The Lama and the Supplicant

by Adam Acidophilus

An unfortunate young man reached the end of his tether. Nothing in his life had come right. He felt crushed beneath the weight of an infinity of troubles.

Rousing himself in the small hours of the morning — while the sun was still buried beneath the Earth, his village slept and the beasts of the night still hunted — he stole away from his home and his family towards the distant mountains — in search of a solution to that would clear his mind, and clear his conscience.

He walked for days, through fields of paddy, till he came to the long, long river. Then he followed the river, upstream, for many days.

“Yea, I am a supplicant,” he announced to those he passed. “I seek the wisdom of the high and distant lama.”

He passed in time from the plains of rice to the orchards of kumquat and peaches. Then to the hilly country, swathed in soft terraces of tea. From the domain of the monkey to the forest of the tiger and the panda. The ground grew colder, his feet grew harder, mist descended.

After many weeks the river was reduced to an icy stream, the riverbank to a jumble of rock and snow, and the young supplicant — half mad now with exposure and exhaustion — espied an ancient temple set high above a sheer, formidable cliff-face.

Pushing on, up ever-narrowing paths, a maze of steep steps and creaking ladders — he came at last to the great hall of the ancient temple. There, he was warmed and fed and dressed and healed by the community, and brought before the lama, who sat upon a throne, bathed in candlelight.

“He who make difficult journey,” the lama began, “usually have very substantial reason.”

“You speak the truth,” gulped the supplicant. “For I have reached the end of my tether. Nothing in my life has come right. I feel crushed beneath the weight of an infinity of troubles.”

The lama considered this. “Man who make generalisation,” he mused. “Speak for everybody. Be specific.”

“Specific?” coughed the supplicant. “Well, I’m broke for starters. I’ve worked like a dog for ten summers now, and I’ve got nothing to show for it. I’ve got horrible clothes. I’ve got no shoes. We’ve got a very basically equipped kitchen. And we never go out — this trip up here is in fact the nearest I’ve ever been to a holiday. If you work it out, I’m actually in debt. It’s crazy! No money!”

The lama smiled. “Money? Money is like air. Breathe in, breathe out. To hold breath is hazardous — so money. Money mere characteristic of reality.”

The supplicant blinked. “Good point,” he agreed. “But I’ve got a lot of health problems too. I’ve got trouble with my skin, my hair’s falling out and my back aches …

“I seem to have developed some kind of allergy or sensitivity to the local foods. I’ve got a lactose intolerance of course, and issues with sugar. And I’ve hurt my feet walking up here. I mean, look at them! Look at those toenails!”

The lama smiled. “Body is spirit barge. Exterior wear and tear protect priceless cargo. Sickness and injury mere characteristics of reality.”

The supplicant nodded. “Goes without saying. Priceless cargo — absolutely. But that is not the real problem — “

“No?”

“No. See … people don’t like me. Not since I was a kid. Kids, villagers, family — can’t stand me! All the way here, all the way up the mountain, they were looking at me in a funny way …

“And you know the worst bit? My mother. She hates me. Always has and always will. We’re still living under the same roof. It’s impossible!”

The lama considered this. “Man who can endure pain of mother,” he announced. “Is ready to face ordeal of wife.”

“What?” said the supplicant.

“Hate of others,” advised the lama, “mere characteristic of reality …

“In future, let money problem descend like mist, do nothing, and wait for mist to clear. Allow pain, like music, to pass into mind and away again. View low opinion of others — mother, wife, family, village, total stranger — as low opinion of unknown animal in undiscovered land so far away. Ignore all characteristic of reality. For man who ignore reality is without trouble.”

The supplicant mused upon this astonishing guidance. “So, how do I pay the rent?” he asked.

“Rent?” asked the lama. “I know not this village language.”

“Bills? Groceries? Clothing? Milk? Fuel? Transport? Tax?”

“Apology,” said the lama. “What mortal tongue is this? Food and fuel are brought to door, yes? Clothing gift of visitor? Milk flow from yak. Taxi refuse drive up mountain.”

“Ah! Supplicant now understand all things,” sighed the supplicant. “You haven’t got an old pair of boots you won’t be needing, have you?”

Moral: Remember not meeting, but lovely view on journey back home.

 © Adam Acidophilus 2016

The style of this fable is nicked from a bloke called Ernest Bramah. I can’t really publish this without mentioning that …