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The Prince and the Monk: A fictive conversation

December 12, 2021


The following is a short story of an unnamed young prince of an unknown country in an unspecified time. The story involves just one conversation with a monk and how that unravels the personality of the prince and his hazardous life ahead.

To a future me when he feels too broken.

O nce upon a time, a young prince kneeling in the premises of an old monk asked him,

“Sire, I have become young, ambitious, and impatient. I think I have become a completely different person now. I want to dive into the corruptions of the world. Gold and girls seduce me, lure me to their embrace. But I know there is no escape from that labyrinth of greed and grief once I enter it. I want to force myself to revert back to who I was and engross my mind into less ambitious ordeals for the mind can’t be idle. I just want to numb it enough so it doesn’t rip me apart like it does now and for which I seek your counsel.”

After thinking for a while, the wise old man smiled and began, “Young man, I have certainly seen more of this world than most are fortunate enough to do so what I speak, mark them with attention.

Clearly, your mind is in a turmoil. You have yet to see much of the world and experience great emotions and have great adventures…”

Suddenly, the young man interjected with passion, “Ah! Ah! Don’t you speak of adventures. That is exactly what I’m afraid of. I have read these adventures and conquests and discoveries and inventions of great men, thinkers, and leaders and then I turn to my own life. . .” He put his palms on his forehead and shook his head from side to side as if in utmost distress and then continued, “. . .What if my life would be as bland as the poor peasants who are happy with toiling all day and selling their harvests in the common market? What if my marriage is as loveless and gruelling as so many I have recent memory of? What if I turn out to be as boring and ordinary, Oh lord this word, as any other nameless man who ever lived? When can I be sure to have my adventures and I emphasise mine own because I don’t want to force adventures to happen.” He chuckled. “Hah, even you know such coercions are merely falsities. But I want to be great. Like those generals and writers and scientists.”

He paused and looked at the monk with wide open eyes and an expectant yearning which he hadn’t had the luxury to display in public ever before. His speech was unarticulated and incoherent and he was well aware of that fact.

The monk paradoxically looked happy to be interrupted. He put a hand on the prince’s shoulder and began,

“At the entrance to the library of Alexandria, there are inscribed the words, ‘Know Thyself’. Can you imagine why the keepers of the greatest store of human wisdom would chose this seemingly ordinary phrase to decorate the entrance to such a sacred shrine? Most people who come to me don’t know what they came for and how can I, a humble servant, guide them if they themselves don’t know what they want? You, my prince, know who you are and what lies in your heart. You are a very lucky fellow. You have peered into your soul and have access to yourself. A man who is aloof within can never master the without. Mark that.

Your blood is young and the young makes mistakes. Do you want to suffer for your whole life for an impulsive, uninformed decision? What use will be your learning and education then? Always remember that.

But it is also true that education has opened your mind to curiosities which have evolved into desires. Most people are flocks, yes flocks waiting to be led. You are a leader. Assume the higher ground and protect it. It will be hard. You will have to sacrifice your greatest desires and greatest loves. But in that deficiency, you’ll find abundance. You’re Nietzsche’s ubermensch. Remember that.”

“No! I’m tired of this waiting! It makes me restless and anxious! I want to experience the goods and evils of this world right now. How can I do that without coaxing it? I feel like I’m an alien on an unknown expedition without any objective. I have no reason to go on living my grueling, miserable life.” interrupted the prince. It was a very lucky incident for the prince to have found not a counsel but an old friend in the monk for their intercourse became more of a conversation.

“The greatest assets for a man are time and his tongue. Let me elaborate on the former first, O ambitious prince. The fame and glory of all those generals and scientists you have read about were solely a function of their actions throughout their lifespan. A game of decision making. Master it and you’ll be invincible in the ranks of Heracles.

Time will be always against you. Plans will be delayed, appointments cancelled, tragedies will creep up. Life is too short. So, keep doing things. I confess the idea of inactivity, penance, and personal salvation seems preposterous to me for what is man’s purpose if not service to others? But you’re not a beast of burden, are you? Never rent your time. Work smart. And be intelligent enough to tell the difference.

The past doesn’t exist anymore and the future is yet to come. All we have is this moment – the wondrous present. I see you’re already developed of mind so you must understand how you cannot afford to be anything less than your best, every single moment. Be overwhelmingly kind and generous to people. That will soothe your heart a bit. But the fire in your heart will burn forever, it is the eternal fire of desire and questioning. You’ll never be satisfied with the reality you find yourself in and that will motivate you to seek even higher, unprecedented conquests.

I see your tender heart. You’re capable of the purest form of loving which is quite extinct in youthful fellows these present times. Those who’ll receive your love will indeed be lucky. But tenderness brings vulnerability. You’ll have trouble accepting love. You’ll have many lovers but you’ll never be at peace. A soul of your stature deserves an equally uncorrupted soul. You must be patient for its arrival and when it does, accept it as a gift.

You may indulge in corruptions but they won’t be your touch-bearers for long. You’ll quickly grow bored of based practices and seek counsel with the exalted because that is who you are. Evil will never find an abode in your body.”

The prince was incredulous and asked, “You say so, respected monk, but I desire all the riches of the world right now and I don’t see that impulse waning. How are you so sure of what you speak?”

The monk replied, “You have answered your question yourself. It’s an impulsive desire of a young mind. What do the wealthy and rich do with their coins? Our societies evolved by classifying people based on their monetary value, not on their intellectual value. Now you see the discrepancy? The high classes don’t yield their wealth judiciously because being rich, as the world defines it, is an illusion. The real rich man is one who serves his role first as, a son, then a husband, then a father, and finally as a leader and saviour.”

The young man, by this time, was in an induced stupor unaware of the world around him. His mind was feasting on the words of the great monk.

“Now, let me talk about the second asset – your tongue. You may be the most thoughtful and intellectually superior human on Earth but none of that matters unless people accept you. Our societies reward individuals who work for the masses. You don’t get rich by printing more money but because other people give you their money who are convinced that you deserve it. Your mouth is your window to the outside world. To these people. To those who possess things, beyond money, that you desire. And ultimately those who you will eventually love and live for. So, think before you speak”.

“Rise, my young man. You know all that I have spent my life seeking to learn.”

The prince rose after a few seconds, looked at the monk with utmost love and humility who had so effortlessly explain him to himself. Then, he bowed in respect, and walked out the low wooden door.

~ b.l.

Basil | @itbwtsh

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