Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The Wisdom of the Desert Priests

Author: Paulo Coelho

By Paulo Coelho

Learning to choose

Saint Antí£o was living in the desert, when a young man came to him:

– Father, I sold all my belongings and gave to the poor. I kept only a few things in order to survive here. I want you to teach me the way to salvation.

Saint Antí£o asked the young man to sell the few things he had kept and, with the money, to buy meat in town. He was to return with the meat tied to his body.

The young man obeyed. On his way back, he was attacked by dogs and falcons, who wanted a piece of the meat.

– I am back – said the young man, showing his scratched, bitten body, and his clothes in rags. Why did you tell me to do that?

– To show that what you brought from your past, is of no use in your present. When you must choose a new path, do not bring old experiences with you. Those who strike out afresh, but who attempt to retain a little of the old life, end up torn apart by their own memories.

Changing attitude

A young man went to an abbot from the Sceta monastery, wanting to follow a spiritual path.

– For one whole year, give a coin to anyone who provokes you. – said the abbot.

For twelve months the young man gave a coin away whenever someone provoked him. At the end of a year, he returned to the abbot, to find out his next task.

– Go into town and fetch me food.

As soon as the young man left, the abbot disguised himself as a beggar and – taking a shortcut he knew – went to the gates of the town. When the young man approached, he began to insult him.

– How marvelous! – said the young man to the so-called beggar. – For a whole year I had to pay everyone who provoked me, and now I can be provoked for free, without having to spend a thing!

Upon hearing this, the abbot removed his disguise.

– Whoever is capable of not minding what others say, is a man on the path to wisdom. You no longer take insults seriously, therefore you are ready for the next step.

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