THE MIRROR OF LIFE

     A Chinese priest spent his entire adult life fighting dragons, thieves, armies, and demons of every kind that blocked his path to the "Book of Knowledge," a path he followed without knowing where it led. Finally, after years of struggle, he found himself at the edge of a great sea, and there, high atop a lava pinnacle, was a monastery.
     With the last of his strength, for he was now very old, he climbed the narrow, winding stairs to the monastery, where a monk greeted him and bade him enter. The monk then told him to rest, for his way had been long and difficult.
     After the priest had rested from his arduous journey, the monk came to him and said: "You have traveled from afar to this monastery following a path that led you knew not where. In so doing, you have shown the strength of your faith through obedience to that which has guided you from within, and your courage has been well tested along the way. I am the keeper of the 'Book of Knowledge.' Having proven yourself worthy, I give you leave to look within."
     The old priest looked at him and asked: "What shall I find?"
     Whereupon the monk replied: "Only what you bring with you."
     That said, the old priest opened the long-awaited Book and found within a mirror that reflected the image of his own face. And within that reflection was all knowledge contained, for it revealed the relative wisdom of what he had learned and thus become as a result of his trials, struggles, and the choices he had made along the way.
     He saw, for instance, the very moment in his life when he learned that discrimination of choice determines the path one's feet are destined to walk. He saw the far distant circumstance in which he had learned that a life without desires is the key to freedom from the prison cell of materialism's continual temptations. He saw, by contemplating the cumulative events of his life, that good conduct is the sole responsibility of the individual traveler and is not dependent on the behavior of another.
     He now realized that all the demons along his path were only distortions in the house of mirrors, those disowned parts of himself that lived in the shadowland of his own ego. He suddenly understood that wisdom can neither be taught nor given away, that wisdom, the distillation of life's experiences, must be earned; and that unconditional love, which asks nothing, overcomes all obstacles.
     With ever-so-slight a sigh, he slowly closed the Book and reconciled himself to the fact that the sacred Book was in reality a mirror reflecting the opportunities and the choices he had made along his journey of incarnation, as well as the lessons he had learned—lessons presented to him by the Lords of Karma. In retrospect, he saw within the great Book the sum of his living and realized that, in the end, he was truly alone with his experience of life.

© chris maser 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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