Ever suspicious that Cornelius has stepped back a bit to allow a new Guide to speak to me, I have been getting to know my newest addition to the wonderful teachers who have their hands full guiding me on this journey. This particular Guide whisks me off to the solitude of a beautiful Zen Garden, peacefully quiet we sit amongst small shrubs and immaculately tended gardens on small mats. He exudes patience, tolerance, and wisdom. A gifted story-teller, as most of the Guides are, the story weaves from the top of his head out and around me and I am immediately a part of a story that is playing out.
I love the way things are shown in the off worlds, not limited by words alone, you are embraced at multiple levels with these stories, there experiencing, sensing, a living breathing sensory delight unfolds before your mind.
The Emperor and the Boy:
There once was a great Emperor who ruled the land with an iron hand. As a child he was schooled in the ways of the Kingdom, never allowed a childhood, isolated and trained to be one of the greatest conquerors of his time. He searched the land for possessions that he then made his, for people he then made his and he travelled to other places and conquered those as well, taking what he wanted for his palace but never for his people.
In his heart he searched endlessly for what would make him truly happy, but it was never enough. It never seemed like he could find on sea, on land, what would settle his soul and make him happy. One day he restlessly stamped through the Palace and went outside in the beautiful, immaculately kept gardens. He looked up to the sky, blue as the wren's egg and sighed. His ears caught the sound of a bird heartily singing its song and he moved along the gardens to see if he could find the source of bird's song. He spied the plump bird in the trees and closed his eyes for a moment listening to the soaring notes of the happy creature.
There was a small crack to be heard and the bird's song was no more. He opened his eyes to spy a small boy with a slingshot, in ragged clothing, bending to snatch the dead bird from the grass. Enraged, he watched as the small boy slipped over the Palace wall and out of the garden. "Guards!" he yelled storming back into the Palace, "Find the small boy on the outside of the Palace grounds NOW! The one with the dead bird and the ragged clothing! NOW!". The Guards ran and called to the outside Guard and in moments the small boy was brought before the Emperor trembling. The Guard handed over both the slingshot and the small bird. Huge dark eyes in a small sunken face surveyed the Emperor warily.
The Emperor fumed inside. How dare this young boy slip into HIS palace, how DARE this child kill his bird. "Find his parents" he snapped at the Guards and impatiently tapping his immaculately clad foot he waited for their arrival. Shortly, a stooped peasant man, thin as a reed and a hobbled grey haired woman in ragged clothes were brought before the Emperor. Cowering they prostrated themselves on the floor and begged an apology for the small boy and his action.
Impervious, the Emperor stared down his nose at them. "For the life of my bird, shall cost this boy his life". The old woman wailed softly and the thin old man, stooped lower in pain. "I will climb the mountain with this child and he shall lose his life to soar with the bird he so cruelly killed. Throw them out" he ordered the Guards. The couple, clinging together, were roughly removed from the Emperor's sight. The small boy moved not a muscle as he continued to survey the Emperor. The Emperor flicked his hand in disgust, "Take him to the front of the Palace. Wait for me there, I will get changed to walk up the mountain. Bring also the ruby dagger". With that he turned and walked off through the Palace.
The Guards looked to each other and the small boy. They could not believe that their Emperor would take the life of a child for a bird. So with lowered eyes they took the small boy to the front of the palace. Tying a cord around the ankle of the small child so he could not flee, the Guards took their positions and waited for the Emperor. An hour passed and the Emperor appeared. In that time the small boy had not moved an inch. He stayed quietly surveying the palace without a word.
Seizing the cord without looking at the boy, the Emperor collected the ruby dagger, shoved it by his side and set off through the Palace gates. The Guards moved to go with him but he motioned them aside. "This is between me and the boy" he snapped. The Emperor and the boy moved quickly past the Palace, which was built on the side of the mountain and moved silently together up the mountainside. The Emperor was incredibly fit, having kept the habits of his childhood training tortuously in place. The small boy kept pace behind him equally as effortlessly for one so skinny. The Emperor paused for a moment half way up the mountain, to both survey the view and to catch a moment of breath.
As he sat on the boulder looking down over the palace and the valley below, a small musical melody reached his ears. He turned to see the small boy sitting on the ground at his feet, playing melodically on a tiny carved flute. He watched as the small boy tilted his face to the sun and smiled with the pleasure, then he turned and selected a few blades of new green grass and chewed contentedly. The Emperor frowned. Why was this boy not concerned about losing his life. Why did he seem to be enjoying the journey to his death so much.
Tugging on the cord wordlessly, they continued up the mountain, although this time the Emperor watched the small boy all the way. The small boy hummed to himself joyfully, would often reach out and pull blossoms or flowers from the passing shrubs and trees and place them in his mouth with the look of most delighted joy on his face. He would then quickly bow to the trees and shrubs and move forward keeping pace with the Emperor. This made the Emperor frown more. Obviously the boy was stupid, did not seem aware of his fate. He tugged him forward and they stopped at a small stream further up the mountain so the Emperor could quench his thirst. The small boy waited patiently and when the Emperor had finished drinking, politely asked if he could too, drink at the stream. The Emperor was surprised, having heard no sound from the boy had assumed that he was mute or stupid. He nodded his head and the small boy reached a hand into the trickling stream. He stopped for a moment and looked to the sky, "Thank you old man of the sky, for this thirsty boy is grateful" and he sipped the water joyfully from his cupped hands.
The Emperor did not know whether to be insulted, or amazed, for the boy had not thanked him but had instead thanked the old man of the sky. He stared at the small boy who after drinking curled on a rock humming contentedly waiting for the Emperor to move. The Emperor scratched his chin thoughtfully. He must know the answer to why this child on facing death could remain so at peace with himself. "Boy?" he asked "Why did you kill my bird?".
The small boy turned his sunken face and dark eyes to the Emperor, politely and surely he spoke "I killed the bird to feed my Grandparents for they were starving and I knew by the beautiful bird's song that it would be delighted to share its life for those I love as much as it's song". He watched the Emperor thoughtfully. The Emperor thought on the words for a moment, "Why are you not bothered that I am taking you up the mountain to end your life for that of the bird?".
The boy quietly answered again, not sorrowfully but joyfully. "Life will always be taken, life will always flow. It is not the moment of passing from this world that is important, but the passing of the moments before death. Death is the one consistency of life, it comes surely as the sun sets. You are governed by what you choose to have joyfully in the moments before death reaches it's hand to you. That is the value regardless of death. Each moment makes me happy".
Again the Emperor thought on this and again he asked the small boy. "What truly does make each moment happy?" The small boy answered again with an enormous smile. "The aliveness of the world. The beauty of a raindrop, the perfume of a flower and the intensity of a moment in time to love". The Emperor bowed his head. All of the words from one small starving boy rolled around his heart like a thunder-cloud. He had been so preoccupied in his life with conquering, taking, coveting, he had forgotten about the simple pleasures of life and here before him in the last hours of his life was a small boy reminding him of the truth he needed to see in his heart.
The Emperor bowed his head and wept. He wept for the loss of his childhood, he wept for the many men killed in many battles, the senselessness of war and the ingratitude of mankind and himself. In his weeping he suddenly became aware that the small boy had crept into his arms and was hugging him with all his might. He raised startled eyes to the small dark eyes of the boy, "It is all right" whispered the small boy "the world STILL loves you, you just have to love youself back". A part of the crusted, heavy stone heart of the Emperor crumbled and the Sun for a moment illuminated the boy and the Emperor on the side of the Mountain. He truly felt he had found a piece of the unhappiness of his life. He closed his eyes and thanked the old man of the sky. Setting the boy side, the Emperor jumped up. Eyes twinkling, he leaned and severed the cord at the boy's ankle. He held out his hand, "Come let's teach the world to change". The small boy laughed joyfully and took the Emperor's hand.
We at times search endlessly for things that would make us happy, our lives easier, things different. Yet again and again it comes down to SIMPLICITY. If you do not value your life, your body, your world, the people in it, then you will always wonder what makes you truly happy. The most important person is you on this journey, not what you have, or what others bring you. It is what you do in yourself. Don't complicate it with anything more.