Three friends met at the bottom of a mountain, to trek up a path to its summit and meet the wise old man, who resided there.
They had all heard that he held the answer to everlasting happiness and peace.
It was a long walk and it took them the entire day to complete.
When they reached the top, they were greeted by the wise man, who welcomed them and offered them a meal. While he prepared the meal, the three looked around. They were stunned by the panoramic, breathtaking view. The freshness of the air, the beauty all around and the feeling of having conquered the summit, made them feel ecstatic.
By then the wise man had returned. After setting out food for the trio, he turned to them and said, ‘What brings you here?’
‘We wanted to ask you about the secret to salvation.’ the first exclaimed.
‘We want to know how we can find true happiness’ the second said.
‘We want to know how one can find everlasting peace’ the third added.
The old man pondered over their questions and replied ‘I will give you the answer to your questions, if you can answer one of mine first.’
Looking at the three he posed the question ‘How would you describe the journey you made, to reach me?’
The first friend eagerly replied ‘I was amazed at the fact that we walked almost 5 kilometers up such a steep path. There were times when the path looked so steep, that I was quite sure we wouldn’t be able to make it. But I am proud of the fact that we managed.’
At this, the other two showed surprise.
‘That’s not what happened.’ the second friend said. ‘This journey was not about the distance travelled. It was about appreciating the views all around us. There were mountains, cliffs, ravines, springs and brooks. Then there were millions of flowers, in every hue and color, multi colored butterflies, thousands of bees, the lady bugs, the birds in the shrubbery… I was amazed at the scenic beauty all around us.’
‘You are both wrong.’ the third friend then spoke. ‘When was this ever about distances and views? This journey was all about the beautiful sounds that accompanied us through it. The birds chirping in the trees, the bees buzzing around us, the soft whispering of the breeze as it rustled through the leaves. The sound of gushing water, while we crossed little rivulets and waterfalls along the way. I was amazed by the sounds of nature.’
Each friend was adamant, that his perspective was right. They argued and argued till it was dark all around them.
Their argument eventually turned acrimonious and they parted ways, each calling the other unworthy of being heeded.
Very soon their personal perspective and belief on the path became their version of the ‘truth’. The truth, that their path was the only path to the summit.
People close to each of these erstwhile friends (now enemies) sided with their perspectives. Each one’s entourage swelled in numbers. And as heresy took over, so did intolerance. The belief that ‘either you’re with us, or against us’ prevailed. Stories were concocted to support each perspective or debunk the others. Hordes of people took on the responsibility to outshout and outdo the others, spreading their perspective on the truth.
And all the while that people were busy arguing, fighting or waging wars, the old wise man on the summit was neglected and forgotten.
One day, the three decided to put an end to it once and for all. ‘Let’s visit the old man on the summit’ they said ‘he will give us the definitive answer as to whose path is correct, and whose isn’t.
When they reached the summit, the old wise man welcomed them back.
‘I was waiting for this day’ he said. ‘It took longer than I expected, though.
And to answer your question about who is right or wrong I have only one thing to say…
You are all right and you are all wrong.
For acknowledging one view over the other, is grave injustice.
To find true happiness, peace and salvation, learn to accept this… that though the perspective of others may differ from yours, it doesn’t mean that they are wrong.
Every person is entitled to believe in what they perceive to be the truth. Each one of you has perceived what is important to you. That doesn’t mean that what the others saw did not exist or was wrong.
What you noticed, is your own perspective on the journey. It is not the only perspective on it.
Yet, you spend hours trying debunk their beliefs.
Proving to others, that you are right and they are wrong, means that you are missing the point. The point, that though there are many paths, the destination is the same.
People who spend their lives trying to prove that their path is better than the others, never reach the destination. Because in the obsession to prove their point, the journey itself becomes their destination.
If you wish to find happiness, peace and salvation, focus on your own journey. Make your journey worthwhile. For it matters not what others feel about your perspective on the path. It matters what you learn from it.’
Silence and calm followed as the three friends reflected on what they had just heard.
They realized that true happiness, peace and salvation comes from living life focused on one’s own path, experiencing and enjoying the journey, learning from it and evolving themselves, rather than comparing their journey with others and trying to prove that one path is better than the rest.
They now realized, that to experience change in the world, they needed to begin by changing themselves.
That their journey… was not their destination.
photo credit: Una de mis mejores fotos del 2010 Atardecer y Mar de Nubes via photopin (license)