Maktub Coelho, Paulo
"Maktub" means "It is written." The Arabs feel that "It is written" is not really a good translation, because, although everything is already written, God is compassionate, and wrote it all down just to help us.
The wanderer is in New York . He has overslept an appointment, and when he leaves his hotel, he finds that his car has been towed by the police. He arrives late for his appointment, the luncheon lasts longer than necessary, and he is thinking about the fine he will have to pay. It will cost a fortune. Suddenly, he remembers the dollar bill he found in the street the day before. He sees some kind of weird relationship between the dollar bill and what happened to him that morning. "Who knows, perhaps I found that money before the person who was supposed to find it had the chance? Maybe I removed that dollar bill from the path of someone who really needed it. Who knows but what I interfered with what was written?" He feels the need to rid himself of the dollar bill, and at that moment sees a beggar sitting on the sidewalk. He quickly hands him the bill, and feels that he has restored a kind of equilibrium to things.
"Just a minute," says the beggar. "I'm not looking for a handout. I'm a poet, and I want to read you a poem in return." "Well, make it a short one, because I'm in a hurry," says the wanderer. The beggar says, "If you are still living, it's because you have not yet arrived at the place you should be."
Think of the lizard. It spends most of its life on the ground, envying the birds and indignant at its fate and its shape. "I am the most disliked of all the creatures," it thinks. "Ugly, repulsive, and condemned to crawl along the ground." One day, though, Mother Nature asks the lizard to make a cocoon. The lizard is startled -it has never made a cocoon before. He thinks that he is building his tomb, and prepares to die. Although unhappy with the life he has led up until then, he complains to God: "Just when I finally became accustomed to things, Lord, you take away what little I have." In desperation, he locks himself into the cocoon and awaits the end. Some days later, he finds that he has been transformed into a beautiful butterfly. He is able to fly to the sky, and he is greatly admired. He is surprised at the meaning of life and at God's designs.
A stranger sought out the Father Superior at the monastery of Sceta. "I want to make my life better," he said. "But I cannot keep myself from having sinful thoughts." The father noticed that the wind was blowing briskly outside, and said to the stranger: "It's quite hot in here. I wonder if you could seize a bit of that wind outside and bring it here to cool the room." "That's impossible," the stranger said. "It is also impossible to keep yourself from thinking of things that offend God," answered the monk. "But, if you know how to say no to temptation, they will cause you no harm."
The master says: "If a decision needs to be made, it is better to make it and deal with the consequences. You cannot know beforehand what those consequences will be. The arts of divination were developed in order to counsel people, never to predict the future. They provide good advice, but poor prophecy. "In one of the prayers that Jesus taught us, it says, 'God's will be done. ' When His will causes a problem, it also presents a solution. If the arts of divination were able to predict the future, every soothsayer would be wealthy, married and content."
The disciple approached his master: "For years I have been seeking illumination," he said. "I feel that I am close to achieving it. I need to know what the next step is." "How do you support yourself?" the master asked. "I haven't yet learned how to support myself; my parents help me out. But that is only a detail." "Your next step is to look directly at the sun for half a minute," said the master. And the disciple obeyed. When the half-minute was over, the master asked him to describe the field that surrounded them. "I can't see it. The sun has affected my vision," the disciple said. "A man who seeks only the light, while shirking his responsibilities, will never find illumination. And one who keep his eyes fixed upon the sun ends up blind," was the master's comment.
A man was hiking through a valley in thePyrenees , when he met an old shepherd. He shared his food with him, and they sat together for a long time, talking about life. The man said that, if one believed in God, he would also have to admit that he was not free, since God would govern every step. In response, the shepherd led him to a ravine where one could hear -with absolute clarity -the echo to any sound.
"Life is these walls, and fate is the shout that each of us makes," said the shepherd. "What we do will be raised to His heart, and will be returned to us in the same form. "God acts as the echo of our own deeds."
The master said: "When we sense that the time has come for a change, we begin -unconsciously -to run the tape again, to view every defeat we have experienced until then. "And, of course, as we grow older, our number of difficult moments grows larger. But, at the same time, experience provides us with better means of overcoming those defeats, and of finding the path that allows us to go forward. We have to play that second tape on our mental VCR, too. "If we only watch the tape of our defeats, we become paralyzed. If we only watch the tape of our successes, we wind up thinking we are wiser than we really are. "We need both of those tapes."
The disciple said to his master: "I have spent most of the day thinking about things I should not be thinking about, desiring things I should not desire and making plans I should not be making." The master invited the disciple to take a walk with him through the forest behind his house. Along the way, he pointed to a plant, and asked the disciple if he knew its name. "Belladonna," said the disciple. "It can kill anyone who eats its leaves." "But it cannot kill anyone who simply observes it," said the master.
"Likewise, negative desires can cause no evil if you do not allow yourself to be seduced by them."
BetweenFrance andSpain is a range of mountains. In one of those mountains, there is a village named Argeles, and in the village is a hill leading to the valley. Every afternoon, an old man climbs and descends the hill. When the wanderer went to Argeles for the first time, he was not aware of this. On his second visit, he noticed that he crossed paths with the same man. And every time he went to the village, he perceived the man in greater detail -his clothing, his beret, his cane, his glasses. Nowadays, whenever he thinks about that village, he thinks of the old man, as well -even though he is not aware that this is true.
Only once did the wanderer ever speak to the man. In a joking fashion, he asked the man, "Do you think that God lives in these beautiful mountains surrounding us?" "God lives," said the old man, "in those places where they allow Him to enter."
The master met one night with his disciples, and asked them to build a campfire so they could sit and talk. "The spiritual path is like a fire that burns before us," he said. "A man who wants to light the fire has to bear with the disagreeable smoke that makes it difficult for him to breathe, and brings tears to his eyes. That is how his faith is rediscovered. However, once the fire is rekindled, the smoke disappears, and the flames illuminate everything around him -providing heat and tranquility." "But what if someone else lights the fire for him?" asked one of the disciples. "And if someone helps us to avoid the smoke?" "If someone does that, he is a false master. A master capable of taking the fire to wherever he desires, or of extinguishing it whenever he wants to do so. And, since he has taught no one how to light the fire, he is likely to leave everyone in the darkness."
"When you strike out along your path, you will find a door with a phrase written upon it," says the master. "Come back to me, and tell me what the phrase says." The disciple gives himself to the search, body and soul, and one day comes upon the door, and then returns to his master. "What was written there was 'THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE,' he says." "Was that written on a wall or on a door?" the master asks. "On a door," the disciple answers. "Well, then, put your hand on the doorknob and open it." The di
sciple obeyed. Since the phrase was painted with the door, it gave way just as the door itself did. With the door completely open, he could no longer see the phrase -and he went on.
The master says: "Close your eyes. Or even with your eyes open, imagine the following scene: a flock of birds on the wing. Now, tell me how many birds you saw: Five? Eleven? Sixteen? Whatever the response -and it is difficult for someone to say how many birds were seen -one thing becomes quite clear in this small experiment. You can imagine a flock of birds, but the number of birds in the flock is beyond your control. Yet the scene was clear, well-defined, exact. There must be an answer to the question.
Who was it that determined how many birds should appear in the imagined scene? Not you!"
A man decided to visit a hermit who, he had been told, lived not far from the monastery at Sceta. After wandering aimlessly about the desert, he finally found the monk. "I need to know what is the first step that should be taken along the spiritual path," he said. The hermit took the man to a small well, and told him to look at his reflection in the water. The man tried to do so, but as he made his attempt, the hermit threw pebbles into the water, causing the surface to be disturbed. "I won't be able to see my face in the water if you keep throwing those pebbles," said the man. "Just as it is impossible for a man to see his face in tro??6t? ?TI have been thinking about how to make this news less difficult to hear -how to paint it in brighter colors, add to it promises of Paradise, visions of the Absolute, provide esoteric explanations -but they do not apply. Take a deep breath, and prepare yourself. I have to be blunt, and I assure you, I am absolutely certain of what I'm telling you. It is an infallible prediction, without any doubt whatsoever.
It's the following: you are going to die. It may be tomorrow or fifty years from now, but -sooner or later --you are going to die. Even if you would rather not. Even if you have other plans. Think carefully about what you are going to do today. And tomorrow. And with the rest of your life."
An explorer, a white man, anxious to reach his destination in the heart ofAfrica , promised an extra payment to his bearers if they would make greater speed. For several days, the bearers moved along at a faster pace. One afternoon, though, they all suddenly put down their burden and sat on the ground. No matter how much money they were offered, they refused to move on. When the explorer finally asked why they were behaving as they were, he was given the following answer: "We have been moving along at such a fast pace that we no longer know what we are doing. Now we have to wait until our soul catches up with us."
Our Lady, with the infant Jesus in her arms, came down to earth to visit a monastery. In their joy, the padres stood in line to pay their respects: one of them recited poetry, another showed Her illuminated images for the Bible, another recited the names of all of the saints. At the end of the line was a humble padre who had never had the chance to learn from the wise men of his time. His parents were simple people who worked in a traveling circus. When his turn came, the monks wanted to end the payment of respects, fearful that he would damage their image. But he, too, wanted to show his love for the Virgin. Embarrassed, and sensing the disapproval of the brothers, he took some oranges from his pocket and began to toss them in the air -juggling as his parents with the circus had taught him. It was only then that the infant Jesus smiled and clapped his hands with joy. And it was only to the humble monk that the Virgin held out her arms, allowing him to hold her Son for a while.
Do not always try to be consistent. Saint Paul, after all, said, "The wisdom of the world is madness in the eyes of God." To be consistent is always to wear a tie that matches one's socks. It is to have the same opinions tomorrow as one has today. And the movement of the planet? Where is it? So long as you do no harm to another, change your opinion once in a while. Contradict yourself without being embarrassed. This is your right. It doesn't matter what others think -because that's what they will think, in any case. So, relax. Let the universe move about. Discover the joy of surprising yourself. "God selected the crazy things on the earth so as to embarrass the wise men," saidSaint Paul .
The master says: "Today would be a good day for doing something out of the ordinary. We could, for example, dance through the streets on our way to work. Look directly into the eyes of a stranger, and speak of love at first sight. Give the boss an idea that may seem ridiculous, an idea we've never mentioned before. The Warriors of the Light allow themselves such days. Today, we could cry over some ancient injustices that still stick in our craw. We could phone someone we vowed never to speak to again (but from whom we would love to receive a message on the answering machine). Today could be considered a day outside the script that we write every morning. Today, any fault will be permitted and forgiven. Today is a day to enjoy life."
The scientist, Roger Penrose, was walking with some friends and talking animatedly. He fell silent only in order to cross the street. "I remember that -as I was crossing the street -an incredible idea came to me," Penrose said. "But, as soon as we reached the other side, we picked up where we left off, and I couldn't remember what I thought of just a few seconds earlier." Late in the afternoon, Penrose began to feel euphoric -without knowing why. "I had the feeling that something had been revealed to me," he said. He decided to go back over every minute of the day, and -when he remembered the moment when he was crossing the street -the idea came back to him. This time, he wrote it down. It was the theory of black holes, a revolutionary theory in modern physics. And it came back to him because Penrose was able to recall the silence that we always fall into as we cross a street. Saint Anton was living in the desert when a young man approached him. "Father, I sold everything I owned, and gave the proceeds to the poor. I kept only a few things that could help me to survive out here. I would like you to show me the path to salvation."
Saint Anton asked that the lad sell the few things that he had kept, and -with the money -buy some meat in the city. When he returned, he was to strap the meat to his body. The young man did as he was instructed. As he was returning, he was attacked by dogs and falcons who wanted the meat. "I'm back," said the young man, showing the father his wounded body and his tattered clothing. "Those who embark in a new direction and want to keep a bit of the old life, wind up lacerated by their own past," said the saint.
The master says: "Make use of every blessing that God gave you today. A blessing cannot be saved. There is no bank where we can deposit blessings received, to use them when we see fit. If you do not use them, they will be irretrievably lost. God knows that we are creative artists when it comes to our lives. On one day, he gives us clay for sculpting, on another, brushes and canvas, or a pen. But we can never use clay on our canvas, nor pens in sculpture. Each day has its own miracle. Accept the blessings, work, and create your minor works of art today. Tomorrow you will receive others."
The monastery on the bank of the Rio Piedra is surrounded by beautiful vegetation -it is a true oasis within the sterile fields of that part ofSpain . There, the small river becomes a mighty current, and is split into dozens of waterfalls. The wanderer is walking through the area, hearing the music of the waters. Suddenly, a grotto -behind one of the cataracts -captures his attention. He studies the rocks, worn by time, and regards the lovely forms created patiently by nature. And he finds a verse by R. Tagore inscribed on a plaque: "It was not a hammer that made these rocks so perfect, but water -with its sweetness, its dance and its song." Where force can only destroy, gentleness can sculpt.
The master says: "Many people are fearful of happiness. For such persons, to be content in life means they must change a number of their habits -and lose their sense of identity. Often we become indignant at the good things that befall us. We do not accept them, because to do so causes us to feel that we are in God's debt. We think: 'Better not to drink from the chalice of happiness, because, when it is empty, we will suffer greatly. ' Out of a fear of shrinking, we fail to grow. Out of a fear of weeping, we fail to laugh."
One afternoon at the monastery at Sceta, one of the
monks offended another. The superior of the monastery, Brother Sisois, asked that the offended monk forgive his aggressor. "I cannot do that," responded the monk. "It was he that did this, and it he who must pay." At that very moment, Brother Sisois raised his arms to heaven and began to pray: "My Jesus, we no longer have need of thee. We are now capable of making the aggressor pay for his offenses. We are now able to take vengeance into our own hands, and to deal with Good and Evil. Therefore, You can leave us on our own, and their will be no problem." Ashamed, the monk immediately pardoned his brother.
A disciple said, "All masters say that spiritual treasure is discovered through solitary search. So, then, why are we all together here?" "You are together because a forest is always stronger than a solitary tree," the master answered. "The forest conserves humidity, resists the hurricane and helps the soil to be fertile. But what makes a tree strong is its roots. And the roots of a plant cannot help another plant to grow. To be joined together in the same purpose is to allow each person to grow in his own fashion, and that is the path of those who wish to commune with God."
When the wanderer was ten years old, his mother insisted that he take a course in physical education. One of the activities required him to jump from a bridge into a river. Early in the course, he was paralyzed by fear. Each day, he stood last in line, and suffered every time one of those in front made his jump -because it would shortly be his turn. One day, the instructor -noticing his fear -made him take the first jump. Although he was still frightened, it was over so quickly that the fright was replaced by courage. The master says: "Often, we can afford to take our time. But there are occasions when we must roll up our sleeves and resolve a situation. In such cases, there is nothing worse than delay."
Buddha was seated among his disciples one morning when a man approached the gathering. "Does God exist," he asked. "Yes, God exists," Buddha answered. After lunch, another man appeared. "Does God exist?" he asked. "No, God does not exist," Buddha answered. Late in the day, a third man asked Buddha the same question, and Buddha's response was: "You must decide for yourself." "Master, this is absurd," said one of the disciples. "How can you give three different answers to the same question?"