This is an old story that’s been told a thousand different ways. I recently heard it on the radio when the host was speaking about sharing wisdom with closed minds.
A young man from New York travels to Tibet determined to learn the wisdom of the ages. After quitting his job, selling all his worldly processions and saying goodbye to his friends and family, he sets out to find a guru that will show him the light.
While traveling through the wilderness he comes upon a small shack at the foot of a large mountain. There is a small stream that works its way around the mountain and sitting beside this stream he comes upon the “old man of the mountain”.
The man is dressed in simple garb, he has a long gray beard that falls to the top of his tattered sandals. One look at the man and the traveler is certain he has the truth he’s been searching for.
Traveler: “Master, master! I’ve come a long way in search of enlightenment. Do you know what wisdom is master?”
Old Man: “Why yes my son, I know where you will find wisdom. Wisdom lies at the top of this mountain. If you go there you will find the truth you so desire. Once you reach the summit you must sit and meditate in silence, only after long self reflection will you become wise.”
Immediately the traveler sets off for the top of the mountain. After walking for several days he reaches the top and finds a suitable clearing for meditation. The traveler ends up staying on the mountain for several years, living off of bark, grass, bugs and whatever else he can find.
The traveler spends his winters near death as the temperature plummets and the howling wind tears at his clothes. It’s not until his fifth summer that he decides it’s time to travel back down the mountain.
When the old man sees the traveler again he can hardly recognize him. He has aged twenty years and looks near death. The remains of his clothing hang loosely on his bony frame. His face is covered in wrinkles and his beard has grown down to his waist.
Traveler: “Master, master! I found wisdom master! But first I must know master, what do you think wisdom is?”
Old Man: “Well my Son, wisdom is to always be humble and pious. To be cordial to your fellow man. To respect your elders and to treat others as you would like to be treated.”
Traveler: “What a crock of shit old man! You’re an asshole. Wisdom lies in the river you nutty old bastard. I’m getting the hell out of here, screw you!”
Old Man: “Yes, you’re right my son, you’re right”