No living memory could reach to the beginning of the Tree of Pearls. It had lived in the grove near the village since time out of mind. It was a large tree but no larger than others in the grove. Beneath a bright moon its leaves shimmered with a pearlescent light.
In that place and at that time, the Tree of Pearls was revered as a seat of wisdom. Some believed that the tree was a gift from the Divine or even that it was an avatar, the Divine descended into form. And some believed that the tree simply held space in a way that pilgrims might learn the deep places of the heart. But all believed that if a seeker came to the tree with an open heart and selflessly asked for wisdom, then wisdom would be found.
Vadyu came to the Tree of Pearls with a troubled mind. He felt a duty that he had not the strength to face. He spoke quietly saying, One whom I love is in great pain. I long to practice compassion. I long to share her pain, to feel as she does. But I am afraid that her pain is more than I can bear. I ask for the wisdom to see my way.
Vadyu had brought an offering of a garland of flowers, which he laid upon the roots of the tree. When he had asked for the guidance he sought, he carefully took the lotus position and entered into meditation.
He began silently reciting a wisdom mantra that had been taught to him by his grandmother. In time the words of the mantra fell away and only its rhythm remained. His breathing became so still he could no longer feel it. All that remained in awareness was the fragrance of nearby wild flowers. Vadyu noticed no existence of his own. His being could have been that of the flowers. He knew the bliss of no-self.
In time he began to feel his friend’s suffering. It was heavy and endless. It hollowed him out. He felt the weight of the burden she carried. He felt her sorrow and felt how it had pulled her away from her life. How it had made her feel alone. And feeling alone, she was afraid. And Vadyu too was afraid. But he did not feel despair. Because he felt his friend’s great faith and courage – born of need, invoked from an ocean. He knew then that if he would practice compassion he must never turn away. He must be ready to step into another’s suffering, no matter the risk.
Vadyu had found what he had sought.
These things Vadyu knew at once as if he had always known them. No words had come into his mind. He simply knew. He arose from his seat. He bowed to the great tree, and he bowed to the wild flowers.