The Mountain of Enlightenment
A Saiyasart short story about the search for enlightenment and the arduous way to get there.
Translated by: Buffy
Once lived a man who had already fulfilled his professional career and also his family obligations, and had the desire to do something for his spiritual well-being and finally to find “enlightenment”.
From stories he learned that there should be a “mountain of enlightenment” very far in the north. There, all seekers who reach the mountain summit would find enlightenment. So, in agreement with his family, he set out for the mountain. All his friends and family wished him luck and eagerly awaited his return as an “enlightened one”.
In the valley in front of the mountain of enlightenment, the man left all his personal belongings behind, and continued his way only with provisions and water on his back. Since the way up to the mountain had many branches, the man got lost again and again. Unfortunately, there were no signs along the way. After running in circles again, he met a hunter. The man hoped for help from the hunter, as he had to know the area on the mountain. So he asked him for the right way to get to the summit.
The hunter replied:
“The path from the valley to the summit is an obvious one by nature. The right way is more or less clearly recognizable for the know-it-alls. However, only those who have already left it behind know which path or turn leads to the summit. So if you want to reach the summit, why don’t you find your own way?”
The man was puzzled by the hunter’s response, but thanked him for his advice, and then tried to find the right path to the summit according to his own feelings. In the middle of the path, he suddenly met an old woman who crossed his path packed with wood on her shoulders. He greeted her and asked if they were on the mountain of enlightenment at all.
The old woman replied:
“Yes, certainly. This is how the mountain is called.”
The man wanted to know more and said:
“If you live here, maybe you also know how to attain enlightenment?”
The woman smiled and replied:
“Yes, of course!”
She then dropped the wood from her shoulders and said:
“Just let go, young man. Then you will already find enlightenment!”
Then she shouldered her burden again, and went without saying another word to the man seeking enlightenment. The man pondered a long time about the words of the old woman. He came to the realization that letting go must be the prerequisite for attaining enlightenment. So he put down all his provisions and water, as a symbol of letting go. Then he continued on his way.
The way was arduous and the heat of the day was very difficult for him. Every step became harder and harder for him because he was already suffering from hunger and thirst. But far and wide no food or water could be found. Increasingly weakened, he continued his way to the summit. This seemed to him to be further and further away, no matter how far he progressed on his path. He then persuaded himself that it must be like this in order to find enlightenment. To obtain enligthenment you clearly have to make sacrifices. This kept his will unbroken. He had also heard of many saints who, by renouncing and letting go of all worldly goods as a test of themselves, showed their will to reach enlightenment.
Further immersed in thought, a very old man came towards him, who was going downhill. From his outward appearance, the robes and his balanced facial expression, he considered him a man who must have already found enlightenment, and addressed him:
“Dear Sir, you are on the way downhill. Have you already found enlightenment?”
The old man replied:
“Oh yes. With the summit of the mountain it is the case that you climb up to the summit, and finally descend the mountain again. That’s the fact.”
The man on the way uphill asked further:
“So does it mean that you get to enlightenment and then you have to lose it again?”
The old man grinned and said:
“Young man, everything is transient. You can experience reaching the summit, but you can’t stay on the summit forever.”
Thoughtfully, the man asked further:
“Then how do you attain enlightenment at the summit?”
The old man was very amused and replied:
“The way to enlightenment is ignorance, and the way back from enlightenment is the certainty of having attained enlightenment!”
Then the old man continued his descent.
Pondering the words of the old man, the man, so longing for enlightenment, walked further up the path. After a while, he had finally reached the top of the mountain. There he saw a small child, sitting alone, playing games, eating sweets. He was very surprised because he could not see any house far and wide. No one else was there to be seen. He wondered what the child was doing all alone on the summit. He walked up to the child and asked:
“Boy, where are your parents?
The little boy replied:
“I live here alone because my parents left me here.”
Astonished, the man replied:
“Why did your parents leave you here?”
The boy said:
“Because they let go of me to find enlightenment. I live from the food and beverages of the people who reach the summit and leave everything behind to find enlightenment. Do you have anything left for me that you want to let go?”
The man felt discomfort and said:
“I am very sorry, I left behind everything I owned on the way to the summit to achieve enlightenment.”
The child just said:
“You are also one of those who have not understood what it means to let go! You let go of something when you no longer need it, but you shouldn’t let go of things that you still need!”
Before the man could say anything, the child disappeared…
Plaitamin, December 2012