “The world always provides a twisted line of reasoning to justify the desires of the ego to the detriment of the needs of the soul. This is the tireless job of our shadows: the many tricks that delude us about the truth and distance us from the light. Hence, we fight and suffer. However, we have the power and magic of life.” I interrupted him to say I did not believe in sorcerers and magic. The Old Man laughed heartily and said: “We are all sorcerers; magic is transformation. We alter reality as we accept inner transformations prompted by the values of the light that dwell within ourselves.”

I interrupted him once again to ask about these values. The monk explained: “To improve in yourself each one of the virtues you have just mentioned is to illuminate and transmute the shadows. Instead of fighting your shadows, embrace them with affection, acknowledge the difficulties you have and, as a loving father devoted to the education of your child, show them that they can and should evolve, as the being must become one as required for evolution. Therefore, little by little, we fine tune each one of the virtues until they are all aligned in the mind and the heart. This is the process for finding true peace and authentic freedom. Then you realize how things change around you. This is pure magic.” I said I am a pragmatic, empirical person. I asked him to explain, in practice, how virtues could leverage my evolution and make a difference in the world.

The Old Man obliged: “Life is filled with opportunities. Virtues are waiting for our command, always willing to begin the journey of healing and liberation. There are many instances.

Whenever the world accuses someone, we can either harshen the conviction, drowning the wretch in sadness and guilt, or rescue him into the light, showing the possibility and responsibility of doing differently and better next time;

Whenever you face a dilemma between law and justice, in which law protects you while justice distances, abdicate the privileges granted as a sacred instance of equality;

Be firm to stop evil without forgetting to be compassionate and merciful to the offender. We must distance ourselves from the terrible risk of revenge, a step towards darkness. Justice is a virtue that is completed with education, not with mere punishment;

In face of offense, do not forget that humiliation is a short-range arrow and does not reach those who fly with the wings of humility and compassion. Forgive and move on;

In face of the inevitable social changes, carry meekness within you. It is an inseparable ally of crystal-clear reasonings. Do not forget that transformations are only effective from the inside out of a person, never the other way around. Above all, if the reason is compelling, remember that example is the definitive marker of change;

The world needs more diplomacy and less judgements. When you face a conflict between third parties, avoid playing the tempting role of judge and take on the hard task of the diplomat, to sow peace and understanding. Often when two people argue, they are both, right, each one according to their level of awareness, loving capacity, and their interests and hardships;

Be not a wall on the path of others. Be the bridge by which everyone will cross the abysses of earthly existence. Even though one walks on the Path alone, the journey is solidary. No one completes the journey without help;

Joy is the best way to be thankful for all the flowers that embellish life. As hard as you refuse to see it, beauty is everywhere. The smile is the most powerful prayer of gratitude and a valuable magic; a cheerful mood is characteristic of enlightened spirits. There is no place for grouches in the train bound to the High Lands;

Never be regretful or impose your will onto others. Just transform yourself. This is what virtues are for.”

The monk made a brief pause and added: “The good examples are not exhausted here; endless are the applications of virtues as tools of Light to transmute individual and collective shadows. The enhancement of virtues is an effective method of evolution.” I said that it was too hard. The Old Man promptly rebuked: “This is why the gate is narrow and the way is difficult.”

We remained some time without uttering a word. I broke the silence to confess how surprised I was with the lengthy interpretation of the monk about such a short paragraph with very few lines. He shrugged and said: “I did not go so deep. We can go even further.” I said that this was a new theory. The Old Man offered me a beautiful smile and corrected me: “No, Yoskhaz! All wisdom is ancient, from immemorial times. Next to love, wisdom has cultivated the seed of light and truth in the fields of humankind since always. It is us who are stubborn to not learn. Bear in mind that Jesus made that speech two thousand years ago, with the authority of someone who gave himself as example of his words. Even though the gate is narrow, it is the only entrance of the Path. It is there for anyone to cross; suffice they decide to do so.” He paused briefly before making a final remark: “Note the concern the universe has for us. A little over a thousand years after the Sermon on the Mount, the master asked one of his most worthy apostles to return, to remind us not only of the power of love, the most important virtue, but also to show the transformative wisdom of the other virtues and to signal the Path.” I interrupted him to say I did not know whom he was referring to. The Old Man closed his eyes and hummed the prayer that Francis taught:


Where there is hatred let me sow love

Where there is despair, hope

And where there is sadness, joy

Where there is darkness, light



Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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