Monday, 24 July 2017

The Test of the Cup

A young man sought to join a spiritual community.
He arrived one afternoon at the great house which held the community, and was met at the gate by one of the members. The young man told her of his spiritual journey, of his studies of the teachings of great sages and prophets, of how he was called to a spiritual life with this community.
“You can only reach our house through this garden,” said the woman, leading him through an iron gate. They entered a walled garden, with paths and trees and shrubs and benches and green lawns.
They walked through the garden, passing a gentle fountain in a wire cage, and a pond filled with fish and plants. She showed him a small cabin, saying, “you may stay here until you leave the garden. Inside you will find a bed, and food, and drink, and books to entertain you, and paper to write down your thoughts. Anything you write, you may take with you when you leave, if you wish. But beside that, remove nothing from the cabin.”
She then led him back through the garden, to a stone pedestal in its centre. On top of the pedestal was a simple wooden cup. “To leave the garden and join the house, you must bring to the inner gate this cup, filled with fresh, clean water,” she told him. “You may not take the cup into the cabin. If you wish to leave by the outer gate, you may do so at any time, but will never be able to enter the garden again. You are welcome to stay as long as you wish.”
With that, she left, and the young man sat down on a bench near the pedestal, to think about how he would fill the cup. He considered, and walked again through the garden.
He saw that the trees held fruit, and the fishes swam. He considered the juice of the fruit, but knew that it would not be thought of as water. He considered the water of the pond, but saw that while it was filled with life of all sorts, it could not be called clean. He heard the gentle play of water in the fountain, and considered it, but while the water was clean, he could not reach it through the wire cage.
He went to the cabin, and made himself a simple meal. He thought as he ate, considering again how he might fill the cup. After he ate and drank, he went again into the garden, searching for something he might use to reach the water of the fountain and fill the cup. He found tools, and hose-pipes, and considered how they might be used to reach the water, but was not sure that water passing through the hose would be clean.
He returned to the pedestal, and stared at the cup until it grew dark around him. He went back to the cabin, frustrated. He saw no way to fill the cup, and could not see what the test would achieve. He considered going home, where his bed was more comfortable, and his own things would be around him, but he did not wish to be defeated. He went to sleep, hoping that somehow things would be clearer in the morning.
When he awoke, the ground was wet, and the cup was full.

Written May 2016
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