WHAT YOU SEE
A seeker approached the Lord Shantih and gave him a mirror.
“What do you see in it?” he asked the sage.
Lord Shantih promptly broke the mirror. Then he took up a rock and pounded the fragments again and again, until nothing remained but scattered, sparkling sand. He scooped up a handful of the sand and showed it to the seeker.
“I see an image of myself,” he said.
“There was a king who built a tower,” said Lord Shantih, “and it was the tallest tower in all the land, soaring so high that the clouds passed beneath its uppermost windows. From the ground, no man could see the tower’s pinnacle, while those who climbed nearby mountains were still obliged to crane their necks upward, for the tower rose above them and was lost in the sun. And in the tower’s highest room the king made his home. In this way, the king explained, he would be closer to the gods than any other man in the world.”
“And did the tower bring the king closer to the gods?” a companion asked.
“At night,” said Lord Shantih, “when the king slept in his high tower, the gods would peek into his bedroom window, and they would chuckle at him, and they spit into his dreams.”
THE UNKNOWN KING
There once was a king who was so quiet and who kept to himself so exclusively that his people forgot about him. When asked about their king they would say, “Oh, yes, we have a king. But who he is we cannot recall, and where he might live is a mystery to us.” The people were unaware of the doings of their king. They did not recognize him when he walked in the streets of their town. On rare occasions when he spoke before them, they listened attentively but were puzzled, not knowing he was their king. “Why does this fellow speak to us?” they asked one another. “How does he know so much about our kingdom?”
As the years passed by, the kingdom flourished and the people prospered. Their fields were bursting with an abundance of crops, their marketplaces displayed exotic goods from many lands, their sons and daughters grew strong and tall, and the people who lived in neighboring kingdoms were peaceable toward them.
When Lord Shantih visited the kingdom he saw the abundance of crops, the goods in the marketplace, the healthy children, and the friendliness of the people.
“You are blessed to have such a wise king,” he told the people he met, “for your kingdom has flourished under his guidance.”
But the people grew angry with him. “You are mad,” they told Lord Shantih. “Our happiness is like the rising of the sun or the ebb and flow of the tides. It is something that grows naturally from us and is not the work of any king. Our king has no name and no face, and his hands are invisible to us. What aid can he have given? What thanks can he have earned?”
And they stoned Lord Shantih, and they drove him from their kingdom.
Years later, when the king died and the tyrant Aberan seized power, the people knew his name well, for every day they cursed it, and they knew his deeds, for every day they suffered from them.
THE TEACHING OF THE PAPER
Once the Lord Shantih was asked to write down his teachings. He took a sheet of paper and covered one side with ink until it was a solid black. The other side he left clean.
“Is this your teaching?” a companion asked. “One side is empty and untouched. The other side is dark and unreadable.”
Lord Shantih used the edge of the paper to cut the man’s finger, drawing blood.
One day the Lord Shantih came to a bridge that had been swept away in a flood so that there was no way a traveler might cross the river. Lord Shantih merely shrugged. He walked along the riverbank instead, following the water’s path.
“My Lord,” said a fellow traveler, “you are a holy man. You can surely walk across the river’s water. There is no need to turn away from your path.”
“The question is not whether I can walk where I please,” said Lord Shantih, “but whether I can walk where it has been indicated I should walk.”
THE POOL OF GOD’S TEARS
The Pool of God’s Tears is a circle of blue water set high in the Gaesheen Mountains. The pool is fed by an intricate network of mountain streams and is never empty. Pilgrims come to the pool from distant lands, for the water is cool and sweet and invigorating, and some say that a single sip can cure a man’s ills. The Lord Shantih once visited the pool and drank of its waters.
“Why do they call it the Pool of God’s Tears?” a pilgrim asked him.
“Because it is never empty,” said Lord Shantih.
“And why is its water so refreshing?”
“So great is God’s power,” Lord Shantih explained, “that even his tears can bring joy to man.”