The law of cycles

The Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the monastery, had been invited to deliver a lecture at a university. At that time, I was the disciple assigned to accompany him. At the end of the lecture, as usual, he had to answer a variety of questions. His approach to the different aspects of life was always disconcerting. This time was no different. He talked to everyone with affection and patience. In the subway, on our way back to the hotel, a woman approached us. She said she had attended the lecture and invited us for lunch. She joked by saying it was a way to get some extra insights from the monk. We accepted the invitation and went to a restaurant close by. Once we were seated, she talked a little about her life, and regretted that a given situation had been happening over and over, like a story that was being told again and again, which made her sad; she regretted her karma, she told us. The Old Man looked at her with kindness and said: “I think you are mistaken in your understanding of what ancient people called karma. Today, it is spoken as if it meant punishment. Absolutely not. Karma is learning.”

“It doesn’t make sense that the Universe, with all its generosity and mastery, has any intent other than honing us. Many a time, the lesson is hard to teach due to stubbornness or lack of understanding of the student. Lesson learned, karma extinct. It is that simple.”

“This explains the difficulties of the Path and helps us understand that we can change the course when we change the way we walk. The elements of the course merely reflect the internal storms of the emotional baggage each one carries. This makes you responsible for mollifying the conflicts that emerge, which, in fact, portray your own shadows that need to be illuminated. This commitment is personal, nontransferable.”

The woman said that the monk used a very peculiar wording, she could not understand what he meant and how that applied to her case. The Old Man sipped some water and said: “When a given situation insists in repeating itself in the same or similar way, it means we are under the influence of the law of cycles.”

The woman said she now understood even less. The Old Man smiled and patiently explained: “The Universe is regulated by a code of unwritten laws that substantiate and propel the evolution of all of us. Regardless of the plane we are at, we are regulated by unrelenting conditions that establish the next conflict we are about to experience. This problem, in fact, is nothing but the lesson suitable at that point of life. We travel towards light, plentitude, honing of the spirit, our actual identity. The evolution of each one of us will be progressed, whether or not we want it. Like any classroom, there are dedicated students and also those who are remiss or uncommitted. While some learn a lesson swiftly, others may take literally centuries to understand. This explains why not everyone experiences, at this precise moment, the same hardships and joys.”

Anxious, the woman interrupted him. She wanted to know more about the law that regulated that a given situation was recurrent and repeated itself again and again as an endless punishment. The Old Man arched his lips in a sweet, compassionate smile and said: “Eternal sentences are an old trick of the shadows and have no connection with cosmic intelligence. The universe is not concerned with punishing, but with educating; hence the pulsating need for forgiveness and for all other noble love-related feelings. It is impossible to educate without forgiving, without allowing new chances.”

“Life is a big cycle formed by many smaller cycles. Each one encompasses a set of teachings that will generate the essential transformations of your being. We always experience the cycle that contains the lessons we are ready for. No more, no less.”

“As a student who fails in school when he does not pay attention or refuses to learn the lesson, the cycle becomes persistent, and, oftentimes harsher, making the understanding and the ensuing changes toward evolution more difficult. That is how we move on.” He paused briefly, and continued: “The end of a cycle will necessarily entail the beginning of another. However, two cycles may not coexist. There cannot be a new one if the previous has not yet finished. The repetition of a cycle, like a sophisticated jail, is mere refusal to evolve”. He paused again, to conclude: “Metamorphosis is essential. Learn, transform and get rid of the problem. The problem is not a problem per se, but how you react to it.”

The woman said she was beginning to understand, and asked him to go further in his explanation. The Old Man obliged: “Whenever we feel we are stagnating, as if life is stuck in sameness, bringing on the same unpleasant situation again and again, it is time to stop. Surrounded by a silent, quiet environment, seek in the core of being what must be changed in the way you look and act. Everything can be different and better. Accept that what you held as truths until now may no longer be so, have become outdated. It is time to give room to the new. In an exercise of intellectual detachment, change your ideas, let the light in, enhance your awareness. After all, the universe is expanding and you, as part of it, must go along.”

“In the practice of emotional detachment, categorically accept that no one has the obligation to make you happy. However, for your own happiness, give your best for the joy and peace of everyone. Love without conditions; forgive without levies.”

“In turn, material detachment will bring you the lightness of sharing, and carrying only the necessary. Bear in mind, no one needs what is superfluous to live. The essential is not heavy, and fits entirely in the heart. Being is much richer and fun than having.”

“In the fullness of spiritual detachment, understand that all in you should be transformed. Even what pleases you may be different and better. To that end, it is indispensable to hone your choices at every moment. To hone them is to evolve. The choices define who we are and determine the next stretch of the Path, its curves, landscapes and companions. They are the passport to the next station, many a time still in this existence.”

“Finally, confront your fears. Nothing hampers more the necessary transformations. Life demands courage so that we can love and move on. To actually love is not easy, and requires that the old forms be overcome. Love is not for the weak, and to be strong is a choice anyone can make every day. Hence we close an old cycle to begin a new one, bringing movement, color and beauty to life.”

The woman arched her lips in a sincere smile. Something had changed her mood. She asked the monk if every cycle is a karma and vice-versa. The Old Man nodded: “Yes, as it carries in it lessons of wisdom and love we should use in our life. This determines the fantastic liberation of the soul from the dark prisons without bars created by social conditionings, ancestral debts, and unnecessary stuff demanded by the ego due to its illusions of power. Liberation means enlightenment, little by little, cycle by cycle, in endless transformations on the way to the High Lands.”

The dishes we had ordered arrived, and the talk shifted to books, films and other pleasantries. At the end, we thanked the woman and bode farewell. She gave the monk a heartfelt hug and said with an open smile that that afternoon had been a milestone in her life, as she now knew what to do. The Old Man looked at her with extreme sweetness and said: “Knowing where the door is does not mean exactly to cross it. We all know more than we do; to align theory and practice requires determination and patience.”

On the way to the hotel, I told the Old Man that there could always be questions about what the right door was. The Old Man looked at me with compassion and said: “There will always be forks in the Path, so that you can make and hone your choices. They will define if you will get stuck in a cycle or liberated from it. On one hand, there will be a huge gate, the one of passions. It will offer the limelight of the world, the praise of shallow compliments, the scent of luxury and the pleasantness of easy applause. On the other, the hatch door of love opening to the mountain of life which, in order to reach its peak, you must fully reinvent yourself, a little bit every day. At the end, there will be no fortune or fame. Just peace, a self-effacing treasure bestowed to the wanderer who dared to shape with the burin of the choices he made.” He became silent for a moment, gave me a nice smile and added: “Whenever you are in doubt, choose out of love, or you will make the wrong choice.”

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oigheinstein.

 

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