The wind swallowed up the land, and the snow fell in waves – cascading and shimmering under the Moon. Blue and silvery light entered the Master’s home, as if always invited. The Master got up from his warm seat in front of the fire and gently lay another log on the flames, closing his eyes as the shadows danced around.
After several knocks on the door, the Master walked toward it and opened it wide. Several strangers shuffled in with varying gaits. They expressed happiness to finally meet the Master, and he ushered them in to sit by the fire and warm themselves.
He asked the strangers about the depth and texture of the snow, about the brightness of the moon, and which trees they saw on the way to his house. The strangers were smiling with noticeable impatience – why is the Master wasting precious time about the weather and the moon? The road was treacherous uphill, and all they saw was the snow directly in front of their feet. Sometimes their eyes closed, as gusts of wind blew by their faces. And yet, they humored the Master’s questions and responded with strained smiles.
One stranger tried to bring the Master back on track. Her voice was quiet, yet firm. She was trying hard not to appear like she was interrupting the conversation – parhaps he doesn’t know what they want or why they are here…. “Something is missing from my life – even with all this beauty around me. I want to feel something new and different. I want to be enlightened.”
The Master smiled at her like a man who was asked to speak after biting into a large sandwich: “You want more beauty? Something a bit more interesting?”
“Yes! I am so bored with everything. The colors of the world have looked gray to me for long time,” she answered uncertainly.
The Master saw anger beneath her quiet, soft-spoken exterior. He also saw the sad eyes of feeling unworthy beneath the anger, and the bright being that she truly was and did not know: “You are still not angry enough or bored enough. You want me to say something wise to you so that your mind can spin on it in busy circles, and then you can be entertained. You’ve come to eat, but I must ask you to leave hungry.”
“So what should I do now?”, she asked in frustration.
“Do what you want to do,” he said with a gentle smile and waited.
She got up angrily and uttered “What a waste of time.” No longer dressed in niceties, she threw the door shut as she walked out. The fire crackled.
“What have you come to see and hear?”, the Master turned to the man with a thick, wet beard.
“I don’t really want anything. I already see the truth that the world is a cruel place. I don’t belong here because I see it clearly – how we are all just killing each other and the Earth. Sometimes I think I should just not even be here, and that no one cares anyway. If you don’t agree with me, I hope you can prove to me that I am wrong.”
“I cannot prove to you that you are in the right place, at the right time, and doing the best you can do….I can only say that you are not yet disillusioned enough. Your true hope is not to leave your life, but to have life turn around your hardships. You think life is a problem to be solved, and so your mind prevents you from seeing life any other way. You should go and solve a few more of life’s problems, and feel the satisfaction this will bring to you.”
The bearded man silently tied his coat, and stumbled out into the wind. The door fell shut behind him, and the Master looked at the next stranger, who glanced at the Master with uncertainty. “I’ve come to tell you that I’ve heard many stories about you and that I have so much respect for how you help people. I am here because I want to help people like you do,” she said.
The Master smiled and asked the stranger, “Someone needs help?”
She was visibly much more animated as she answered. “Well, so many people need help! You are here, so far away from the world, and probably don’t see the hungry, the sick, and the dying. They all need hope and help!”
“How are you so sure that they need help, and that you don’t just need to help?”, he answered.
“Are you saying that people don’t need help, or that I am not the right person to help them, or…both?” Her eyes grew distant as if she were deeply immersed in a complex calculation.
“You grieve about your life and feel helpless. So, wherever you look, you see grief and helplessness,” he answered.
“That’s not true! I can’t believe you would imply that children should continue to go to sleep and wake up hungry, that women should continue to be abused by men, and loved ones should disappear to illness or addiction! That is the truth, with or without me saying it. Why do you help people?”
The Master smiled.
She continued. “I heard about all the people you comforted, gave gifts to, carried forward through dark times…. Why did you do these things if nobody needs help?”
He turned to the fire: “I have not set out to help anyone – only to be present here fully. Maybe some people felt like this has helped them. Maybe others thought that I’ve been no help at all. Either way, each moment unfolds before me, and I am filled with wonder.”
“Well, you certainly aren’t helping me at all. I was expecting something different – perhaps some guidance and some appreciation of my willingness to help others. I got nothing from you.” And with these words, she walked out into the cold.
Then, the warm quiet took hold of the room, with only one stranger left. She sat with the Master, while he stirred the fire ablaze.
She said: “I am not sure why I am still here. It just feels right to stay. How can I feel so many possibilities? I didn’t know what I was looking for before I got here, but now I know that this – whatever this is – is what I want.” After a short pause, she continued “I saw a leafless birch under the moon, I think. Let me tell you more about it….”