By Tom Welch
The Buddha and the priest were climbing a hill together, though from opposite sides.
They met at the top, the priest surprised, the Buddha less so.
“Good day,” said the priest, mopping his brow on this warm spring day. The Buddha nodded pleasantly, unruffled. The priest, red of face and panting from exertion, said “Good sir, you seem to unruffled in this heat.”
The Buddha replied, “Does the grass perspire, do the leaves of the tree drip sweat?”
The priest considered this as he caught his breath. “Unfortunately I am neither grass nor leaf,” he replied, “although this is self-evident. And you appear to be neither either,” he added with a chuckle.”
“There is no trick nor secret,” replied the Buddha. “There is no self to struggle in the heat,” he added. “Perhaps you would be more comfortable sitting under that tree.”
“Yes, thank you,” said the priest, as he linked his arm through the Buddha’s and walked with him to the stone bench in the shade of the tree.
When they were seated, the priest noticed the gentle, cool breeze blowing there. He sighed. “I thought I recognized you, Holy Buddha, though you are long dead. How do you come to be here with me now?” he asked.
“There is no time to measure existence and there is no existence but as part of all,” said the Buddha. He looked to see if the priest understood.
The priest nodded and said, “I do understand you but not the meaning of your words.”
“That is the nature of all understanding, that words are at best an approximation of truth and often a deceit.”
“Yes,” the priest said. “I have often noticed that what I say in Latin or Gaelic is different in aspect from the same thought expressed in English.” He paused to think this over. “Truly our thoughts are framed in language and subtly different from one tongue to another.”
“This is so. Our understanding of reality is framed in language and language misrepresents and misdirects a true understanding,” added the Buddha. “Even this statement misrepresents truth.”
“How then are we to grasp what is real and what thereof is important?” asked the priest. “My guide is the holy scripture which I grant does change subtly from language to language and version to version, though not I believe in essence.”
“Now we arrive at understanding,” said the Buddha. “Truth is not in words but in perception, not of part but of the whole, and not from one perspective but from all.”
“I do not claim to understand your words but I feel a ‘rightness’ to the thought or intent behind them. Does my perception align with yours?” asked the priest.
The Buddha seemed to exude an enigmatic smile, though his face did not, in fact, change expression. “We are fellow teachers,” he said, “and your teachings strive toward truth even as mine do. Let us part in friendship to continue on our separate paths,” said the Buddha, rising from the stone bench.
The priest rose also, now fully recovered from his exertions. “Go forth in peace,” he said, “even as I do.”
They embraced, then each continued on his separate journey, perhaps fated to meet again in some timeless tomorrow or yesterday. They both hoped so.
*Author’s note: This is a fiction story or parable created by me. Apologies are extended to those who may be offended by the imprecision of these words as they attempt to represent true teachings. Words always do fall short and my ignorance of these teachings is regrettable. I am open to correction.*
Tom Welch has an M.A. in Education from Stanford University and is a former high school math teacher, US Army Specialist 5 Radio Intercept Operator, an executive at General Motors, and has 10 years experience leading groups of parents and children in a community education program that explores the effects of addiction on families. He has also worked for several years with adjudicated teenagers using the same program materials. He has published a book available documenting this program on Amazon entitled “Raising Healthy Children” which is available as an e-book and soft cover. His blog on WordPress contains this story and many others. His wife Gitta’s husky, Spirit, is 14 years old and loves cold weather, the colder the better. It is Tom’s assignment to walk the dog every morning without complaint. Tom loves to write as ideas come to him.
Editor: Daniel Scharpenburg