The Preciousness of Human Life (a story)

I was 15 years old and living with my mum and younger brother in a hut at the edge of our little town. Every day I would go into the woods with my brother to collect dead wood and load it on a self made sledge. We would pull the sledge into town and tried to sell the wood as firewood to anybody that needed it. In the evening we would come home with a little food that we could buy from the money we had made. Sometimes we returned with no food and went to bed early so we could dream of luscious meals. It was a hard and simple life and we had no idea of how it could be any different. And it always made me happy when I could see my mother and brother enjoy the food that we had brought in.

One day as we were in town looking for possible prospects to buy our wood, a monk passed me by. He was evidently reciting some sacred text I did not know of, but I caught the sentence “The realized mind does not abide anywhere.” I did not understand this, but it struck me deeply and I ran over to the monk to ask where that sentenced came from. He was very kind, although he could see that such an illiterate kid like myself would not understand what he was talking about, he answered my question. The sentence came from a sacred text called ‘The Diamond Cutter of Doubts’. I asked him where I could learn more about this text. He answered that if I was looking for the secret of the preciousness of human life I would need to find an accomplished master. He told me that about 200 miles to the East from our town there was a holy mountain called Meru. On top of that mountain lived such an accomplished master and he could certainly disclose the secret of the preciousness of human life to me. But he warned me that it would be a life long task to become fully clear about this secret.

Excited I went home with my brother and arranged my leave from my family. My brother was old enough to take care of my mother and with many tears we said good bye. I promised them that if I found the secret of the preciousness of human life I would return and disclose this secret to them. And off I went with just a few rags around my body. But I was quite accomplished in finding food and asking passersby for help. Many months I searched to find mount Meru and after a painstaking route I found myself on the slope of this mountain. It took me several days to reach the snow capped peak of the mountain where I found a simple hut with smoke coming out of the chimney. I knocked and a deep and warm voice called me in. As soon as I saw the master I was certain he could disclose the secret to me. I circumambulated him three times clockwise and then prostrated myself fully for him.

I begged him to disclose the secret of the preciousness of human life for me. He agreed very amiably and said “Tat tvam asi!” I didn’t understand and asked him to explain. He told me that it was a Sanskrit term meaning, “You are that!”. I still did not understand and asked for more explanation. He answered that it would be impossible to say more and went into deep meditation. I was very disappointed and angry. I thought the man was a fraud making fun of me, a poor illiterate boy from a village in the countryside. And in a depressed mood I walked all the way down the mountain. But when I arrived at the foot of the mountain I remembered the remark of the monk, “it would be a life long task to become fully clear about this secret.” So I decided not to give up my search for the secret and continue to look for a real accomplished master who could teach me the secret of the preciousness of human life.

I wandered a year long through the countryside asking everybody I met if they knew about an accomplished master who knew all the secrets that exist. Then finally I was sent to a large community of disciples of a very famous guru. When I arrived it took several days before I was granted access to the master. Fortunately I was given the opportunity to bathe and new clean clothes. So I looked and smelled fine when I finally entered the shrine where the master was residing. I circumambulated the master three times clockwise and fully prostrated myself for him. I told him that I had been searching for the secret of the preciousness of human life for over a year now and that I hoped he could enlighten me about this secret. In a low and compassionate voice he told me he could do this but that I was not yet ready. Before he could disclose the secret I would have to clean the stables for the coming 7 years.

It felt perfectly right and after taking my leave I went to the stables to start my work. I had to shovel the dung out and take care of the pigs and cows. I cleaned the pigs before the would give birth to the piglets. And I was present at every birth and helped out if there was any complication. I became very good at healing sick animals. I slept between them and found out that when they know that you take care of them, they will take care of you. After a long time I became very happy taking care of the animals. I had the impression we could talk with each other. And when the 7 years passed I was given a bath and clean clothes so I could meet the master again.

After the proper meeting ritual, I asked the master if he could now disclose the secret of the preciousness of human life. As I had fulfilled his demand and had learned to communicate compassionately with the animals. The master was very understanding, but he made clear that my transformation wasn’t sufficient to be able to fully comprehend the secret. He told me that I needed another seven years of training with the contemplative monks. It felt right and I was happy to fulfill his wish. And the monks accepted me with great wisdom and compassion. Apart from long meditation retreats and chanting of sacred texts, they taught me to read and write, for which I am still grateful up to this day. I went deeper and deeper into meditation until I reached the eighth level of formless meditation, known as ‘neither perception nor non-perception’. This was very deep, but I realized that the secret of the preciousness of human life was still not revealed to me. So after 7 years I went to meet the master again.

This time the master acknowledged my progress on the spiritual path. And I asked him humbly to reveal the secret of the preciousness of human life to me. He told me that I had come very far, but alas not far enough yet. For the next 7 years he asked me to be his private servant. And to try to be able to fulfill all his wishes and needs even before they became aware in his mind. I was very happy to fulfill his wish. And did my utmost to be aware of the mind of the master. When his feet touched the ground coming out of his bed his slippers where in the exact location where they should be. I made his food every day with joy knowing that he would eat it mindfully and enjoy every bite. I laid out his clothes and wash the used clothes and I became happier every day. It felt as if my mind fused with his mind and I needed no words for fulfilling his requests. I would not want to do anything else than what I was doing right now.

After 7 years the master had to remind me that the time had come to reveal the secret of the preciousness of human life. After bathing and putting on fresh clothes, I circumambulated the master three times and prostrated myself fully. I then asked, “Master, please reveal the secret of the preciousness of human life to me.” The master looked me deeply in the eyes and said, “Tat tvam asi”. Suddenly everything around me dropped away. I was shrouded in total darkness and silence. My body had disappeared and not a single thought appeared in my mind. At that moment I just knew that awareness was crystal clear and incorporated everything in the universe. Not an atom, nor a photon or any bit of information was excluded in this awareness. And everything was in total harmony, fully interconnected. This is how it is. I was completely unaware of time and I found out afterwards that I had stayed in this state for 7 days and nights. After emerging from this ultimate samadhi, I was feeling just love and curiosity for the world. All I wanted is to go forth and discover whatever came across my path.

I paid my respects to my master and told him I had a promise to keep. I wanted to go back to my mother and brother to relieve them of the suffering their minds kept them in. But before going I still had one question nagging my mind. I asked the master: “Dear master, 22 years ago I asked an accomplished master on mount Meru to reveal the secret of the preciousness of human life to me. He told me “Tat tvam asi”, but nothing happened. When you told me that I came to full and complete enlightenment and I am thankful for that. But why did nothing happen 22 years ago?” The master looked at me and smiled, he then said “You were just a little stupid then.”