Without so much as blinking

During the civil war in Korea, a certain general and his troops were advancing implacably, taking province after province, destroying everything in their path. The people in one city, hearing that the general was approaching and knowing his cruel reputation, fled to a nearby mountain.

The troops found the houses empty. After much searching, though, they found one Zen monk who had stayed behind. The general ordered that he be brought before him, but the monk refused to go.

Furious, the general went to him instead.

‘You obviously don’t know who I am!’ he bawled. ‘I am capable of stabbing you in the chest with my sword without so much as blinking.’

The Zen master turned and replied calmly:

‘You obviously don’t know who I am either. I am capable of letting myself be stabbed in the chest by a sword without so much as blinking.’

On hearing this, the general bowed low and left.
 
 
 

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20 sec reading: the giant tree


By Paulo Coelho

A carpenter and his apprentices were travelling through the province of Qi in search of building materials.
They saw a giant tree; five men all holding hands could not encompass its girth, and its crown reached almost to the clouds.

‘Let’s not waste our time with this tree,’ said the master carpenter. ‘It would take us for ever to cut it down. If we wanted to make a ship out of that heavy trunk, the ship would sink. If we tried to use it to build a roof, the walls would have to be specially reinforced.’

The group continued on its way. One of the apprentices remarked:

‘Such a big tree and no use to anyone!’

‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ said the master carpenter. ‘The tree was true to its own destiny.
“If it had been like all the others, we would have cut it down. But because it had the courage to be different, it will remain alive and strong for a long time yet.’

Illustration by Ken Crane

The fish who saved my life

Illustration by Ken Crane

 
Nasrudin is walking past a cave when he sees a yogi, deep in meditation, and he asks the yogi what he is searching for. The yogi says:
 
‘I study the animals and have learned many lessons from them that can transform a man’s life.’
 
‘A fish once saved my life,’ Nasrudin replies. ‘If you teach me everything you know, I will tell you how it happened.’
 
The Yogi is astonished; only a holy man could be saved by a fish. And he decides to teach Nasrudin everything he knows.
 
When he has finished, he says to Nasrudin:
 
‘Now that I have taught you everything, I would be proud to know how a fish saved your life.’
 
‘Very simple,’ says Nasrudin, ‘I was almost dying of hunger when I caught it and, thanks to that fish, I had enough food for three days.’

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1 MIN reading: Krishna will hear your prayer

A widow from a poor village in Bengal did not have enough money to pay for her son’s bus fare, and so when the boy started going to school, he would have to walk through the forest all on his own.

In order to reassure him, she said:

‘Don’t be afraid of the forest, my son. Ask your God Krishna to go with you. He will hear your prayer.’

The boy followed his mother’s suggestion, and Krishna duly appeared and from then on accompanied him to school every day.

When it was his teacher’s birthday, the boy asked his mother for some money in order to buy him a present.
‘We haven’t any money, son. Ask your brother Krishna to get you a present.’

The following day, the boy explained his problem to Krishna, who gave him a jug of milk.
The boy proudly handed the milk to the teacher, but the other boys’ presents were far superior and the teacher didn’t even notice his.

‘Where did you get that jug?’

‘Krishna, the God of the forest, gave it to me.’

The teacher, the students and the assistant all burst out laughing.

‘There are no gods in the forest, that’s pure superstition,’ said the teacher. ‘If he exists, let’s all go and see him.’
The whole group set off. The boy started calling for Krishna, but he did not appear.
The boy made one last desperate appeal.

‘Brother Krishna, my teacher wants to see you. Please show yourself!’

At that moment, a voice emerged from the forest and echoed through the city and was heard by everyone.

‘I can’t! He doesn’t even believe I exist!’

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Choosing the best road

When Abbot Antonio was asked if the road of sacrifice led to Heaven, he replied:
 
‘There are two such roads. The first is that of the man who mortifies his flesh and does penance because he believes that we are all damned.
‘This man feels guilty and unworthy to live a happy life.
‘He will never get anywhere because God does not inhabit guilt.
 
‘The second road is that of the man who knows that the world is not as perfect as we would all like it to be, but who nevertheless puts time and effort into improving the world around him.
‘In this case, the Divine Presence helps him all the time, and he will find Heaven.’
 
 

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20 SEC REading: Joy and love

A believer approached Rabbi Moche of Kobryn and asked:
‘How should I best use my days so that God will be contented with my actions?’

 
‘There is only one possible option: to live with love,’ replied the Rabbi.

 
Minutes later, another follower approached him and asked the same question.
‘There is only one possible option: try to live with joy.’

 
The first follower was taken aback.
‘But the advice you gave me was different!’
 
‘Not at all,’ said the rabbi. ‘It was exactly the same.’
 
 

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Acting on impulse

Father Zeca, from the Church of the Resurrection in Copacabana, tells of how, when he was travelling on a bus, he suddenly heard a voice telling him to get up and preach the importance of love right there and then.
 
Zeca started talking to the voice: ‘They’ll think I’m ridiculous, this isn’t the place for a sermon,’ he said.
But something inside him insisted that he speak.
‘I’m too shy, please don’t ask me to do this,’ he begged.
 
The inner impulse insisted.
 
Then he remembered his promise – to surrender himself to all his internal calls. He got up – dying of embarrassment – and began to talk about the Gospel.
Everyone listened in silence. He looked at each passenger in turn and very few looked away.
He said everything that was in his heart, ended his sermon and sat down again.
 
He still does not know what task he fulfilled that day, but he is absolutely certain that he did fulfil a task.

10 SEC READ: The muddy road


_________________________
EN ESPANOL CLICAR AQUI> Los dos monjes
_________________________

Tanzan and Ekido were once travelling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once.
Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself.

“We monks can’t be near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

In a bar in Buenos Aires

By Paulo Coelho

Dear readers,
Today is the last story of this book of mine called “Fathers, Sons and Grandsons”.
As promised here’s the illustration made by Christina Oiticica for you to download.
Fathers, Sons and Grandsons ( image version)
fathers-sons-and-grandsons.pdf ( pdf version )
Love,
Paulo

In a bar in Buenos Aires

I am with the Venezuelan writer Dulce Rojas, drinking coffee in Buenos Aires; we are discussing the idea of peace and how removed it has become from the human heart. Dulce then tells me the following story.

A king offered a large prize to the artist who could best represent the idea of peace. A lot of painters sent their works to the palace, depicting woods at dusk, quiet rivers, children playing on the sand, rainbows in the sky, drops of dew on a rose petal.

The king examined everything that was sent to him, but ended up choosing only two works.

The first showed a tranquil lake that perfectly mirrored the imposing mountains surrounding it and the blue sky above. The sky was dotted with small white clouds and, if you looked closely, in the left-hand corner of the lake there stood a small house with one window open and smoke rising from the chimney – the sign that a frugal but tasty supper was being prepared.

The second painting was also of mountains, but these were bleak and stony with sharp, sheer peaks. Above the mountains, the sky was implacably dark, and from the heavy clouds fell lightning, hail and torrential rain.

The painting was totally out of harmony with the other submissions. However, a closer look revealed a bird’s nest lodged in a crack in one of those inhospitable rocks. In the midst of the violent roaring of the storm, a swallow was calmly sitting on its nest.

When he gathered his court together, the king chose the second picture as the one that best expressed the idea of peace. He explained:

‘Peace is not what we find in a place that is free of noise, problems and hard work; peace is what allows us to preserve the calm in our hearts, even in the most adverse situations. That is its true and only meaning.

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Seeing yourself

By Paulo Coelho

‘When you look at your companions, try to see yourself,’ said the Japanese teacher Okakura Kakuso.

‘But isn’t that an awfully selfish attitude?’ asked a disciple. ‘If we are always concerned about ourselves, we will never see the good things that others have to offer.’

‘If only we did always see the good things in others,’ replied Kakuso. ‘But the truth is that when we look at another person, we are only looking for defects. We try to discover his wicked side because we want him to be worse than us. We never forgive him when he hurts us because we do not believe that we would ever be forgiven. We manage to wound him with harsh words, declaring that we are telling the truth, when all we are doing is trying to hide it from ourselves. We pretend that we are important so that no one else will see how fragile we are. That is why whenever you judge your brother, be aware that you are the one who is on trial.’

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The hidden face

By Paulo Coelho

Nasrudin went to the house of a rich man to ask for money for charity.

A page opened the door.

‘Tell the Mullah that Nasrudin is here and needs money to help others,’ said the wise man.

The page went back inside and returned a few minutes later.

‘My master is not at home.’

‘Allow me then to give him a piece of advice, even though he has not contributed to any charitable works. The next time he is away from home, tell him not to leave his face at the window, otherwise people might think he is lying.’

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Believing without seeing

By Paulo Coelho

An emperor said to the Rabbi Yeoschoua ben Hanania:

‘I would very much like to see your God.’

‘That is impossible,’ said the Rabbi.

‘Impossible? Then how can I entrust my life to someone whom I cannot see?’

‘Show me the pocket in which you have placed the love of your wife, and let me weigh it in order to see how large her love is.’

‘Don’t be silly; no one can keep someone’s love in their pocket.’

‘The sun is only one of the works which the Lord placed in the universe and yet you cannot look at it directly. You cannot see love either, but you know you are capable of falling in love with a woman and entrusting your life to her. Is it not clear then that there are certain things in which we trust even though we cannot see them?’

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Absolute control

By Paulo Coelho

Each person knows how best to be at peace with life; some need at least some degree of security, others launch themselves fearlessly into danger. There are no formulae for living out one’s dream: each of us, by listening to our own heart, will know how best to act.

The American writer Sherwood Anderson was always extremely undisciplined and only managed to write when fuelled by his own rebelliousness. His first publishers, concerned about the abject poverty in which Anderson lived, decided to send him a weekly cheque as an advance on his next novel.

After a month, they received a visit from the writer, who returned all the cheques.

‘I haven’t been able to write a line in weeks,’ said Anderson. ‘I just can’t write with financial security staring at me across the desk.’

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The way of the tiger

By Paulo Coelho

A man was walking through a forest when he saw a crippled fox. ‘I wonder how it manages to feed itself,’ he thought. At that moment, a tiger approached, carrying its prey in its mouth. The tiger ate its fill and left what remained for the fox.

‘If God helps the fox, he will help me too,’ the man thought. He went back home, shut himself up in his house and waited for the Heavens to bring him food.

Nothing happened. Just when he was becoming too weak to go out and work, an angel appeared.

‘Why did you decide to imitate the crippled fox?’ asked the angel. ‘Get out of bed, pick up your tools and follow the way of the tiger!’

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Do not accept minor misdeeds

By Paulo Coelho

The teacher asked his disciples to go and find something to eat. They were travelling and could find no proper food.

The disciples came back later that afternoon. Each brought with him the little he had gleaned from other people’s charity: rotten fruit, stale bread, sour wine.

However, one of the disciples returned with a bag of ripe apples.

‘I will always do all I can to help my teacher and my brothers,’ he said, sharing out the apples with the others.

‘Where did you get them from?’ asked his teacher.

‘I had to steal them. People only wanted to give me leftovers, even though they know that we preach the word of God.’

‘Leave us this minute and take your apples with you, and never come back,’ said the teacher. ‘The ends never justify the means, however noble those ends might be. If you steal for me today, tomorrow you might end up stealing from me.’

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I want to be an angel

By Paulo Coelho



Abbot Joí£o Pequeno thought: ‘I’m tired of being a mere man, I should be like the angels who do nothing but contemplate the glory of God.’ That night, he left the monastery of Sceta and set off into the desert.

A week later, he came back to the monastery. Brother Gatekeeper heard him knocking and asked who it was.

‘It’s Abbot Joí£o,’ he replied. ‘I’m hungry.’

‘That’s not possible,’ said Brother Gatekeeper. ‘Abbot Joí£o is in the desert, transforming himself into an angel. He no longer feels hunger and has no need to work for his food.’

‘Forgive my arrogance,’ replied Abbot Joí£o. ‘The angels help humanity, that is their job; that is why they do not need to eat, but merely to contemplate. But I am a man, and the only way in which I can contemplate that same glory is by doing what the angels do and help my fellow human beings. Fasting won’t get me anywhere.’

Hearing this humble explanation, Brother Gatekeeper opened the gate of the monastery.

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The smiling couple (London, 1977)

By Paulo Coelho

I was married to Cecí­lia MacDowell and – at a period in my life when I had decided to give up everything for which I no longer felt any enthusiasm – we went to live in London. We stayed in a small, second-floor flat in Palace Street and we were having great difficulty making new friends. However, every night, a young couple would leave the pub next door and walk past our window waving and calling to us to come down.

I was extremely worried about bothering the neighbours, and so I never went down, pretending, instead, that it had nothing to do with me. But the couple kept calling up to us, even when there was no one at the window.

One night, I did go down to complain about the noise. Their laughter immediately turned to sadness; they apologised and went away. That night, I realised that, although we very much wanted to make new friends, I was far more concerned about ‘what the neighbours would say’.

I decided that the next time, I would invite the couple up to have a drink with us. I waited all week at the window, at the time they usually passed, but they never came back. I started going to the pub in the hope of seeing them, but the owner of the pub claimed not to know them.

I placed a notice in the window saying: ‘Call again’. All this achieved was that, one night, a group of drunks began hurling every swearword under the sun at our window, and our neighbour – the one I had been so worried about – ended up complaining to the landlord.

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