Dialogues of Nodin and William - The Monk #13
(PD) Odilon Redon - Le Bouddha
Copyright ©2008-2019 - updated May 11, 2019
Nodin: Now that you have observed the behavior of the scientist and the mystic, and that you have grasped a portion of the concepts of correctness and inward natures, it would be a profitable experience for you to observe a different personality; that of a monk.
William: Though I admit that I hold a curiosity of a monk's life, I wonder to myself of what value it might be for me to observe yet another personality that surely I should now be capable of grasping the reasoning behind his behavior. Would not the spirit of a monk be of a similar composition as any other man, although admittedly of a different variation and influence?
Nodin: As with all knowledge, when an additional portion of information is added to the sum of one's memories, so does the additional information change the whole of one's understanding. No thing exists by itself, and no thing can exist without it being the composition of elements, and so likewise is the act of understanding; it is necessary to observe many variables before a mind can begin recognizing the similarities and differences in personalities.
William: But I have already seen many men who are priests and preachers of their faiths. Have my previous observations not been sufficient?
Nodin: What you speak of, that of priests and preachers of faiths, are not monks, and it is evidence of an individual not having yet observed a monk if the individual does not draw a firm line between priest and monk. Of all that you have learned thus far, it is important that you now test your knowledge. Do you know of Alo the monk who resides west of the village?
William: I have heard that an Alo exists, but he is more reclusive than Daksi, and I myself have never seen Alo, nor do I know where he might live.
Nodin: Then we will visit him today. I am with the knowledge that he is awaiting our arrival even as we speak, so let us begin our walk, so that we might reach Alo's dwelling before the sun reaches its peak in the sky.
William: This road that we are walking, it is over-grown with grass, and it appears to be more of a rabbit's trail than a road, which gives evidence that few men have traveled into the region. Ahead on the path, near the bottom of the hill and towards the west about two hundred steps; is that Alo's dwelling?
Nodin: Yes, and by what manner of reasoning did you suspect that such a dwelling might be where a monk should choose to live?
William: The dwelling is of earthen materials, of a mixture of mud and sand worked by hand, what is known as a type of adobe, but the design is different than the adobe dwellings known to me. Alo's residence appears almost as if it might be a small temple, surrounded by an earthen wall, but very simple in styling, of no gaudy design, but rather a design of quietness, utility, and carefulness of craftsmanship, one that my soul is pleased to term as the sense of modesty, effort, and beauty.
Nodin: What influences do you detect in the styling?
William: From what I have learned through observing many styles and how each was influenced by the variables of religions, ideologies, occupations, and other manner of behavior possessed by the inhabitants, I would like to venture my guess that Alo's dwelling speaks of having the influences of nothing that I have seen before. The dwelling itself is no more than perhaps nine steps in one direction and five steps in the other direction, and the earthen walls are of a similar rectangular shape as the dwelling but larger, of approximately thirty steps in one direction and a little under twenty steps in the other direction. The geometry of Alo's dwelling and earthen walls reflect an appreciation of the golden mean.
Nodin: If pressed to state similarities of ideological or cultural influences, which might you say exist with Alo's choice of dwelling design?
William: It appears that there is an awareness of Nature-based geometry, and a Native American influence of a Nature-based awareness towards harmony of living with Nature, but there are also hints of a Buddhist style of sensorial perception and awareness, and I also detect a coloring of Christian influences, but not of the Christian influence that I normally witness among the village buildings.
Nodin: Excellent, William; you are rapidly learning to give conscious attention to your perceptions, and you are learning how to divide the perceptions into a knowing of what ought to be obvious to all eyes.
William: But of the influences in the style of Alo's dwelling, I can detect no strength or dominance of any one ideology, and my lack of perceiving a dominant trait puzzles me. What ideology does Alo follow that might result in his dwelling not giving the appearance of being influenced by the ideology?
Nodin: Such is one of the reasons why it is useful for you to observe a monk, to learn that not all people follow preconceived and pre-packaged ideologies, but rather some people choose their manner of life for a specific purpose, and it is the purpose that expresses itself in the design of one's lifestyle. Alo is not a follower; he is a doer. Many people interpret ideologies as rules and laws to be obeyed and followed, but regardless of how many years a person might follow a master's teachings, the follower can never master the ideology because the individual remains a follower, and not a master. An individual must become the law, his soul must become the very nature that the law was created to obey. For as long as a person follows a law to be honest, the person can never be inwardly honest, but once the person becomes inwardly honest, that is, once the person's nature becomes honesty itself, then the person no longer follows the law of honesty, for the person is then his own law.
William: I believe I understand what you are saying, Nodin, and if it is true that Alo is not a follower of an ideology, and if it is true that he has mastered the profitable inward natures that we seek for ourselves, then I am with a great interest to meet and observe the outwardly expressed nature of Alo. When we meet Alo, by what manner should I behave? Or will Alo be as was Daksi, and I will naturally know what to say, and what not to say?
Nodin: Be yourself, be honest, even if in error, for Alo is different than Daksi, and be aware that what Daksi seeks, Alo possesses. Let us stop here, a hundred paces from Alo's gate, and let us sit under the shade of the elm trees. As you correctly sat by my door when you first came to my house, so will we correctly remain a distance from Alo's home. When the time is proper for Alo, he will make his presence known.
William: I am comforted, for the breeze and shade have made the day's warmth pleasant upon my skin. And from our vantage, I can see down into the land surrounded by Alo's walls, and the sight pleases me; that of numerous fruit and nut trees, of a small vegetable garden, a larger garden that appears to be of grains, and the whole of the earth within the walls gives visual evidence of order, effort, and cleanliness. Though Alo's land might be of a small quantity, it appears that the land is of high quality.
Nodin: While we are in wait for Alo's presence, tell me William, what is the public's opinion of monks?
William: It depends, on whether the monk is of Buddhism, Christianity, or another ideology.
Nodin: Might there be a general public opinion for all monks?
William: I am unsure, Nodin, but from my relying upon my own interpretation of what the public appears to believe, a monk is he who devotes his life to an ideology, and it is common for the monk to wear a monk's robe while living without material possessions. As philosophers wear their robes, and as many occupations are signified by the style and color of the costume, so might a brown robe signify a middle-eastern ideology, whereas an orange robe might signify a sect of Buddhism.
Nodin: How might it be possible for a monk to survive if he does not possess land or another means to feed and clothe himself?
William: As you are also aware, the monk is given food and clothing by the organized ideology of which he belongs. Some Buddhists stand along streets, with cup in hand, accepting donations from passerbys, and the accepting of donations is considered acceptable because the act of giving is beneficial to the passerby. It appears that within Christianity, a monk is likely to belong to only one sect of the ideology, and it is within the sect's temples that a monk has access to food, or land for farming. Other ideologies also have devotees that appear as monks, but in our land we are most familiar with the Buddhist and the Christian.
Nodin: So then, if what you say might be true, then the livelihood of many monks is dependent on the donations of money, or some other form of wealth from other people?
William: Yes, that is my assumption, and too, since many monks follow a teaching of poverty, the monks are by necessity dependent on the welfare of others.
Nodin: Then please tell me what you perceive to be different between the manner of life of many monks, and the manner of life of Alo's.
William: If what my eyes tell me is true, then Alo supports himself by growing his own food, by tilling his own soil, and tending to his own dwelling. Though it is obvious that Alo's property is small, and located in a region of inexpensive property values, the quality of Alo's dwelling-place is high.
Nodin: Do you find any conflict of logic in the manner of which Alo lives?
William: In my reasoning, Alo appears to be living in a correct manner, which is the supporting of one's own needs, and accepting the responsibility for one's own life. But I wonder, Nodin, does not Alo's lifestyle tell us that he is not a monk? That perhaps instead he might only be of a rational philosophy, and not hold a connection to the interpretation that we place upon the term of "monk"? Does not being a monk imply that the individual lives in a type of temple, and that he is devoted to a discipline unique to the temple's cause?
Nodin: As you alluded to previously, does not Alo's dwelling appear to be as a type of temple?
William: That is true, and further, if we were to carry the thought to its end, we might say that all dwellings are the temples of all men's devotion. Ah, then if we viewed man's choices of dwelling styles and occupations, then we might be justified to interpret all men as types of monks who are devoted to the disciplines that dictate the styling of the dwellings? The judge, who wears the black robe, his devotion might be seen in the style of dwelling of which he works and lives, as even does the salesman who wears the salesman's costume and lives in a dwelling of similar style as other salesmen. Yes, Nodin, I am now better able to perceive how the inward personalities of individuals can be discerned to a degree, and the discernment is through our giving awareness to the individual's manner of dress, manner of dwelling, and all other clues that the person may unconsciously exhibit about his own soul.
Nodin: Excellent, William, excellent indeed, for your mind quickly grasped where my question was leading. So now, gaze further upon Alo's property, and describe what you perceive that Alo's soul might exhibit.
William: Alo's land tells me that Alo is uncommon, not a follower of any ideology, nor is he a follower of any man's discipline, but rather he follows his own discipline of what he himself has determined to be a correctness in behavior. It also appears that Alo does not give importance to material wealth, but he does give importance to orderliness and to the accepting of responsibility for his own support for food and shelter. To myself, it appears that Alo has achieved a good balance between the Christian ideal of freedom from riches, and the Buddhist ideal of not being a burden upon any other living being.
Nodin: Why might the ideal of freedom from riches be desirable? Surely every man wants all the wealth that he might accumulate.
William: I see that you are testing my own knowledge and perception of how different variables will influence a man's choices in life, but I confess that I am not with the wisdom of answering your question.
Nodin: Before us within sight, and of the topic of the day, is Alo's property, and as you know to compare all things to all things else, so then we must apply Nature-based logics into our formulas to derive a sensible conclusion. If Alo is a learned man of heart and mind, then he will value honesty as highly as you and I, for honesty is accuracy, and by comparing the concept of accuracy to Alo's orderly garden and dwelling, then we can arrive with the opinion that Alo's ideals are being manifested through his labors with order and accuracy. Honesty, in thought and behavior, precludes one's ability to attain wealth, for it is not of a fair balance to charge a neighbor a sum of gold over what an object or day of labor might be worth. So you see, William, one's choice of honesty will in itself prevent a man from acquiring wealth.
William: But Nodin, it is a necessity for merchants to charge a sum higher than what the merchant paid for a product. If the craftsman and merchant charged a customer what a product cost, then the craftsman and merchant could not earn an income to pay for their own costs of living.
Nodin: I will leave the topic to you, William, for you to think through the balances of fairness and honesty on your own. But there are other reasons as well for the common teaching of poverty in ideologies, and I ask you, are you familiar with why the teachings of poverty might exist?
William: From what I understand, the teachings of poverty are to rid the individual of his desire of riches, as well as to regain the lost time consumed by riches. Aside from those two reasons, I cannot think of why else the idea of poverty might be useful.
Nodin: As when we blend a new color within an existing color, so will the final color be influenced. So likewise are emotions colored when a new emotion is added to the original emotion, and so will the inward nature of a thing be colored when a new influence is added to one's soul. The external state of poverty has little relevance to the teachings of poverty, for if the lack of material wealth were sufficient to ennoble an individual, then all of the world's populations living in poverty would be as heavenly angels. Following a teaching is not of profit, but rather becoming the teaching is what matures the soul. As two men might appear quiet on the outside, while one man follows the discipline of silence, and the other man exhibits quietness due to his inward self being quiet, so might the lack of riches be exhibited through two or more means. But there exists a specific nature of emotional tone within the man who enters the experience of poverty while the man simultaneously holds the natures of love and honesty. There exists a unique spiritual experience in the soul of the man who finds himself strong, and unwavering with love, and discovering that his love is not diminished by the influence of poverty. Too, only when a man has experienced a thing firsthand, can he then fully empathize with and give proper compassion to another man whose life has entered a similar state. It is one thing to feel pity for the poor man, but it is quite a different thing to know from one's own experience what life is like within the chains of poverty. If one's heart does not break with love and compassion for the homeless and poor, then the heart has not yet felt the beauty of love's deepest caverns. Perhaps one of the greatest blessings a rich man might receive, is to become impoverished, and not by will, but by circumstance.
William: So then, this material poverty that you speak of, it is like a test? Perhaps a means of validating whether one's love is true and not dependent on one's comforts in life?
Nodin: Yes, as you said, it is like a test, but it is also a learning experience, as well as it being a means of creating numerous perceptions about life. For the man who can enter material poverty without his spirit faltering, that man has achieved what many men strive for a lifetime with a hope of discovering. It might be said that the material poverty is like a fire that burns away the dross, leaving behind only the purest of quality within the man.
William: So then the rich man, though he were to give away all his possessions, he would not benefit from the poverty? Because he would still be longing for the material wealth? Are my thoughts close?
Nodin: Yes, very close. If the rich man's nature is one of greed, then the poverty would prove his true inward nature of being founded upon greed, and the only profit from experiencing poverty would to be to validate that his life has no value greater than the value of the material objects in his possession.
William: This is interesting to me, Nodin, for within my mind I am now imagining a master speaking of poverty, and I am with the question of how likely it may be that the masters' teachings of poverty might have been misinterpreted by the listeners. Might it be possible that the listeners believed the masters' teachings about poverty were supposed to imply an outward act only, and that the listeners may not have realized that the teaching instead possessed far greater implications?
Nodin: Yes, very good, for your thoughts show an awareness of the difference between external actions, which have little or no value, and the inward natures of which contain all value. As you also have observed, there are two general polarities of people in all ideologies; the followers and the doers, the believers and the masters. In religion there are people who physically obey a master's teachings, while some individuals become the teachings. In science there are people who believe in the masters' theories, while some individuals become masters of science themselves.
William: So then, Alo would be deemed to be a doer, a master of his own discipline, and of a discipline that is not influenced by a known ideology? I am unsure how to judge such an individual, for surely I have never before met such a man. By what standard of conduct and logic might Alo base his reasoning, if the standard is not derived from an established ideology?
Nodin: Is it not obvious? As you previously well-discerned in part, Alo's discipline is accuracy in relationship with the nature of Nature; logic based upon what is perceivable and just.
William: Ah, so then Alo is what is referred to as a Pagan? A Wiccan perhaps? An individual that views Nature as the god or goddess of all things?
Nodin: Ha! No, and I would only do you a disservice if I attempted to explain why the thought of Paganism is incorrect as it applies to Alo. There are reasons for Alo's discipline that you do not have knowledge of, and it is always beneficial to remember that not everyone follows a pre-established ideology.
William: Nodin, we have sat here under these trees for hours, and the sun is now well below the horizon. Should we not knock on Alo's gate? Perhaps he does not know that we are here.
Nodin: Be careful to not convince yourself of an unknown. As Daksi perceived your heart from a distance, so do all individuals of a similar nature possess the ability to know what cannot be seen. As you can discern some attributes of Alo's nature by observing the things he created, and yet not yet see Alo in person, so likewise can some individuals know your heart without seeing you. Nevertheless, even if Alo were not to make himself seen, would you not conclude that our day has been well-spent here upon this splendid hill with its trees and birds of song?
William: True, I have learned a great deal, and I will carry with me new thoughts to ponder in the days ahead.