“What is the right thing to do?”, asked of me the Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order, as Socrates, the Greek philosopher did, by answering a question with another as a method of reasoning. We were seated at the refectory of the monastery, a cup of coffee and a piece of oat cake before us. I have always felt uncomfortable with everyday predicaments. From political and social issues that, one way or another, affect us all to uncertainties regarding my personal life, such as breaking up or not with a girlfriend, changing jobs, moving to another city, changing my lifestyle. I argued that at all times we are assailed by doubts that bother us to various degrees, ranging from ordinary to serious ones. The problem is that uncertainty is very discomforting. To make my uncertainties worse, I would talk to people with dissenting opinions, for or against, all of them sure of their convictions and with strong arguments to support them. I said that I wanted to be free from disturbing doubts and to always know the right thing to do. It was then that the Old Man asked me about what the right thing to do was. I told him that if I had asked, it was because I did not know and needed an answer. The monk sipped his coffee and said: “My answer reflects what is true to me, and not necessarily that which will be true to you. You have to work hard to find the truth that will fulfill you, and that is why you feel uncomfortable. Blessed be the doubt!”
Annoyed, I said he was not helping me. The monk kept his tone of voice soft to appease me and allow me to feel the pleasant environment of the monastery: “Doubts lead to questions; by going deep into our questions we search for what we are missing within, and by doing so we will find what is true for us.” I said that he was wrong, because much of what one believed true in the past is no longer valid today. The Old Man smiled and said: “This is just perfect, wonderful in fact. Everything changes. Do you know what that means? Evolution”. I asked him to better explain what he meant, and the monk obliged: “Truth changes as our levels of awareness and love change. There is new understanding with the flourishing of one’s virtues. From flower to flower we build the gardens of humankind; from truth to truth we shall find the Truth”.
I asked him to give me an example. The Old Man was didactic: “Let’s go back to the 1800s. Two hundred years is but a second in History, so little time that ripples from that time are still felt today. At that time, a good portion of the world, particularly the Americas, faced the dilemma of ending slavery. Slavery is a matter that has been settled in modern time, there is no question about how absurd it is for a person to own another. Of course you may argue that there are people still held captive because of hazardous labor relationships or emotional dependency. However, I am talking about the insanity of the law allowing people to be traded as if they were objects, without their consent or will. But there were times in which people thought it normal, they felt they had this right and that it was possible to own a human being. There were purchase contracts, and slaves were considered assets, capable of being inherited. Believe me, even though their reasons were fallacious, many who lived in that time believed it. This was the truth of a significant part of the population of that time.” He paused briefly to nibble on a bit of the cake and continued: “In the rhythmic process of mankind’s evolution, someone had to object to those truths and rights; little by little, other people adhered and the objections expanded, leading to the possibility of a different truth, where a more enlightened coexistence was possible. This new way of being and living was expanded, until the unavoidable changes came through”.
“The doubts of today will be resolved tomorrow, perfectly matching individual evolution, which will gradually spread to the entirety of humankind, inevitably giving rise to new doubts so that new truths may be revealed. This is how we move on.”
The Old Man had his gaze lost, as if he was speaking to himself, and whispered: “I am scared of people who have no doubts about anything. Hence, some absurdities, or even atrocities, take place. History is filled with examples.”
I said I had understood his explanation, but I did not know what stance to take regarding my doubts, all of them current and influencing my day-to-day life. The monk was enigmatic in his suggestion: “Think about the tree and the fruit”. The question mark expressed on my forehead led him to go further in his reasoning: “We know the tree by its fruits. You are the tree; your choices are the fruits. Check whether or not they nourish and cheer up those around you; if, at each decision you make, the world comes closer or further apart from your dreams. This tends to be an effective method to clear up doubts you have at that moment, break paradigms, set up new standards and illuminate the dark alleys we walk in.”
“Don’t be surprised if, at that moment, an inner voice tells you the world is lost, that there is no way out, people are not going to change, that your actions alone are meaningless, and that you are wasting your time. This advice comes from your shadows, bound to indolence, selfishness, and to the still hazy collective unconscious linked to stressful experiences of the past that have not yet been overcome. Your choices, as occasional as they may be, will make a difference. Bear in mind that the universe always conspires in favor of the Light; therefore, no motion to that end, even though apparently imperceptible, will be ignored. Even though the changes take a lot of time to come true, a beautiful garden may be created with a single tree and the power of its fruits. There will be other people who also have the same doubts and questions, dreams and truths; at this point, your attitude will be a cornerstone for them to feel encouraged to go on. Each choice is a fruit, and each fruit is filled with seeds. So, let them be seeds of Light!”
“Doubt is the seed that transforms reality. Truth is its fruit, and when it is ripe it tastes like freedom.”
He made a brief pause before adding: “But you must not forget our commitment with meekness and peace. Violent or forced changes are not sustainable for long, because they are imposed by external factors. Transformation must occur from within; truth must be ingrained in the core, or else there will not be transformation but only make-up, that will be washed away by the first rain.”
I asked if doubts were only beneficial. The Old Man furrowed his brow and said: “Of course not. There is a point of mutation in everything in life. If you don’t know how to use doubt as a springboard to uncover the veil that prevents a more accurate gaze that will allow you to change your reality, doubt will make you stuck in inertia. Doubt needs to be confronted and resolved. Truth stems from the internal motion to free the self.”
“Truth needs doubt to sprout. Your awareness is nourished by your truths; they expand to the final edges, and then turn into others. This is called transmutation; this is what Starry Song, the wise Arizona shaman, calls the medicine of the snake, you change your skin to grow; you are the same, and yet different and better.”
He asked me to pour some more coffee in his cup, took a sip and continued: “This is why trying to convince others of your own truths is only for fools. Not always the person is ready to understand the changes. Each one carries a baggage of experiences poorly resolved, that must be decoded, harmonized and, only then, the truths therein can be extracted. This is how we expand awareness. One must respect and be patient with personal hardships and the time each one needs to complete each cycle of knowledge. When we present our truth, often we find that others have theirs, that are beneath or beyond ours.” He paused and added: “Don’t think that just because you have awoken, all others that do not think like you are sleeping; some might have woken earlier.”
I asked him what to do when opinions do not converge: “Present your arguments in a clear way and accept composedly the stand of others. The good seed is not lost. This shows respect for you and wisdom regarding life. More importantly, experience your ideas in order to make your words live. The personal truths that define us are not what we say they are, but the choices we make and put into practice.”
I wanted to know what he would do when facing a doubt. The Old Man arched his lips in a discrete smile and said: “When I have to make a decision and doubt points to a fork on the path, I always use love as a lodestar to guide my steps. Pride or humility; vanity or simplicity; selfishness or compassion; wishes or needs; revenge or justice; subterfuge or purity. Only love will tell me if the truth that guides me comes from the shadows or the Light.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.