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The Temple of Life

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By Vinay Kolhatkar

January 13, 2018

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I stand outside the temple, waiting. Is it holier to be inside? I wonder.
My friends are inside. Outside, I sit on a park bench. I ponder.
Now a gust of wind forces my eyes to shut out the dust.
I pull myself inward. I feel like a river is channeling my boat.

Still alone, I search for my friends, my four life-long companions:
Purpose, Reason, Goodwill, and Resilience—where are they?

Suddenly we are in the sea, and it rocks my boat. It is getting dark.
Still alone, I search for my friends, my four life-long companions:
Purpose, Reason, Goodwill, and Resilience—where are they?
There’s turbulence in the water, but I must find the treasure.

In the darkness, I see a glimmering light—Purpose, he has found me.
The storm whips us around. A whisper echoes in my ear:
“Ahoy, hoist the sails”—Reason, he shows me how.
I am shivering with cold and fright. Will the storm ever end?

Someone holds my hand—Resilience, now I feel her.
Finally, dawn breaks out. I see land. I see the future.
I see myself showing others where the treasure is.
Goodwill, I can’t even see her, she is inside of me.

There’s violence in the air. A sail breaks. I am adrift again.
Whiplashed into facing the past, I turn to resentment and despair.
I have nothing. I am nothing. But wait, I have four friends I cannot see.
Then exhaustion becomes sleep. The storm subsides. Where are we?

Now on a lake so serene, my oar-less boat cannot move. The sun sparkles.
A thin waterfall of steam rises upward as water bubbles play in the sun.
Now I know that the treasure is real. My eyes close to capture a mental picture.
Alas, it does not last. In the distance, I see mountains. Volcanic ash spews forth.

Past the volcano is another treasure, another lake of inner beauty.
It beckons me to leave this serenity; the longer I stay, the less I enjoy it.
The mountain is treacherous, the crevices deep, the ground slippery.
Why, O why, did I leave my comfort zone? I cannot explain.

I slip. I am falling. I am going to die. I don’t want to die so soon.
Suddenly, I feel a rope round my waist. A strong tug pulls me upright.
Resilience—she found me. Purpose—he points the ray.
Reason—he shows me how. Goodwill—she will remember the way.

For we will be back; next time with the others.
For no serenity is serene without the struggle.
Enlightened, I open my eyes to clear skies.
The others are back from the temple.

They brought me “Prasad,” an offering. It’s sweet.
“Where did you go?” they ask, with a twinkle in their eye.
“On a sailboat,” I wink at them. “Did she have a name?” they ask.
“Introspection,” I tell them. “What did you get us?”

“Nothing to eat, but something to read,” I say.
They laugh. They think I fell asleep on the park bench.
I search in my pockets to find it. I show them a crumpled piece of paper.
Like a Dead Sea scroll, it smells of salt and brine.

They open the scroll, as I eat the sweet they brought me.
The scroll fritters away in the breeze. “Hurry, pick up the pieces,” I plead.
We gather around and jigsaw the scroll into place.
“It is 350 years old,” I say excitedly, “a real treasure.”

“The Mind is its own place, and in itself…”
“…can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

Written by a blind and impoverished John Milton,
It is opened with great care and anticipation:
“The Mind is its own place, and in itself…”
“…can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

“That’s what we heard inside,” they say, amazed.
“So is it holier to be inside?” I ask them. Their eyebrows arch up.
“The adventure is outside, in the Temple of Life,” I tell them.
“Always take a torch, a warm jacket, and your four friends with you.”

 

 
 

This parable was first published on The Atlas Society website.

 

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