There’s still something missing

By Paulo Coelho

The yogi Paltrul Rinpoche heard about a hermit who was reputed to be a saint and who lived in the mountains. He went to meet him.
 
‘Where have you come from?’ asked the hermit.
 
‘I come from where my back is pointing and I am going towards where my face is turned,’ replied Rinpoche. ‘A wise man should know that.’
 
‘What a foolish, pseudo-philosophical answer,’ muttered the hermit.
 
‘And what do you do, sir?’
 
‘I have been meditating for the last twenty years on perfecting patience. I am close to being considered a saint.’
 
‘People already think you are a saint,’ remarked Rinpoche. ‘You’ve managed to deceive them all!’
 
The hermit leaped angrily to his feet.
 
‘How dare you come here bothering a man in search of sainthood?’ he cried.
 
‘You’ve got a long way to go yet,’ said Rinpoche. ‘If a silly joke can make you lose the patience for which you’ve been searching for so long, then the last twenty years have been a complete waste of time!’

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Beyond one’s own limits

By Paulo Coelho


 
An archer was out walking near a Hindu monastery known for the austerity of its teachings when he saw the monks in the garden, drinking and having fun.
 
‘How cynical you seekers after God’s path are,’ he said out loud. ‘You claim to place great importance on discipline and then get drunk on the quiet.’
 
‘If you were to shoot a hundred arrows one after the other, what would happen to your bow?’ asked the oldest of the monks.
 
‘My bow would break,’ replied the archer.
 
‘If someone forces himself to go beyond his own limits, then he will break his will,’ said the monk. ‘If you do not balance work with rest, you will lose your enthusiasm, drain yourself of energy and not achieve very much at all.’

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Negative desires

By Paulo Coelho


 
A disciple said to his teacher:
 
‘I have spent a large part of my day thinking things I should not think, desiring things I should not desire, and making plans I should not make.’
 
The teacher invited his disciple to go for a walk with him in a forest near his house. On the way, he pointed to a plant and asked if the disciple knew what it was.
 
‘It’s deadly nightshade,’ said the disciple. ‘The leaves can kill you if you eat them.’
 
‘But they cannot kill you if you merely look at them. In exactly the same way, negative desires are entirely harmless unless you give in to them.’

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Charity under threat

By Paulo Coelho


 
Some time ago, my wife went to the aid of a Swiss tourist in Ipanema, who claimed that he had been robbed by some street children. Speaking appalling Portuguese in a thick foreign accent, he said that he had been left without his passport, without any money and with nowhere to sleep.
 
My wife bought him lunch, gave him enough cash to pay for a hotel room for the night while he got in touch with his embassy, and then left. Days later, a Rio newspaper reported that this ‘Swiss tourist’ was, in fact, an inventive con-artist who put on an accent and abused the good faith of those of us who love Rio and want to undo the negative image – justified or not – which has become our postcard.
 
When she read the article, my wife simply said: ‘Well, that’s not going to stop me helping anyone.’
 
Her remark reminded me of the story of a wise man who moved to the city of Akbar. No one took much notice of him, and his teachings were not taken up by the populace. After a time, he became the object of their mockery and their ironic comments.
 
One day, while he was walking down the main street in Akbar, a group of men and women began insulting him. Instead of pretending that he had not noticed, the wise man turned to them and blessed them.
 
One of the men said:
 
‘Are you deaf too? We called you the foulest of names and yet you respond with sweet words!’
 
‘We can each of us only offer what we have,’ came the wise man’s reply.

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Why God left man until the sixth day

By Paulo Coelho

A group of wise men met together in a castle in Akbar to discuss God’s works; they wanted to know why he had left creating man until the sixth day.

‘He wanted to get the Universe sorted out first so that we could have all its marvels at our disposal,’ said one.

‘He wanted to experiment with animals first so that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes when he created us,’ argued another.

A wise Jew turned up at the meeting. He was told the subject of discussion: ‘In your opinion why did God create man only on the final day?’

‘Very simple,’ said the wise man. ‘So that whenever we were afflicted by pride, we could reflect that, in the Divine scheme, even a mere mosquito had priority over us.’

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Copying the teacher

By Paulo Coelho

A disciple who loved and admired his teacher decided to observe his behaviour minutely, believing that if he did everything that his teacher did, then he would also acquire his teacher’s wisdom.
 
The teacher always wore white, and so his disciple did the same.
 
The teacher was a vegetarian, and so his disciple stopped eating meat and replaced it with a diet of vegetables and herbs.
 
The teacher was an austere man, and so the disciple decided to devote himself to self-sacrifice and started sleeping on a straw mattress.
 
After some time, the teacher noticed these changes in his disciple’s behaviour and asked him why.
 
‘I am climbing the steps of initiation,’ came the reply. ‘The white of my clothes shows the simplicity of my search, the vegetarian food purifies my body, and the lack of comfort makes me think only of spiritual things.’
 
Smiling, the teacher took him to a field where a horse was grazing.
 
‘You have spent all this time looking outside yourself, which is what matters least,’ he said. ‘Do you see that creature there? He has white skin, eats only grass and sleeps in a stable on a straw bed. Do you think he has the face of a saint or will one day become a real teacher?’

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Miss Cockroach and the coin

By Paulo Coelho

An old children’s story tells of Miss Cockroach, who found a coin as she was sweeping out her house. After a long time spent at her window, choosing the right mate to accommodate all her fears and anxieties, she ended up marrying John Shrew. And as everyone knows, John Shrew fell in the stew.
 
Often in our lives, we find a coin that has been given to us by fate, and we believe it to be the one treasure of our lives. We end up placing so much value on that one thing that fate – the same fate that gave us the coin – decides to take it back.
 
Those who are afraid of making a choice, always choose wrongly.

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No two paths are the same

By Paulo Coelho

In one of his rare writings, the Sufi sage Hafik says of the spiritual search:
 
‘Accept with wisdom the fact that the Path is full of contradictions. The Path often hides itself in order to stimulate the traveller to discover what lies beyond the next bend.
 
If two travelling companions are following the same path, then one of them is clearly following a false trail. For there are no formulae for finding the truth of the Path, and each person needs to run the risks incurred by his own steps.
 
Only the ignorant try to imitate the behaviour of others. Intelligent men do not waste their time like that; they develop their own abilities; they know that in a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are the same, just as no two journeys along the same Path are the same.’

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Miss Cockroach and the coin

By Paulo Coelho

An old children’s story tells of Miss Cockroach, who found a coin as she was sweeping out her house. After a long time spent at her window, choosing the right mate to accommodate all her fears and anxieties, she ended up marrying John Shrew. And as everyone knows, John Shrew fell in the stew.
 
Often in our lives, we find a coin that has been given to us by fate, and we believe it to be the one treasure of our lives. We end up placing so much value on that one thing that fate – the same fate that gave us the coin – decides to take it back.
 
Those who are afraid of making a choice, always choose wrongly.

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Apollo and Daphne

By Paulo Coelho

The god Apollo pursues the nymph Daphne into the woods. He is in love with her, but Daphne – who is always being courted by everyone – can no longer bear her own splendour and calls on the gods to help her, saying:
 
‘Destroy this beauty that never allows me any peace.’
 
The gods hear Daphne’s plea and transform her into a tree. Apollo cannot find her, for she is now merely part of the vegetation.
 
Daphne behaved in a way that is familiar to us all: we often destroy our own talents because we do not know what to do with them.
 
The mediocrity of being ‘just another person’ is more comfortable than the struggle to reveal everything we are capable of, using the gifts that God gave us.

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The exorcism

By Paulo Coelho

A man called in a priest to perform an exorcism in his house. He then went to stay in a hotel and left the priest to his work.
 
The priest spent a few days sleeping in the haunted house. He sprinkled holy water in all the rooms, said prayers, and, when he judged his task to be done, he summoned the owner, saying that the results had been fantastic.
 
‘How many demons did you exorcise?’ the owner asked.
 
‘None.’
 
‘And how many did you see in my house?’
 
‘None.’
 
‘Then how can you say that the results were fantastic?’
 
‘When one is fighting the forces of evil, then none is more than enough.’

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Beyond one’s own limits

By Paulo Coelho


 
An archer was out walking near a Hindu monastery known for the austerity of its teachings when he saw the monks in the garden, drinking and having fun.
 
‘How cynical you seekers after God’s path are,’ he said out loud. ‘You claim to place great importance on discipline and then get drunk on the quiet.’
 
‘If you were to shoot a hundred arrows one after the other, what would happen to your bow?’ asked the oldest of the monks.
 
‘My bow would break,’ replied the archer.
 
‘If someone forces himself to go beyond his own limits, then he will break his will,’ said the monk. ‘If you do not balance work with rest, you will lose your enthusiasm, drain yourself of energy and not achieve very much at all.’

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Does the teacher suffer if he has bad disciples?

By Paulo Coelho


 
A disciple said to Firoz:
 
‘The mere presence of a teacher inevitably attracts all kinds of inquisitive people, eager to discover something to their own advantage. Could that prove prejudicial to the teacher or a negative influence? Could that not turn the teacher from his path or cause him to suffer because he failed to teach what he intended to teach?’
 
Firoz, the Sufi master, replied:
 
‘The sight of a pineapple tree laden with fruit awakens the appetite of everyone who passes by. If someone chooses to eat more than his fill, he will end up consuming too many pineapples and will suffer the consequences. The owner of the tree doesn’t get indigestion though. It is the same thing with the Search. The path must be open to all, but God determines what limits to place on each individual.’

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Why God left man until the sixth day

By Paulo Coelho

A group of wise men met together in a castle in Akbar to discuss God’s works; they wanted to know why he had left creating man until the sixth day.

‘He wanted to get the Universe sorted out first so that we could have all its marvels at our disposal,’ said one.

‘He wanted to experiment with animals first so that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes when he created us,’ argued another.

A wise Jew turned up at the meeting. He was told the subject of discussion: ‘In your opinion why did God create man only on the final day?’

‘Very simple,’ said the wise man. ‘So that whenever we were afflicted by pride, we could reflect that, in the Divine scheme, even a mere mosquito had priority over us.’

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Copying the teacher

By Paulo Coelho

A disciple who loved and admired his teacher decided to observe his behaviour minutely, believing that if he did everything that his teacher did, then he would also acquire his teacher’s wisdom.
 
The teacher always wore white, and so his disciple did the same.
 
The teacher was a vegetarian, and so his disciple stopped eating meat and replaced it with a diet of vegetables and herbs.
 
The teacher was an austere man, and so the disciple decided to devote himself to self-sacrifice and started sleeping on a straw mattress.
 
After some time, the teacher noticed these changes in his disciple’s behaviour and asked him why.
 
‘I am climbing the steps of initiation,’ came the reply. ‘The white of my clothes shows the simplicity of my search, the vegetarian food purifies my body, and the lack of comfort makes me think only of spiritual things.’
 
Smiling, the teacher took him to a field where a horse was grazing.
 
‘You have spent all this time looking outside yourself, which is what matters least,’ he said. ‘Do you see that creature there? He has white skin, eats only grass and sleeps in a stable on a straw bed. Do you think he has the face of a saint or will one day become a real teacher?’

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Being the devil isn’t easy

By Paulo Coelho

The devil said to Buddha:
 
‘Being the devil isn’t easy. I always have to speak in riddles so that people won’t notice that I’m tempting them. I always have to appear bright and intelligent to gain their admiration. I have to put a lot of energy into trying to persuade my disciples that Hell is more interesting than Heaven. I am old now and I would like to pass my students on to you.’
 
Buddha knew that this was a trap: if he accepted the proposal, he himself would become the devil, and the devil would become Buddha.
 
‘You think it’s fun being Buddha,’ he replied. ‘But as well as doing everything that you have to do, I also have to put up with the things my students do to me! They place words in my mouth that I never spoke, they earn money from my teachings and expect me to be wise all the time! You would never be able to stand such a life!’
 
This argument convinced the devil that changing roles really wasn’t such a good idea, and Buddha escaped temptation.

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The meaning of the crowns

By Paulo Coelho

When Moses ascended into the heavens to write one particular part of the Bible, the Almighty asked him to draw little crowns above certain letters of the Torah.
 
Moses said:
 
‘Creator of the Universe, why do you want me to add those crowns?’
 
‘Because in a hundred generations’ time, a man named Akiva will reveal the true meaning of those drawings.’
 
‘Show me this man’s interpretation,’ Moses asked.
 
The Lord carried Moses into the future and placed him in one of Rabbi Akiva’s classes. A student said:
 
‘Rabbi, why are there crowns drawn above some of the letters?’
 
‘I don’t know,’ replied Akiva. ‘And I do not think that Moses knew either. But since he was the greatest of all the prophets, he did this merely to teach us that, even though we may not understand everything that the Lord does, we must nevertheless do as he asks.’
 
And Moses begged the Lord’s forgiveness.

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