Austerity or Exuberance which path will you follow?

Once upon a time, during the time of Siddhartha Gautama, when he was an embodied enlightened one, Siddhartha would send out traveling disciples to carry his teachings and to enable communication among groups of monks who were practicing his middle way.

I have read that one of those traveling monks was called Sadhonna.  On his travels, Sadhonna came across a monk who was a dedicated and faithful practice of Samadhi, the practice of self-denial. This monk took asceticism to its highest level. The fellow was bone thin, literally you could see his bones under his skin. As he sat and meditated in the lotus position, Sadhonna noticed that the fellow was sitting on an anthill, and that he did not even twitch as the ants tugged and nibbled on his skin.   Sadhonna asked him, “Brother, I am on my way to see the Buddha. Is there any word you would like me to carry to him?”

Brother Samadhi grimaced and said, “Please ask the Buddha how many more lifetimes I must endure before I attain Budddhahood.”

Sadhonna promised that he would pass this question along to the Buddha. And Sadhonna continued along on his way.

In another day or so, Sadhonna heard some slightly discordant singing. As he walked on, he came across a fellow dressed in monk’s clothing exuberantly singing and dancing in a clearing in the woods. Clearly this monk was a bit inept, but was delighting in the song and dance none the less, and was putting his full heart and soul into it.  Sadhonna watched for a short while and then inquired of the monk, “Brother Ebullience, I am on my way to see the Buddha. Is there any word you would like me to carry to him?”

The monk paused in his song and dance, thought for a moment, smiled and said, “yes, would you ask him when I will reach my enlightenment?”

Sadhonna promised that he would pass this question along to the Buddha, and he continued malong on his way.

After a while, Sadhonna returned and found Brother Samadhi. By then his flesh was thinner than paper, with his bones protruding through in places. Sadmonna told him that the Buddha had answered his question and said that in four more lifetimes he would reach enlightenment. Brother Samadhi grimaced, thanked Sadhonna, and continued his practices of austerity.

Sadhonna continued along on his way and found Brother Ebullience who continued to sing and dance with unbridled enthusiasm, still discordant and disjointed in his efforts. And to this monk Sadhonna also offered, “The Buddha has answered your question.”

The dancing monk paused and queried, “How many more lifetimes?”

Sadhonna pointed to a huge fig tree growing near where the two men were standing. The tree had thousands of leaves on its branches each dancing in the sunlight singing with the wind. Sadhonna said, “As many as there are leaves on the branches of that tree.”

The dancing monk looked up at the tree and the leaves and laughed, and instantly attained enlightenment.


And the point of the story for me? You are going to be alive anyway, you might just as well enjoy what you are doing!

And, so in the words of William Purkey, you might just as well, “dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”

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