Once upon a time the Bodhisattva – the Enlightenment Being – was born into a high class family in northern India. When he grew up he gave up the ordinary desires of the everyday world and became a holy man. He went to the Himalayan Mountains where 500 other holy men became his followers.
He meditated throughout his long life. He gained supernatural powers – like flying through the air and understanding people’s thoughts without their speaking. These special powers impressed his 500 followers greatly.
One rainy season, the chief follower took 250 of the holy men into the hill country villages to collect salt and other necessities. It just so happened that this was the time when the master was about to die. The 250 who were still by his side realized this. So they asked him, “Oh most holy one, in your long life practicing goodness and meditation, what was your greatest achievement?”
Having difficulty speaking as he was dying, the last words of the Enlightenment Being were, “No Thing.” Then he was reborn in a heaven world.
Expecting to hear about some fantastic magical power, the 250 followers were disappointed. They said to each other. “After a long life practicing goodness and meditation. our poor master has achieved ‘nothing’.” Since they considered him a failure, they burned his body with no special ceremony, honors, or even respect.
When the chief follower returned he asked, “Where is the holy one?” “He has died,” they told him. “Did you ask him about his greatest achievement?” “Of course we did,” they answered. “And what did he say?” asked the chief follower. “He said he achieved ‘nothing’,” they replied, “so we didn’t celebrate his funeral with any special honors.”
Then the chief follower said, “You brothers did not understand the meaning of the teacher’s words. He achieved the great knowledge of ‘No Thing’. He realized that the names of things are not what they are. There is what there is, without being called ‘this thing’ or ‘that thing’. There is no ‘Thing’.” In this way the chief follower explained the wonderful achievement of their great master, but they still did not understand.
Meanwhile, from his heaven world, the reborn Enlightenment Being saw that his former chief follower’s words were not accepted. So he left the heaven world and appeared floating in the air above his former followers’ monastery. In praise of the chief follower’s wisdom he said, “The one who hears the Truth and understands automatically, is far better off than a hundred fools who spend a hundred years thinking and thinking and thinking.”
By preaching in this way, the Great Being encouraged the 500 holy men to continue seeking Truth. After lives spent in serious meditation, all 500 died and were reborn in the same heaven world with their former master.
The moral is: When the wise speak, listen!