Stories & Reflections
By Paulo Coelho
A monk lived near the temple of Shiva. In the house opposite lived a prostitute. Noticing the large number of men who visited her, the monk decided to speak to her.
‘You are a great sinner,’ he said sternly. ‘You reveal your lack of respect for God every day and every night. Do you never stop to think about what will happen to you after your death?’
The poor woman was very shaken by what the monk said. She prayed to God out of genuine repentance, begging His forgiveness. She also asked the Almighty to help her to find another means of earning her living.
But she could find no other work and, after going hungry for a week, she returned to prostitution.
But each time she gave her body to a stranger, she would pray to the Lord for forgiveness.
Annoyed that his advice had had no effect, the monk thought to himself:
‘From now on, I’m going to keep a count of the number of men who go into that house, until the day the sinner dies.’
And from that moment on, he did nothing but watch the comings and goings at the prostitute’s house, and for each man who went in, he added a stone to a pile of stones by his side.
After some time, the monk again spoke to the prostitute and said:
‘You see that pile of stones? Each stone represents a mortal sin committed by you, despite all my warnings. I say to you once more: do not sin again!’
Seeing how her sins accumulated, the woman began to tremble. Returning home, she wept tears of real repentance and prayed to God:
‘O Lord, when will Your mercy free me from this wretched life?’
Her prayer was heard. That same day, the angel of death came to her house and carried her off. On God’s orders, the angel crossed the street and took the monk with him too.
The prostitute’s soul went straight up to Heaven, while the devils bore the monk down into Hell. They passed each other on the way, and when the monk saw what was happening, he cried out:
‘Is this Your justice, O Lord? I spent my whole life in devotion and poverty and now I am carried off into Hell, while that prostitute, who lived all her life steeped in sin, is borne aloft up to Heaven!’
Hearing this, one of the angels replied:
poses are always just. You thought that God’s love meant judging the behaviour of your neighbour. While you filled your heart with the impurity of another’s sin, this woman prayed fervently day and night. Her soul is so light after all the tears she has shed that we can easily bear her up to Paradise. Your soul is so weighed down with stones it is too heavy to lift.’
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