I was doing some reading when I came across a story that reflected a persons unrelenting dedication to spiritual practice as well as a powerful demonstration of the practice bearing fruit. The person in the story had repeated a particular prayer known as a mantra millions of times and the result of the dedication was very inspiring. The mantra was a short prayer in a language that I didn't understand so I quickly looked it up on the internet. Although I already had a mantra that was very meaningful to me, I was very eager to put this new prayer I had just read about into practice. As I found information on the prayer, I discovered that the mantra was the embodiment of all that a great spiritual leader had taught to bring salvation to all of mankind. My memory went back to a Native American pipe ceremony I had attended. The leader of the ceremony spoke in his native tongue what seemed to be prayers that had been spoken for thousands and thousands of years reflecting the enduring power of a spirit that nurtures us all. I was elated that I would now have my own words to speak, a prayer of my own that was as timeless as God's love. As I read more about the mantra I came across a story that illuminated its meaning. Here is the story:
The True Sound of Truth
A devoted meditator, after years concentrating on a particular mantra, had attained enough insight to begin teaching. The student's humility was far from perfect, but the teachers at the monastery were not worried.
A few years of successful teaching left the meditator with no thoughts about learning from anyone; but upon hearing about a famous hermit living nearby, the opportunity was too exciting to be passed up.
The hermit lived alone on an island at the middle of a lake, so the meditator hired a man with a boat to row across to the island. The meditator was very respectful of the old hermit. As they shared some tea made with herbs the meditator asked him about his spiritual practice. The old man said he had no spiritual practice, except for a mantra which he repeated all the time to himself. The meditator was pleased: the hermit was using the same mantra he used himself-- but when the hermit spoke the mantra aloud, the meditator was horrified!
"What's wrong?" asked the hermit.
"I don't know what to say. I'm afraid you've wasted your whole life! You are pronouncing the mantra incorrectly!"
"Oh, Dear! That is terrible. How should I say it?"
The meditator gave the correct pronunciation, and the old hermit was very grateful, asking to be left alone so he could get started right away. On the way back across the lake the meditator, now confirmed as an accomplished teacher, was pondering the sad fate of the hermit.
"It's so fortunate that I came along. At least he will have a little time to practice correctly before he dies." Just then, the meditator noticed that the boatman was looking quit shocked, and turned to see the hermit standing respectfully on the water, next to the boat.
"Excuse me, please. I hate to bother you, but I've forgotten the correct pronunciation again. Would you please repeat it for me?"
"You obviously don't need it," stammered the meditator; but the old man persisted in his polite request until the meditator relented and told him again the way he thought the mantra should be pronounced.
The old hermit was saying the mantra very carefully, slowly, over and over, as he walked across the surface of the water back to the island.
This story makes me realize the suffering involved with obsessing over what would be considered the "proper" way to pursue a spiritual life. It is very unpleasant. But gladly it is possible to open to compassion and share it with others.
May this one have deepest well being, happiness, and joy.