Conversations with the Master : The tragedy

Paulo Coelho

Here I continue to reproduce excerpts from conversations with my master, from 1982 to 1986)

– Why is there so much tragedy and misery in the world?

– Tragedy and misery are different things, and very lengthy subjects. Which would you like to talk about first?

– At the moment, about tragedy. Why does man suffer?

– Read the Bible and you will find the following: “that which is good, comes from You, my Lord. That which is evil, also comes from You, my Lord. Therefore what is there to fear?”

– Nevertheless, we do suffer.

– Certainly. But take this into consideration: of every ten problems we have, nine are created by our own selves – through guilt, self-punishment, self-pity. However, from time to time a great obstacle appears in our path, which was put there by God, and which is there for a reason. The reason is: to give us the opportunity to change everything, to move forwards.

“What is tragedy? A radical change in our lives, always linked to the same principle: loss. Suffering is always the result of a loss, either someone or something – such as health, beauty, or one’s financial conditions.

“When faced with a loss, it is no use trying to recover what has gone. On the other hand, a great space has been opened up in your life – there it lies, empty, waiting to be filled with something new. At the moment of one’s loss, contradictory as this might seem, one is being given a large slice of freedom.

“But most men, when faced with tragedy, fill this space with pain and bitterness. They never think there may be other ways of facing the inevitable.”

– For example?

– Firstly, by learning the great lesson of wise men: patience, the certainty that everything – both good and bad – is provisional in this life. Secondly, using this sudden change of course to risk new things in daily life, to do things you always dreamed of.

– This is clear regarding material things. But what about someone’s death?

– We have spoken much about death, and you know that for the one who passes on, it does not exist – that person is enjoying the delights of a radical transformation. The sensation of death only exists for the one left here. Every dear person, upon departing, becomes our protector – after going through a period of longing, we should be joyful, since we are better protected. In the same way, one day we will be on the other side, protecting the people we love down here.

– And those we hate…

– Exactly as you imagine. They remain tied to us through the feeling of bitterness. That is why Jesus said: “before going to the temple, go back and forgive your brother.” One must be forever washing one’s soul with the water of forgiveness.

– But going back to tragedy…

– There is something which is impossible to measure: the intensity of pain. We know a person is suffering because they tell us, but we cannot evaluate exactly how much. We often try to compare someone’s attitude upon being faced by a tragedy, and we end up judging them to be stronger or weaker than they really are. Do not compare random pain with nothing; only the one suffering can know what he or she is going through.

“Therefore, when inevitable tragedy appears, we must remember these three things: to make the most of the freedom of loss, not to judge the pain, and to learn the art of patience. It will destroy 9/10 of that which you are, but the 1/10 which remains will make you an infinitely stronger person. ”

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Paying the double price

A camel dealer reached a village to sell fine animals at a very good price.

Everyone bought one, except Mr. Hoosep.

Some time later, the village received a visit from another dealer, with excellent camels, but they were much more expensive.

This time, Hoosep bought some animals.

“You did not buy the camels when they were almost for free, and now you pay almost double,” criticized his friends.

“Those cheap ones were very expensive for me, because at that time I had very little money,” answered Hoosep, “these animals might seem more expensive, but for me they are cheap, because I have more than enough to buy them.”

20 sec read: let me not beg for the stilling of my pain

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EM PORTUGUES> Não me deixe implorar para acalmar a minha dor
EN ESPANOL >> No me dejes pedir alivio para mi dolor

 

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
but for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield,
but to my own strength.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,
but hope for the patience to win my freedom.

Grant that I may not be a coward,
feeling Your mercy in my success alone;

But let me find the grasp of Your hand in my failure.”

by Rabindranath Tagore

 

Happy 2018 and remember:

Like the sun, life spreads its light in all directions.

And when we are born, we want everything at once and cannot control the energy we have been given.

But, if we want to make a fire, we have to focus all the sun’s rays on one spot.

And the great secret that the Divine Energy revealed to the world was fire. Not just fire for burning, but the fire that transforms wheat into bread.

And there comes a moment when we need to focus that inner fire so that our life will have some meaning.

Then we ask the heavens: ‘But what meaning?’

Some immediately brush this question aside: it’s bothersome, it won’t let you sleep and there’s no easy answer. They are the ones who, later on, will live tomorrow as if it were yesterday.

And when the Unwanted Visitor arrives, they will say: ‘My life was too short, I squandered my blessing.’

 

Others embrace the question, but, since they don’t know the answer, they start to read what was written by those who have already faced up to the challenge. And suddenly, they find an answer which they judge to be correct.

When that happens, they become the slaves of that answer. They draw up laws intended to force others to accept what they believe to be the sole reason for existence. They build temples to justify it and courts for those who reject what they consider to be the absolute truth.

Finally, there are those who saw at once that the question was a trap: there is no answer.

Instead of wasting time grappling with that trap, they decide to act. They go back to their childhood and look for what filled them with enthusiasm then and – disregarding the advice of their elders – devote their life to it.

Because Enthusiasm is the Sacred Fire.

Oh Maria

Oh Maria concebida sem pecado, rogai por nós que recorremos à Vós.
Amém

The test

by Houssaye

John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn’t, the girl with the rose. His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library. Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.

In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner’s name, Miss Holly Maynell. With time and effort he located her address. She lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond.
The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. During the next year and one month, the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding. Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like
When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting – 7.00 p.m. at the Grand Central Station in New York.

“You’ll recognize me,” she wrote, “by the red rose I’ll be wearing on my lapel.” So at 7.00 p.m. he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he’d never seen. I’ll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:

A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive. I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As I moved, a small provocative smile curved her lips. “Going my way, sailor?” she murmured.

Almost uncontrollably, I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Holly Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes. The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own.

And there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. I did not hesitate. My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her.

This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever by grateful. I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment. “I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?” The woman’s face broadened into a tolerant smile. “I don’t know what this is about, son,” she answered, “but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!”

Christmas prayer

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EM PORTUGUES: Os ví­cios pessoais
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At a certain point during my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, we came to a flat, monotonous field of wheat stretching all the way to the horizon. The only thing breaking the dull landscape was a medieval column with a cross on top, marking the pilgrims’ way. Petrus – my guide – put down his backpack and knelt down.

Have pity on those who pity themselves, and think life has been unjust to them – for they will never manage to engage in the Good Fight.
But have more pity on those who are cruel to themselves, and can only see evil in their own acts, and who consider themselves guilty for the injustices of the world. For they know not Your law which says: even the strands of hair on your head have been counted.

Have pity on those who command and those who serve many hours of work, and sacrifice themselves in exchange for a Sunday, when everything is closed and there is nowhere to go.
But have more pity on those who sanctify their work and go beyond the limits of their own madness, and end up in debt or nailed to the cross by their own brothers. For they know not Your law which says: be as prudent as a serpent and as simple as the pigeons.

Have pity on those who eat, drink and are merry, but are unhappy and lonely in their abundance.
But have more pity on those who fast, censure, forbid and feel saintly, and who preach Your name in public places. For they know not Your law which says: if I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.

Have pity on those who fear Death and do not know the many kingdoms they have crossed and the many deaths they have died, and are unhappy because they think that everything will come to an end one day.
But have more pity on those who have known their many deaths and think they are immortal, for they know not Your law which says: he who is not born again may not see the kingdom of God.

Have pity on those who cannot see anyone but themselves, and are shut in their limousines, locked in their air conditioned penthouse offices, and suffer in silence the solitude of power.
But have pity on those who go without everything, and are charitable, and seek to overcome evil with love only, for they know not Your law which says: he who has no sword, may he sell his cloak and buy one.

Have pity on us, Lord. For we often think we are dressed when we are naked, we think we commit a crime and in reality save someone. Do not forget, in Your mercy, that we unsheathe the sword with the hand of an angel and the hand of a demon gripping the same hilt. For we are in the world, we continue in the world and need You. We always need Your law which says: when I sent you without bag, pouch or sandals, you lacked nothing.

Petrus stopped praying. The silence continued. He was gazing at the wheat field around us.

(in THE PILGRIMAGE )

Adventure

avatarWhat the future holds for you depends entirely on your capacity for love.

And for that, you must have absolute and total confidence in what you are doing. Don’t let others say: ‘That road is better’ or ‘That route is easier’.

The greatest gift God gave us is the power to make decisions.

The adventure of the days to come needs to be full of romance, because the world needs that; therefore, when you are mounted on your horse, feel the wind on your face and enjoy the sense of freedom.

But don’t forget that you have a long journey ahead. If you surrender totally to the romance of it all, you might fall.
If you don’t stop occasionally to let both you and your horse rest, your horse might die of thirst or exhaustion.

And precisely at the moment when everything seems to be going well and your dream is almost within your grasp, that is when you must be more alert than ever. Because when your dream is almost within your grasp, you will be assailed by terrible guilt.

You will see that you are about to arrive at a place where very few have ever set foot and you will think that you don’t deserve what life is giving you.
You will forget all the obstacles you overcame, all that you suffered and sacrificed. And because of that feeling of guilt, you could unconsciously destroy everything that took you so long to build.

That is the most dangerous of obstacles, because renouncing victory has about it a certain aura of sanctity.

But if a man understands that he is worthy of what he has struggled so long for, he will realise that he did not get there alone and must respect the Hand that led him.

taken from MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN ACCRA

Generous In Death

A man was traveling from one city to another when he heard that a ferocious battle had taken place and that his cousin was among the wounded soldiers. He rushed to the place and saw that his cousin was on death’s door.

He offered him a little water from his canteen, but just at that moment another wounded soldier beside him groaned, and the cousin asked him to give the water to his neighbor.

“But if I go over there, you may not survive! All your life you have been always so generous!”

Gathering his last ounce of strength, the wounded man replied:

“That’s another reason to be generous, now that I’m about to die.”

The talking donkey

A peasant was returning home when he saw a donkey in the field.

“I’m not just any donkey,” said the animal. “I saw the messiah being born. I’ve lived for two thousand years and I am alive to give this testimony.”

Alarmed, the peasant ran to the church and told it to the parish priest. “Impossible,” he said.

The peasant took the priest by the hand and took him where the donkey was. The animal repeated everything it had said.

“I’ll say it again: animals don’t speak,” said the priest.

“But you heard it!” the peasant insisted.

“How foolish you are! You’d rather believe in an ass than in a priest!”

The mountain will tell me when I am old

I have chosen a mountain to define my limits. In 1989 (I was just over 40yrs and I had already published The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage in Brasil), I was on my second sacred pilgrimage in the Pyrenees. I saw a mountain in the distance called Pic du Gez and I said, ‘okay, I have nothing to do today, so I’m going to climb that peak’.

First, it was very difficult to get close to the base – from a distance it looked so easy. When I finally arrived at the bottom, I had about five hours to climb about 2,000m. Not a big deal. So I started climbing, and I got lost. I had no water, no food, I had nothing. Eventually, I made it to the top and looked around. It was summer. There was no snow, it looked like the moon and I thought, ‘I don’t know my way back. I can’t take the same route that I took to get here’. I spent nearly four hours climbing and I had no energy for the descent (which is more difficult than the ascent). So I sat down, and my first decision was that I wasn’t going to smoke – I needed to preserve all my energy.
As I looked around, I saw a city in the distance and I said ‘I’m going to that city’.
And again, it seems easy to navigate when you see something like that in the distance. So I started my descent, heading towards the city, but soon after I began I could no longer see the city anymore. I said, ‘my God, I may die here’. And then I thought ‘well, that’s not so bad. I die on a mountain. Winter will come, my body will disappear and I will become a legend’.

Eventually, I made my way to the city, but I couldn’t sleep that night. My body was completely tense. I had gone beyond my limit.
I called my wife Christina the next day and said, ‘yesterday, I was lost in a mountain, I almost died’.
And she said, ‘okay Paulo, great, but don’t call me very often because our telephone bill is getting very high’. And I thought: “I almost died and here she is talking about my telephone bill because I was always calling collect’ (laughter).

After this experience, I decided that this mountain would tell me when I get old.
So once a year, I return to climb this mountain. One day, I will be unable to climb it and when that day comes, it will be a turning point, telling me that I can no longer overstretch myself that way and that I need to find something else.
I will find something else.

Odessa is like that

Catherine the Great received some boxes of freshly harvested oranges in the dead cold of winter. The note that came with it said they were from a distant port. The note said, ‘See what we are capable of bringing to you? We need your help to grow even more.’ Impressed, she sent a massive amount of money so that this port could develop further.

However, the oranges had been brought from other countries through the Black Sea. Without telling lies, the note to the empress did not explain the whole truth, as I learned when I disembarked there. The phrase I most heard during my 90 days of aimless travels was ‘Odessa is like that.”

When I decided to travel, I knew I needed at least one official commitment each week to help me resist the temptation to return to Brazil too soon. In this case, I agreed to come to Ukraine at the invitation of the government to attend the 20th anniversary forum of the disaster at Chernobyl. The event lasted only one afternoon and the wind was telling me to stay, so I decided to stay another week there. When I was asked what I wanted to do, I explained that I wanted to have some surprise meetings with my readers, giving them only two or three days notice that I was there. Many asked where I wanted to hold these meetings.

“Odessa,” I responded, without hesitation.

Everyone seemed very surprised. They wanted to know why. I told them I chose it because of Sergey Kostin, a person I met in Switzerland. In keeping with a tradition that began in Puente la Reina, the local bookseller there organized a party/book signing for 50 readers, chosen by lottery.

A friend of mine lent us his plane. When we landed, my representative in Russia asked to see an invitation for the party to make sure that everything was on schedule.

“It doesn’t have the date, time or place on it!”

“Odessa is like that,” answered the bookseller, “those who received the invitation will phone the number on the invitation 3 hours before the event and receive the necessary information. Otherwise, we will have many counterfeit tickets.”

We did not think there would be many people there, but I asked my representative not to worry since we didn’t have any expectations. I visited the staircase from the movie Battleship Potemkin,” the only reference I had to the city. Since ‘Odessa is like that,’ the party was a success and there were many more people there than we expected. The bookstore owner introduced me to a gigantic man that he said wanted to make a sculpture of me.

I never accept these offers because they usually mean standing and posing for days at a time, and I intended to return to Kiev the next morning, but the bookstore owner insisted.

“You will only need to stand for one hour, Odessa is like that.”

It was Easter, and Orthodox Easter is an important day for Christianity. I felt like I should accept just to give the man pleasure, as my need to return to Kiev would be a real excuse to limit my stay in his studio.

I went there with some friends. Alexander Petrovich Tokarev, the sculptor, says he spent a sleepless night praying (a custom in the Orthodox Church). Even without sleep, the work begins. I’m a little anxious; I don’t think he will achieve anything in such a short time. His hands were sweating profusely, and though they were moving quickly, his movements were precise, a kind of spiritual ballet. The other works in the studio surrounding me showcased his genuine talent and love to achieve the impossible. I began to feel sad because I would soon have to tell him to stop working because I had to leave.

However, exactly an hour later, the sculpture was finished! I was reminded once again that if you wish to do something, the universe will conspire in your favor.

Why should I have been surprised? After all, Odessa is like that!

The two paths

When they asked Abbot Antonio if the path of sacrifice led to heaven, he answered:

– There are two paths of sacrifice. The first is taken by the man who mortifies the flesh and pays penance because he believes that we are condemned. The man who follows this path feels guilty and judges himself unworthy of living happily.

– The second path is taken by the man who, even though he knows that the world is not as perfect as we would like, prays, does penance and offers up his time and toil to improve the world around him. So he understands that the word sacrifice comes from sacro ofício, holy work. In this case the Divine Presence helps him all the time and he obtains results in heaven.

The beggar and the guru

A baker wanted to get to know a great guru in his town a little better, so he invited him to dinner. The day before, the guru went to the bakery disguised as a beggar, picked a bread roll off the display and began to eat it. The baker saw this and tossed him out into the street.

The following day, the guru and a disciple went to the baker’s house and were treated to a splendid banquet.

In the middle of the meal, the disciple asked, How does one tell a good man from a bad man?

Just look at this baker. He is capable of spending ten gold pieces on a banquet because I am famous, but is incapable of giving a piece of bread to feed a hungry beggar.

Too shy to dance

When I was an adolescent I envied the great ballerinos among the kids on the block, and pretended I had other things to do at parties — like having a conversation. But in fact I was terrified of looking ridiculous, and because of that I would not risk a single step.

Until one day a girl called Marcia called out to me in front of everybody: Come on!

I said I did not like to dance, but she insisted.

Everyone in the group was looking, and because I was in love (love is capable of so many things!), I could refuse no further.

I did not know how to follow the steps, but Marcia did not stop; she went on dancing as if I were a Rudolf Nureyev.

Forget the others and pay attention to the bass, she whispered in my ear. Try to follow its rhythm.

At that moment I understood that we do not always have to learn the most important things; they are already part of our nature.

When we become adults, and when we grow old, we need to go on dancing. The rhythm changes, but music is part of life, and dancing is the consequence of letting this rhythm come inside us.

I still dance whenever I can. With dancing, the spiritual world and the real world manage to co-exist without any conflicts.

The 3 symptoms of killing our dreams

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ESPANOL CLICAR AQUI: Matando los suenos
PORTUGUES CLICAR AQUI: Matando os sonhos
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The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.

The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.

And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.

When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.
We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.

And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoon

taken from THE PILGRIMAGE

 

Ninja training

The Ninja warriors go to the field where some wheat has just been planted. Obeying the trainer’s command, they jump over the places where the seeds were sown.

Every day the Ninja warriors return to the field. The seeds turn into buds, and the warriors jump over them. The buds turn into small plants, and the warriors jump over them.

They do not become bored. They do not feel it is a waste of time.

The wheat grows, and the jumps become higher and higher. In this way, when the plant is ripe, the Ninja warriors still manage to jump over it.

Why? As a result of their jumping over what many may have seen as insignificant, has allowed them to be keenly aware of their obstacles.

 

(taken from “Manual of the warrior of the light )

20 SEC READ: The Chinese bamboo

After the bamboo seed is planted, you don’t see anything for approximately five years, other than a tiny shoot. All of its growth happens underground; a complex root system that extends vertically and horizontally in the earth begins to form.

At the end of the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo grows until it is approximately 25 meters tall.

Many things in life, personal and professional, are like the Chinese bamboo. You work, invest time, energy, do everything possible to nurture your growth and, sometimes, you don’t see anything for weeks, months or even years. But if you have the patience to keep working, to keep persisting and nurturing, your fifth year will arrive and with it will come changes that you hadn’t even dreamed of.
Remember that one must be very daring to reach great heights, and at the same time, a lot of depth to stay grounded.

Taken from ALEPH

20 SEC READ: Learning to live with some wounds (ENG, PORT,ESPA)

Illustration by Ken Crane
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EN ESPANOL CLICAR AQUI: Puercoespines
EM PORTUGUES CLICAR AQUI: Os Porcos-Espinhos
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During the Ice Age many animals died because of the cold. Seeing this situation, the porcupines decided to group together, so they wrapped up well and protected one another.

But they hurt one another with their thorns, and so then they decided to stay apart from one another.

They started to freeze to death again.
So they had to make a choice: either they vanished from the face of the earth or they accepted their neighbor’s thorns.

They wisely decided to stay together again. They learned to live with the small wounds that a very close relationship could cause, because the most important thing was the warmth given by the other.

And in the end they survived.

Destroying and rebuilding

I am invited to go to Guncan-Gima, the site of a Zen Buddhist temple. When I get there, I am surprised to see that the extraordinarily beautiful building, which is situated in the middle of a vast forest, is right next to a huge piece of waste ground.
 
I ask what the waste ground is for and the man in charge explains (I can’t verify if it is true, but it must be):
 
‘That is where we will build the next temple.
‘Every twenty years, we destroy the temple you see before you now and rebuild it again on the site next to it.
‘This means that the monks who have trained as carpenters, stonemasons and architects are always using their practical skills and passing them on to their apprentices.
‘ It also shows them that nothing in this life is eternal and that even temples are in need of constant improvement.’
 
 

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