Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: CHILL( 10/27/16)
By Shoba Sadler
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Yet, two of his monks had reached a stage of meditation so focused they could sit for hours in the chilly night, wearing light clothing. Unfortunately, one of them would be sent home in disgrace before noon that day.
The other, Mahasi, had dared to disturb his morning meditation due to a strange phenomenon at the sala. The abbot now glared at Mahasi standing among the monks huddled around a blackboard.
“On the board, Master,” Mahasi drew his attention to the white letters in chalk on the blackboard. They were in English:
‘As the wheel of endurance liveth forever
Mercy streams through the night’
No one but Ajahn Sao spoke English in the entire village.
"How did this happen?" Ajahn Sao demanded.
"We all came in to meditate at four this morning," said Mahasi. "While meditating we heard the sound of scratching on the board and opened our eyes. We saw the chalk writing these strange words with no hand to guide it."
A chill as biting as the cold outside swept over Ajahn Sao. He felt feeble.
"What does it mean?" Mahasi asked.
Ajahn Sao stared at him, equally dumbfounded, then rage took over when he suspected they were conspiring against him. He wanted to punish all the monks, but years of teaching Dhamma in this ancient monastery, in the forest, had mellowed him.
It was his temperamental nature that landed him in this forsaken part of the world when he could have been posted to the Washington Buddhist Vihara, in the U.S. How he longed for that now at this old age.
"Mahasi, has Lungta been here?"
"Certainly not. Your instructions. He's banned from participating in all our prayers."
Ajahn Sao took the long way back to the monastery in the hope he would find Lungta under the large Bodhi tree. It was a mistake. The cold clung to his aged limbs and he could not shake it off. The gust had picked up and he huddled on the ground blinking hard against the wind to see which way he should go.
He felt a blanket being wrapped around him, and when he stood up, he felt Lungta's strong hand on his arm, guiding the way.
Ajahn Sao walked over to his desk in front of the bookcase while Lungta shut the abbot's office door and went to prepare tea.
"Where were you tonight?"
"I was praying."
"Outside? In the cold?"
Lungta only raised an eyebrow indicating he should know better than to ask that.
"You know, you remind me a lot of me when I was your age. Reckless and arrogant. You're throwing your whole life away for a book. If you stayed, I could have taught you English."
Lungta placed the hot tea in front of Ajahn Sao and glanced at all the books on the bookcase. "That's right. It's only a book. You have a copy in Thai, right there on your shelf. So why am I being punished for having one?"
"Because you talk about it to the other monks as if it were God's words. You're confusing them."
"Look, you've made your decision. Why wait till noon? I'll start packing."
"Thanks for your help out there." Ajahn Sao called out.
Lungta turned around before he reached the door, marched to the bookcase, picked out the Bible and opened it.
"I've wrestled with God over this. I don't want to do this, but here goes. Daniel 5, verses 4 and 5:
'As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking'."
Lungta shut the Bible, left it on Ajahn Sao's desk and walked away.
Lungta stopped but didn't turn around. "Look, I don't know why I was told to read this to you, but I have to obey God. I told God it wouldn't make sense to you."
"It does make sense to me."
Slowly, Lungta turned around, shock written all over his face.
"Sit down. Tell me more. What happens next?"
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