The disciples wanted to know the different stages the master had to go through in his quest for enlightenment.
The master said, “Well, in the beginning, I was full of action. I thought enlightenment lay in doing kind and worthy deeds. Then I went through suffering and pain, and I stayed there until I could control my heart and stay unattached to anything. I learned to love, and my passion consumed my very core, burning away the self and all its petty desires. Then, I learned to be silent. In silence, I contemplated the mysteries of life and death and they gave up their secrets to me.”
The master paused to sip some tea.
“But finally,” he continued, “I learned the most precious secret of all.”
“And what is that?” asked the disciples.
“I learned to laugh,” replied the master as he howled with glee.
A pilgrim stopped by the temple where a master resided who was known for his holiness. A disciple ushered him inside and led him to the courtyard at the back.
The pilgrim heard boisterous laughter and the sounds of merrymaking coming from a bend in the garden. He turned the bend and was surprised to see the master and several disciples seated around a small table. They were sharing a bottle of wine, singing, laughing, swapping jokes and slapping one another’s back.
The pilgrim turned to the disciple who had led him there. “This is an outrage,” he said. “I thought that this master was supposed to be a very holy man.”
“Oh, he is a holy man,” replied the smiling disciple. “But you should know that it is one thing for a man to be holy. And it is a totally different thing that he should seem holy to you. Who are you to judge what is holy or not?”
“Life’s little secret is this,” said the master to his visitor as they conversed over tea. “Never take it too seriously. Learn to laugh — at everything — and you learn to live,”
The visitor pondered on this, and the master continued, “I have had a total of four disciples under me. When they began their training, I gave them a set of rigorous physical and spiritual exercises. The first disciple was too weak and couldn’t handle the pressure so he ran away. The second was too meticulous in trying to follow every minute detail of the exercises that he drove himself crazy. The third tried to challenge himself to do more than what the exercises required and one day he injured himself fatally and died. Only the fourth disciple remained healthy and sane.”
“And how did he manage to do that?” asked the visitor.
“Well, he took one look at the exercises and said, ‘No sane man would do those things and you must be crazy if you think I’d do them,’ so he refused to do them,” replied the master, chuckling.