There is a timeless Zen story I would like to share today. It contains profound insights into life, truth, and the path to enlightenment. Here it is...One day a spiritual seeker left his home in the suburbs to seek out a famous Zen master who lived high on the top of a mountain. The seeker had left his partner, job, and had given most of his possessions away in good cheer to the poor and needy. He already was a steady Zen practitioner - meditating every day and doing his best to lead a mindful life in a local Zen center. Still, he wanted to meet the greatest master alive. He wanted to expedite his path to enlightenment. So, the journey took about a month. He essentially hiked the mountain by himself after having traveled on the ground by bus and boat to get to the foot of the mountain. The hike was very difficult and he risked his life several times because he was inexperienced at scaling a high mountain. After about 30 days, he finally reached the top and encountered the Zen master, who was quite surprised to see him. The Zen master smiled at him and said "welcome to my home". The student was very happy.
The Zen master invited the student into his little hut and they both had a cup of tea. The student said the one question he had been wanting to ask the master now for many years "can you please show me the path to enlightenment?" The Zen master laughed and laughed and laughed. The student turned red out of embarrassment. The Zen master spoke the following words: "Dear student, you know like I do that the path of the Buddha and enlightenment is not necessarily a formal one with a temple and a physical master. What you need to do is make COMPASSION your master - practicing it all day and all night. This will help you become truly mindful and out of this mindfulness ... you will attain enlightenment." The student replied "Thank you master. But I thought if I was here, I could attain enlightenment faster". The Master again laughed and said "Dear student, my life here is harsh - no running water or electricity, cold weather with snow and rain, no medication and sometimes no food. These could be great obstacles for you. Just be a good person in society practicing mindful compassion everywhere you go. That is your path to enlightenment and of course every time you visit me here, we will enjoy a tea together." The student smiled finally and said "thank you Master for your great words. I will immediately become a disciple of mindful compassion at all times and everywhere I go".