Archives for May 2007

About masters and teachers

By Paulo Coelho

In one of his Family Conversations, Confucius sets down an interesting dialogue on the subject of learning.

Confucius sat down to rest, and his students immediately started asking him questions. On that day, he was in a good mood and so decided to answer. Someone asked him:

‘You are capable of explaining everything you feel. Why don’t you go to the Emperor and talk to him?’

‘The Emperor himself makes beautiful speeches,’ said Confucius, ‘but beautiful speeches are merely a question of technique, they do not of themselves contain Virtue.’

‘Well, send him your book of poems, then.’

‘Those three hundred poems could be summed up in two words: think correctly. That is the secret.’

‘What does thinking correctly involve?’

‘It’s knowing how to use mind and heart, discipline and emotion. When we want something, life will guide us there, but by unexpected paths. We often feel confused because we are surprised by those paths and think we must be going in the wrong direction. That is why I said, allow yourself to be carried away by emotion, but have enough discipline to follow it through.’

‘Is that what you do?’

‘When I was fifteen, I began to learn. When I was thirty, I knew what I wanted. When I was forty, my doubts resurfaced. When I was fifty, I discovered that Heaven has a plan for me and for each man on the face of the Earth. When I was sixty, I understood that plan and found the serenity to follow it. Now that I’m seventy, I can listen to my heart, but without letting it distract me from the path.’

‘So what makes you different from other men who have also accepted the will of Heaven?’

‘I try to share it with you. And anyone wanting to discuss an ancient truth with a new generation has to use his capacity to teach. That is my one quality, being a good teacher.’

‘And what is a good teacher?’

‘Someone who questions everything he teaches. Old ideas cannot enslave a man, because they change and take on new forms. So let us use the philosophical riches of the past, but without forgetting the challenges that the present world sets before us.’

‘And what is a good student?’

‘Someone who listens to what I say, but adapts my teachings to his life and never follows them blindly. Someone who looks not just for employment, but for a job that brings him dignity. Someone who does not seek to be noticed, but to do something notable.’

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The slayer of dragons

By Paulo Coelho

Zhuangzi, the famous Chinese writer, tells the story of Zhu Pingman, who went in search of a teacher in order to learn the best way to slay dragons.

The teacher trained Pingman for ten whole years, until he had honed to perfection the most sophisticated dragon-slaying techniques.

Pingman spent the rest of his life looking for dragons in order show off his skills: to his great disappointment, he never found a single dragon.

The writer of the story comments: ‘We all prepare ourselves to slay dragons, but end up instead being devoured by the ants of the details that we never bothered to look at.’

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The piece of bread that fell wrong side up

By Paulo Coelho

We all have a tendency to believe that everything we do will turn out wrong, because we think we do not deserve to be blessed. Here is an interesting story about precisely that feeling.

A man was quietly eating his breakfast. Suddenly, the piece of bread which he had just spread with butter fell to the ground.

Imagine his surprise when he looked down and saw that it had landed buttered side up! The man thought he had witnessed a miracle. Excited, he went to tell his friends what had happened, and they were all amazed because when a piece of bread falls on the floor, it always lands buttered side down, making a mess of everything.

‘Perhaps you’re a saint,’ one friend said. ‘And this is a sign from God.’

Soon the whole village knew, and they all started animatedly discussing the incident: how was it that, against all expectations, that man’s slice of bread had fallen on the floor buttered side up? Since no one could come up with a credible answer, they went to see a Teacher who lived nearby and told him the story.

The Teacher demanded one night to pray, reflect and ask for Divine inspiration. The following day, they all returned, eager for an answer.

‘It’s quite simple really,’ said the Teacher. ‘The fact is that the piece of bread fell exactly as it should have fallen, but the butter had been spread on the wrong side.’

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The silence of the night

By Paulo Coelho

A Sufi master and his disciple were walking across a desert in Africa. When night fell, they pitched their tent and lay down to rest.

‘How silent it is!’ said the disciple.

‘Never say “how silent it is”,’ replied the teacher. ‘Say rather: “I cannot hear nature”.

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PCFC – Dédicaces 12/05/2007 – Paris

The bugle that drove away tigers

By Paulo Coelho

A man arrived in a village carrying a mysterious bugle decorated with red and yellow rags, glass beads and animal bones.

‘This bugle can drive away tigers,’ said the man. ‘From this day forth, for a modest daily fee, I will play the bugle every morning and you will never be eaten by those terrible animals.’

Terrified by the threat of attack by a wild animal, the inhabitants of the village agreed to pay what the newcomer asked.

Many years passed, the owner of the bugle grew rich and built himself a magnificent castle. One morning, a boy who was passing through the village, asked who the owner of the castle was. When he heard the story, he decided to go and talk to the man.

‘I was told that you have a bugle that can drive away tigers,’ said the boy. ‘But there are no tigers in this country.’

The man immediately called together all the villagers and asked the boy to repeat what he had said.

‘Did you hear that?’ cried the man as soon as the boy had finished speaking. ‘There you have irrefutable proof of the power of my bugle!’

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Paulo Coelho London 2007

The art of listening

By Paulo Coelho

The wise man, Saadi of Shiraz, was walking along a road with his disciple when he saw a man trying to get his mule to move. When the animal refused to budge, the man began calling him the worst names he could think of.

‘Don’t be silly,’ said Saadi. ‘The mule will never learn your language. You would do better to calm down and learn his language.’

And as he walked away, he remarked to his disciple:

‘Before you get into an argument with a mule, remember the scene you have just witnessed.’

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Two Stories About Mountains

Here where I stand

After having won many archery competitions, the town champion sought out the Zen master.
“I am the best of all,” he said. “I did not learn religion, I did not look for help from the monks, and I have been considered the best archer in the whole region. I heard that some time ago you were the best archer in the area, so I ask you: did you have to become a monk to learn to shoot arrows?
“No,” answered the Zen master.
But the champion was not satisfied: he took out an arrow, placed it in his bow, fired, and hit a cherry at a considerable distance. He smiled, as if to say: “You could have saved your time and just dedicated yourself to technique.” And he said:
“I doubt if you can do the same.”
Without demonstrating the least concern, the master took his bow and began to walk towards a nearby mountain. On the way there was an abyss that could only be crossed by an old rotting rope bridge that was almost falling down: with the utmost calm, the Zen master went to the middle of the bridge, took his bow, placed an arrow, aimed at a tree on the other side of the gulch, and hit the target.
“Now it’s your turn,” he said gently to the young man as he walked back to safe ground.
In trepidation, looking at the abyss below him, the young man went to the indicated spot and fired an arrow, but it landed very far from the target.
“That’s what one gets from discipline and practicing meditation,” concluded the master when the young man re-appeared at his side. “You can be very skilled with the instrument you have chosen to earn a living, but it’s all useless if you can’t manage to master the mind that uses the instrument.”

Contemplating the desert

Three people who were passing in a small caravan saw a man contemplating the sunset in the Sahara desert from the top of a mountain.
“It must be a shepherd who has lost a sheep and is trying to find it,” said the first.
“No, I don’t think he is looking for something, especially not at sunset – that confuses your vision. I think he is waiting for a friend.”
“I bet he’s a holy man looking for enlightenment,” commented the third.
They began to discuss what the man was doing, and got so involved in the discussion that they nearly ended up fighting with one another. Finally, to find out who was right, they decided to climb the mountain and ask the man.
“Are you looking for your sheep?” asked the first.
“No, I don’t have a flock.”
“Then you must be waiting for someone,” claimed the second.
“I am a lonely man who lives in the desert,” was the answer.
“Since you live in the desert, and in solitude, then we have to believe that you are a holy man in search of God, and you are meditating!” asserted the third man, content with this conclusion.
“Does everything on Earth need to have an explanation? So let me explain: I am here just looking at the sunset: isn’t that enough to lend a meaning to our lives?”

Edizione nº 147 : Due Storie Sulle Montagne

Qui dove sono

Dopo aver vinto numerose gare di arco e freccia, il campione della cittí  andí² a trovare il maestro Zen.
– Sono il migliore di tutti – disse. – Non ho appreso la religione, non ho ricercato l’aiuto dei monaci, e sono riuscito ad arrivare a esser considerato il miglior arciere di tutta la regione. Ho saputo che, per un certo periodo, il miglior arciere della regione siete stato voi, e vi domando: c’era bisogno di diventare un monaco per apprendere a tirare?
– No – rispose il maestro Zen.
Ma il campione non si ritenne soddisfatto: estrasse una freccia, la mise nell’arco, la scaglií² e colpí¬ una ciliegia che si trovava molto lontana. Sorrise, come a dire: “Avreste potuto risparmiare il vostro tempo, dedicandovi solo alla tecnica.” E disse:
– Dubito che riuscirete a ripeterlo.
Senza mostrare la minima preoccupazione, il maestro andí² dentro, prese il suo arco e comincií² a camminare in direzione di una montagna vicina. Lungo la strada c’era un abisso che si poteva attraversare solo grazie a un vecchio ponte di corda ormai marcia, quasi pericolante: con la massima calma, il maestro Zen arriví² sino alla metí  del ponte, tese il suo arco, vi inserí¬ la freccia, puntí² un albero sull’altro lato del burrone e centrí² il bersaglio.
– Ora tocca a te – disse gentilmente al giovane, mentre tornava verso il terreno sicuro.
Terrorizzato, guardando l’abisso sotto i suoi piedi, il giovane andí² fino al luogo indicato, tirí², ma la sua freccia atterrí² molto distante dal bersaglio.
– Ecco a cosa sono valse la disciplina e la pratica della meditazione – concluse il maestro quando il giovane torní² accanto a lui. – Tu puoi avere molta abilití  con lo strumento che hai scelto per guadagnarti da vivere, ma è tutto inutile se non riesci a dominare la mente che utilizza quello strumento.

Contemplando il deserto

Tre persone che passavano in una piccola carovana videro un uomo che contemplava l’imbrunire nel deserto del Sahara dall’alto di una montagna.
– Dev’essere un pastore che ha perduto una pecora e cerca di scoprire dove sia – disse il primo.
– No, non credo che stia cercando qualcosa, e tanto meno al tramonto, quando la vista si confonde. Penso che aspetti un amico.
– Vi garantisco che è un sant’uomo, e cerca l’illuminazione – commentí² il terzo.
Si misero a discutere su cosa stesse facendo quell’uomo, e tanto s’infervorarono nella discussione che finirono quasi per litigare. Infine, per stabilire chi avesse ragione, decisero di salire sulla montagna e di raggiungere l’uomo.
– Lei sta cercando la sua pecora? – domandí² il primo.
– No, non ho nessun gregge.
– Allora, di sicuro, aspetta qualcuno – affermí² il secondo.
– Sono un uomo solitario, che vive nel deserto – fu la risposta.
– Poiché vive nel deserto, e in solitudine, dobbiamo credere che lei è un santo, alla ricerca di Dio, e sta meditando! – esclamí², contento, il terzo uomo.
– C’è davvero bisogno che tutto, sulla Terra, abbia una spiegazione? Allora vi spiego. Io me ne sto qui unicamente a guardare il tramonto: questo non basta per dare un senso alle nostre vite?

Édition nº 147 : Deux histoires de montagnes

Lí  oí¹ je suis

Après qu’il eut gagné de nombreux concours de tir í  l’arc, le champion de la ville alla trouver le maí®tre zen.
« Je suis le meilleur de tous, dit-il. Je n’ai appris aucune religion, je n’ai pas cherché l’aide des moines, et j’ai réussi í  íªtre considéré comme le meilleur archer de toute la région. J’ai appris qu’í  une époque vous aviez été le meilleur archer de la région, et je demande : était-il besoin de devenir moine pour apprendre í  tirer ?
– Non », répondit le maí®tre zen.
Mais le champion n’en fut pas satisfait : il prit une flèche, la mit í  son arc, tira, et atteignit une cerise qui se trouvait très loin. Il sourit, comme pour dire : « Vous auriez pu gagner du temps en vous consacrant uniquement í  la technique. » Puis il déclara :
« Je doute que vous répétiez cet exploit. »
Sans manifester la moindre inquiétude, le maí®tre alla chercher son arc, et il se mit en marche vers une montagne qui se trouvait près de lí . Sur le chemin, il y avait un abí®me que l’on ne pouvait traverser que par un vieux pont de corde pourrie, í  demi écroulé. Très calmement, le maí®tre zen alla jusqu’au milieu du pont, tira son arc, plaí§a la flèche, visa un arbre de l’autre cí´té du précipice, et atteignit la cible.
« Maintenant, c’est í  toi », dit-il gentiment au garí§on, tandis qu’il regagnait la terre ferme.
Terrorisé, regardant l’abí®me sous ses pieds, le jeune homme se rendit í  l’endroit indiqué, tira, mais sa flèche atterrit très loin de la cible.
« Voilí  í  quoi ont servi la discipline et la pratique de la méditation » conclut le maí®tre, quand le garí§on revint près de lui. Tu peux íªtre très habile avec l’instrument que tu as choisi pour gagner ta vie, mais tout cela est inutile si tu ne parviens pas í  maí®triser l’esprit qui utilise cet instrument.

En contemplant le désert

Trois personnes qui passaient dans une petite caravane virent un homme qui contemplait la tombée du jour dans le désert du Sahara du haut d’une montagne.
« Ce doit íªtre un berger qui a perdu une brebis et essaie de savoir oí¹ elle est, dit le premier.
– Non, je ne crois pas qu’il cherche quelque chose, encore moins í  l’heure du coucher du soleil, oí¹ la vision est trouble. Je pense qu’il attend un ami.
– Je vous assure que c’est un saint homme, et qu’il veut atteindre l’illumination », commenta le troisième.
Ils commencèrent í  se demander ce que faisait cet homme, et ils discutèrent si í¢prement qu’ils en vinrent presque í  se disputer. Finalement, pour savoir qui avait raison, ils décidèrent de gravir la montagne et de rejoindre l’homme.
« Cherchez-vous votre brebis ? demanda le premier.
– Non, je n’ai pas de troupeau.
– Alors, certainement, vous attendez quelqu’un, affirma le deuxième.
– Je suis un homme solitaire, qui vit dans le désert, répondit-il.
– Puisque vous vivez dans le désert, et dans la solitude, nous devons croire que vous íªtes un saint, en quíªte de Dieu, et que vous méditez ! dit, tout content, le troisième homme.
– Est-ce que tout sur Terre doit avoir une explication ? Alors, j’explique : je suis venu ici simplement regarder le coucher du soleil : cela ne suffit-il pas pour donner un sens í  nos vies ? »

Edición nº 147: Dos Historias Sobre Montañas

Aquí­ donde estoy

Después de haber ganado muchos concursos de arco y flecha, el joven campeón de la ciudad fue a buscar al maestro zen.
– Soy el mejor de todos – dijo. – No aprendí­ religión, no busqué ayuda de los monjes y conseguí­ llegar a ser considerado el mejor arquero de toda la región. He sabido que durante una época, usted también fue considerado el mejor arquero de la región, y le pregunto: ¿habí­a necesidad de hacerse monje para aprender a tirar?
– No – respondió el maestro zen.
Pero el campeón no se dio por satisfecho: sacó una flecha, la colocó en su arco, disparó, y atravesó una cereza que se encontraba muy distante. Sonrió, como quien dice “podí­a haber ahorrado su tiempo, dedicándose solamente a la técnica”, y dijo:
– Dudo que pueda usted hacer lo mismo
Sin demostrar la menor preocupación, el maestro entró, cogió su arco y comenzó a caminar en dirección a una montaña próxima. En el camino existí­a un abismo que sólo podí­a ser cruzado por un viejo puente de cuerda en proceso de podredumbre, a punto de romperse. Con toda la calma, el maestro zen llegó hasta la mitad del puente, sacó su arco, colocó la flecha, apuntó a un árbol al otro lado del despeñadero y acertó el blanco.
– Ahora es tu turno – dijo gentilmente al joven, mientras regresaba a terreno seguro.
Aterrorizado, mirando el abismo a sus pies, el arquero fue hasta el lugar indicado y disparó, pero su flecha aterrizó muy distante del blanco.
– Para eso me sirvieron la disciplina y la práctica de la meditación – concluyó el maestro, cuando el joven volvió a su lado. – Tú puedes tener mucha habilidad con el instrumento que elegiste para ganarte la vida, pero todo esto es inútil si no consigues dominar la mente que utiliza este instrumento.

Contemplando el desierto

Tres personas que pasaban en una pequeña caravana vieron a un hombre  que contemplaba el atardecer en el desierto del Sahara, desde lo alto de una montaña.
– Debe de ser un pastor que perdió una oveja y procura saber donde está – dijo el primero.
– No creo que esté buscando nada, y mucho menos a la hora de ponerse el sol, cuando la visión se hace confusa. Creo que espera  a algún amigo.
– Estoy seguro de que es un hombre santo, en busca de la iluminación – comentó el tercero.
Comenzaron a comentar lo que el tal hombre estarí­a haciendo y tanto se empeñaron en la discusión que casi terminan peleándose. Finalmente, para decidir quien tení­a razón, decidieron subir a la montaña e ir a hablar con él.
– ¿Está usted buscando su oveja?- preguntó el primero.
– No, no tengo rebaño.
– Entonces seguramente espera a alguien – afirmó el segundo.
– Soy un hombre solitario, que vive en el desierto – fue la respuesta.
– Por vivir en el desierto y en la soledad, debemos creer que es usted un santo en busca de Dios, y está meditando – dijo, contento, el tercer hombre.
-¿Es que todo en la Tierra  necesita tener una explicación? Pues entonces me explico: estoy aquí­ solamente mirando la puesta del sol, ¿es que eso no basta para dar sentido a nuestras vidas?

Edií§í£o nº 147: Duas Histórias Sobre Montanhas

Aqui onde estou

Depois de ter vencido muitos concursos de arco e flecha, o campeí£o da cidade foi procurar o mestre zen.
– Sou o melhor de todos – disse. – Ní£o aprendi religií£o, ní£o procurei ajuda dos monges, e consegui chegar a ser considerado o melhor arqueiro de toda regií£o. Soube que, durante uma época, o senhor foi o melhor arqueiro da regií£o, e pergunto: havia necessidade de virar um monge para aprender a atirar?
– Ní£o – respondeu o mestre zen.
Mas o campeí£o ní£o se deu por satisfeito: retirou uma flecha, colocou em seu arco, disparou, e atingiu uma cereja que se encontrava muito distante. Sorriu, como quem diz: “o senhor podia ter poupado o seu tempo, dedicando-se apenas í  técnica.” E disse:
– Duvido que o senhor repita isso.
Sem demonstrar a menor preocupaí§í£o, o mestre entrou, pegou seu arco, e comeí§ou a caminhar em direí§í£o a uma montanha próxima. No caminho, existia um abismo que só podia ser cruzado por uma velha ponte de corda apodrecida, quase despencando: com toda a calma, o mestre zen foi até o meio da ponte, tirou seu arco, colocou a flecha, apontou uma árvore do outro lado do despenhadeiro, e acertou o alvo.
– Agora é vocíª – disse gentilmente para o rapaz, enquanto voltava para terreno seguro.
Aterrorizado, olhando o abismo aos seus pés, o jovem foi até o lugar indicado, atirou, mas sua flecha aterrizou muito distante do alvo.
– Para isso valeu a disciplina e a prática da meditaí§í£o – concluiu o mestre, quando o rapaz voltou para o seu lado. – Vocíª pode ter muita habilidade com o instrumento que escolheu para ganhar a vida, mas tudo isso é inútil, se ní£o consegue dominar a mente que utiliza este instrumento.

Contemplando o deserto

Tríªs pessoas que passavam em uma pequena caravana, viram um homem contemplando o entardecer no deserto de Saara do alto de uma montanha.
– Deve ser um pastor que perdeu uma ovelha, e procura saber onde está – disse o primeiro.
– Ní£o, ní£o creio que esteja procurando algo, muito menos na hora do pí´r-do-sol, onde a vista fica confusa. Acho que espera um amigo.
– Garanto que é um homem santo, e procura a iluminaí§í£o, – comentou o terceiro.
Comeí§aram a comentar o que o tal homem fazia, e tanto se empenharam na discussí£o que quase terminaram brigando. Finalmente, para resolver quem tinha razí£o, decidiram subir a montanha e ir até o homem.
– O senhor está procurando sua ovelha? – perguntou o primeiro.
– Ní£o, ní£o tenho rebanho.
– Entí£o, com certeza, espera alguém – afirmou o segundo.
– Sou um homem solitário, que vive no deserto – foi a resposta.
– Por viver no deserto, e na solidí£o, devemos acreditar que é um santo, em busca de Deus, e está meditando! – disse, contente, o terceiro homem.
– Será que tudo na Terra  precisa ter uma explicaí§í£o?  Pois entí£o explico: estou aqui apenas olhando o pí´r-do-sol: isso ní£o basta para dar um sentido í  nossas vidas?

Newsletter: Issue 146 is on-line

Justin Fuller
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The letter I can’t answer

A search frustrated

By Paulo Coelho

The mystic Ramakrishna began his dedication to the spiritual life when he was sixteen. At first, he used to weep bitterly because, despite his devotion to the work at the temple, he seemed to be getting nowhere.

Later, when he was famous, a friend asked him about that period of his life. Ramakrishna replied:

‘If a thief were to spend the night in a room with only a thin wall separating him from another room full of gold, do you think he would be able to sleep? He would lie awake all night, scheming. When I was young, I desired God as ardently as a thief would desire that gold, and it took me a long time to learn that the greatest virtue in the spiritual search is patience.’

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Choosing one’s fate

By Paulo Coelho

Many years ago, there lived a man who was capable of loving and forgiving everyone he came across. Because of this, God sent an angel to talk to him.

‘God asked me to come and visit you and tell you that he wishes to reward you for your goodness,’ said the angel. ‘You may have any gift you wish for. Would you like the gift of healing?’

‘Certainly not,’ said the man. ‘I would prefer God to choose those who should be healed.’

‘And what about leading sinners back to the path of Truth?’

‘That’s a job for angels like you. I don’t want to be venerated by anyone or to serve as a permanent example.’

‘Look, I can’t go back to Heaven without having given you a miracle. If you don’t choose, I’ll have to choose one for you.’

The man thought for a moment and then said:

‘All right, I would like good to be done through me, but without anyone noticing, not even me, in case I should commit the sin of vanity.’

So the angel arranged for the man’s shadow to have the power of healing, but only when the sun was shining on the man’s face. In this way, wherever he went, the sick were healed, the earth grew fertile again, and sad people rediscovered happiness.

The man traveled the Earth for many years, oblivious of the miracles he was working because when he was facing the sun, his shadow was always behind him. In this way, he was able to live and die unaware of his own holiness.

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Where the monkey puts his hand

By Paulo Coelho

I said to a friend:

‘It’s odd that proverb, “An old monkey never puts his hand in the pot”.’

‘Yes, but it has its own logic,’ he replied. ‘In India, hunters make a small hole in a coconut, put a banana inside and bury the whole thing. A monkey finds the coconut, puts his hand in the hole to grab the banana, but then can’t get it out because his closed hand is too big for the hole. Instead of letting go of the banana, the monkey stays there wrestling with the impossible and gets caught.’

The same thing happens in our own lives. The need to have a particular thing – often something small and useless – ends up making us prisoners of that need.

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