Getting rid of ghosts

By Paulo Coelho

For years, Hitoshi tried in vain to awaken the love of the woman he believed to be the love of his life. But fate is ironic: on the very day that she finally accepted him as her future husband, she learned that she had an incurable disease and would not live for very much longer.

Six months later, when she was about to die, she said to him:

‘Promise me one thing: never fall in love with anyone else. If you do, I will come every night to haunt you.’

And then she closed her eyes for ever. For many months, Hitoshi avoided other women, but fate continued to be ironic, and he discovered a new love. When he was preparing to remarry, the ghost of his ex-beloved kept her promise and appeared to him.

‘You are betraying me,’ the ghost said.

‘For years, I offered you my heart and you rejected me,’ replied Hitoshi. ‘Don’t you think I deserve a second chance of happiness?’

But the ghost of his ex-beloved was not interested in excuses and came every night to frighten him. It described in detail what had happened during the day, the words of love that he had spoken to his fiancée, the kisses and embraces they had exchanged.

Hitoshi could no longer sleep and so he went to consult the Zen master Basho.

‘It’s certainly a very intelligent ghost,’ said Basho.

‘It knows everything down to the last detail! And now it’s ruining my relationship because I can’t sleep and during intimate moments with my fiancée, I feel somehow constrained.’

‘Don’t worry, we’ll get rid of the ghost,’ said Basho.

That night, when the ghost returned, Hitoshi spoke first, before the ghost could say a word.

‘You’re such a clever ghost, I’d like to make a deal with you. Since you watch me all the time, I’m going to ask you about something I did today. If you answer correctly, I will give up my fiancée and never take another wife. If you answer wrongly, you must promise never to appear again, or else be condemned by the gods to wander for ever in the darkness.’

‘Agreed,’ replied the ghost confidently.

‘This afternoon, when I was in the grocer’s shop, at one point, I picked up a handful of grain from a sack.’

‘Yes, I saw you,’ said the ghost.

‘My question is the following: how many grains of wheat did I have in my hand?’

The ghost realised that it would never be able to answer that question and, in order to avoid being pursued by the gods into eternal darkness, it decided to disappear for ever.

Two days later, Hitoshi went to Basho’s house.

‘I came to thank you.’

‘Be sure to learn the lessons your experience has taught you,’ said Basho. ‘First: the spirit kept coming back because you were afraid. If you want to rid yourself of a curse, simply ignore it. Second: the ghost took advantage of your feelings of guilt. Whenever we feel guilty, we always unconsciously long to be punished. And finally, no one who truly loved you, would force you to make such a promise. If you want to understand love, first learn about freedom.’

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  1. Celia says:

    Beautiful Story.. Author Unknown

    An old Arab lived close to New York City for more than 40 years.

    One day, he decided that he would love to plant potatoes and herbs in his garden, but he knew he was alone and too old and weak.
    His son was in college in Paris, so the old man sent him an e-mail explaining the problem:

    “Beloved son, I am very sad, because I can’t plant potatoes in my garden. I am sure, if only you were here, that you would help me and dig up the garden for me. I love you, your father.”

    The following day, the old man received a response e-mail from his son:
    “Beloved father, please don’t touch the garden. That is where I have hidden ‘the THING.’ I love you, too, Ahmed.”

    At 4pm the FBI and the Rangers visited the house of the old man and took the whole garden apart,searching every inch. But they couldn’t find anything. Disappointed, they left the house. The next day, the old
    man received another e-mail from his son:

    “Beloved father, I hope the garden is dug up by now and you can plant your potatoes.
    That is all I could do for you from here. Your> > loving son, Ahmed”.

    Thiking of your beautiful spirit as it soars the universe Paulo.



  2. Aaron says:

    My understanding is that there wasn’t really a ghost. The ghost that came to haunt him was his own conscience and judgment and in consulting Basho, Hitoshi, along with contemplation, reaizes his own internal conflict.

    I’d also like to share my idea. True love exists even in the absence of the person whom one loves. This is what makes love powerful beyond death and more than life.

    Thank you!

  3. Dave says:

    I too found it a little close for comfort… it’s worrying how often love, fear and guilt go together (or follow in one another’s wake). I’m still learning about freedom. I’ll get there one day :)

  4. Ellinor Aspeflo says:

    This is all true, we need freedom to feel love. We need our own freedom, all of our own ghosts should have flied away, far, far away. Otherwise there is always something keeping us from loving all the way. We can´t truly love another person, if we don´t love ourselves. And the person that is hardest to love, might be ourselves. It´s hardest to accept, hardest to not want to change, and therefor hardest to love.

    Love E

  5. Celia says:

    Dear Paulo,

    This is an enchanting story. In fact, far too close for comfort. I, one day did a similar thing,when I was young. I also dwelled on it for years.

    As age comes around, and with many many readings behind me, understanding freedom is really the only way to understand love.

    Thank you for a beautiful story.

    Love, love love



  6. Josephine (Swe) says:

    this one really speaks to me,
    fear and guilt… and love :-)
    Thank you!

  7. fLUXman says:

    love, love, love,
    pure unconditional and free,
    what is this we feel here,
    its Paulo’s love for us all,

  8. Leaf says:

    Thank you, dearest (priceless) Author ity…..much love,

  9. Izz says:

    An interesting story. The lesson learnt is similar to the imaginary rope the elephant grew to understand to be holding whereas the rope was long not there.

    We truly cannot love without practising principles of freedom. It is the lack of coercion in relationships that makes love beautiful. Where emotions of love are forced or demanded, then what prevails will only be hatred displayed as love.

    Thank you for the insight.

  10. Karen says:

    “But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”””Gibran Khalil Gibran

    “Love possesses not nor will it be possessed, for love is sufficient unto love.”””Gibran Khalil Gibran

  11. Chi says:

    “If you want to understand love, first learn about freedom” … indeed, this is what love is all about… and freedom is divided on two.

    Only through true love people can share their freedom.