Walking Man

Vadyu was not a wealthy man, but he had money enough to buy much of what he wanted. He lived a comfortable life; he was well regarded by those who knew him. His life, it seemed to him, was a good one. Even so, his mind was often not at ease. And where he sought joy, he found only pleasure. He knew some of the teachings of spiritual practice. But such practice seemed to him a great deal of work and sacrifice with no assurance of success. So he lived on in comfort and discontent.

In order to find solitude, in order to calm his unease, Vadyu sometimes took a long ramble along the dusty road that ran to the next town. On this day a raven flew low across his path. His eye followed the raven’s flight until the dark one landed in a great tree that was a small distance from the road. It was then that he noticed a man sitting beneath the tree. He could not have said why, but he felt drawn to the man beneath the tree. So Vadyu left the road and walked toward him. As he came near he could see that the man was in meditation. Vadyu sat on the ground a few yards away to wait.

The man beneath the tree was of an indeterminate age – Vadyu could not tell whether he was young or old. After only a moment the man’s eyes opened. He turned to Vadyu and smiled a friendly, broken-toothed grin and bid Vadyu come near. Vadyu introduced himself and in reply the man told Vadyu to call him Gana.

So! said Gana. You have come to me.

I suppose I have, said Vadyu. I saw you from the road sitting here beneath this tree, and it came to me that we might share a conversation.

And what conversation would you have, Vadyu?

Two strangers on the road might speak of anything and then go their ways as strangers still, Vadyu replied.  So, I will dare tell you that I am not a happy man, though no one who knows me would guess.

Why are you not happy? Gana asked.

Because I am chained to the answering of my wants, said Vadyu. And I believe there is true happiness that I cannot reach while I am so bound.

Then would you have your chains struck, Vadyu? Would you have pleasure no longer turn your head? Would you deny the warmth of praise and the honey of admiration? Would you wish to be indifferent to whether you are ever again desired by a woman?

But surely such things need not happen in order to be happy? said Vadyu.

Would it matter to you if they did happen? asked Gana.

Yes, said Vadyu.

Then you see the obstacle, said Gana. You fear to lose your chains.

I fear to lose who I know myself to be, said Vadyu.

Then you are your chains, replied Gana.

Gana’s eyes were old, even ancient, and kind. He spoke to Vadyu saying, This obstacle can be removed but only if you truly wish it. You cannot become what you would become if you are not willing to change what you are.

I will free you, Vadyu, if you ask me for it and if you make an offering to me, said Gana. Make your decision; I will wait.

There was a time not so long ago when people believed in magic. And since belief in some way makes truth, the world was a magical place.

Vadyu believed that Gana could do as he had said he could. All Vadyu’s excuses were thus removed. The choice of freedom was before him. He was in awe of the possibility within his grasp. He withdrew a handful of rice from his traveling bag, for an offering.

Vadyu sat in reverence with his great decision.

He smiled when he noticed that Gana was lovingly feeding crumbs to a tiny mouse.