This piece is the Epilogue for the essays on “Our World is Burning” – a book I am preparing for next year.
Essay Sixteen: The Merchant and the Diamond
There was a merchant who lived in a far-away land. He was very wealthy and built a trading empire that brought him great riches. He was respected throughout the land for his fairness and astuteness, yet in the midst of all his wealth and fame he felt a lack, that there was something he did not have. He did not know what it was.
One night he had a dream and remembered it very clearly. He dreamed there was a monk sitting under a tree at the forest’s edge, and that this monk had something special to give to him. He was not accustomed to dreaming, so he felt this dream held a special portent. At sunrise the next day he left his house and walked to the edge of the town where he lived. He saw the monk, just as in his dream, wearing a saffron robe, sitting quietly under the shade of a tree at the edge of the forest. He looked so peaceful. As the merchant approached, the monk opened his eyes and smiled gently to him. The merchant stopped, bowing respectfully, and said:
“Dear monk, I had a dream about you last night, that you would be sitting here on the edge of the forest and that you had something for me. What is it that you have for me?”
The monk paused for a moment then slowly reached into his canvas bag. He brought out a huge diamond as big as a man’s fist. It sparkled and shone in the sunlight, dazzling the eyes and senses of the merchant. It was the most beautiful and valuable diamond the merchant had ever seen. The monk said, “Have you come for this?”
The merchant without hesitating replied, “Oh yes, thank you so much, this is wonderful. I have always wanted to possess such a magnificent diamond.” He thanked the monk profusely for this unexpected and magnificent gift, wrapped the diamond inside his jacket and returned home. Once there he placed the diamond in his front room. He closed the shutters and locked the doors to his house and stayed with the diamond, totally mesmerized and entranced by its beauty and purity. He did not go to work that day, nor did he eat or drink. He thought that this gift was the missing piece of his life and he wanted to bask in the glory of it. When he went to sleep that night, he placed the diamond on a small pedestal by his bedside, so that he could have it close by. Yet he could not sleep. He felt a strange disturbance within himself that he did not understand. He tossed and turned, not knowing what to do about the growing restlessness. Just before sunrise he rose, got dressed and carefully wrapped the diamond in a cloth, before setting off once more for the edge of the forest.
The monk was sitting in the same place, deep in meditation. The peace that emanated from him calmed the restlessness that so disturbed the merchant. On hearing the merchant’s footsteps come closer and then stop before him, the monk opened his eyes and once more smiled very gently to the merchant. “Good morning my friend,” he said. “Are you not happy with the diamond?”
The merchant bowed and placed the diamond at the feet of the monk and said, “Good monk, it is not the diamond that I want. I would like to have the heart that can give away such a diamond.”
The monk very quietly stood up and bowed to the merchant, “Good sir, as that is your wish, I will teach you to meditate.”