The Golden Ball
Stories from the Tradition
A monk is quietly meditating in the forest when something irresistible appears before his eyes.
Deep in the forest live the monks known as ‘forest dwellers’. These are hermit monks who practice alone most of the time, just coming together to hear an occasional sermon and to gather food.
One such monk was sitting in deep meditation as dusk settled on the forest. He was a bit sleepy after all the effort he had been making when he was jolted awake by a movement from the corner of his eye. Now, usually, the eyes are downcast in meditation, but the movement caused him to look up and there, a couple of feet away from him, was a beautiful golden ball shimmering in front of him. It was the most captivating thing he had ever seen and a deep desire arose in his heart just to hold it. It seemed to be alive, dancing playfully before his eyes; it made him smile and in that moment he forgot his meditation and reached out to grasp it.
As he did so, it jumped back out of reach, as if to tease him and, quite forgetting what he was about, he was up off the meditation seat and began to follow it. The ball led him out of his little meditation hut and down the track he used for walking meditation and into the forest. The sun was quickly setting but a light from the ball guided the besotted monk deep into the forest. Further and further he went into the darkening trees where trailing vines brushed his face and the uneven ground caused him to stumble. Yet, despite these warning signs, he rushed ahead; he simply had to have that golden ball and so he pursued the shimmering golden light.
Finally, the ball came to a large tree, one of the tallest in the forest, and it jumped up on to a low bough. The monk clambered up after it and as he did so the golden ball leapt from bough to branch, higher and higher. The monk, heedless of the increasing danger, followed. Finally, at the top of the tree, the ball began to move out along a slender branch. Still ignorant of his peril as the branch bent dangerously under his weight the monk moved along after his quarry.
“Now I have you!” he said out loud to no-one in particular and his hand shot out to grasp the ball. It was at that moment that the beautiful mirage, for that is what it was, vanished.
With his heart’s desire gone, the monk quickly realised his predicament - so high up in a tree that barely could carry his weight - and fear shot through his limbs, paralysing him. He was stuck!
Throughout the whole night, he cried out for help but it was not until the following day, when his fellow brothers were on their daily alms round, that his cries were heard and they came to his rescue.
As one old forest dweller said to him when safely on the ground and still shaking from his adventure.
“It serves you right, for letting your heart escape from you like that.”
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