A steady sheet of water slid over the fountain’s rocky ledge, softly splashing upon the lily pads floating in the pool below. A choir of small birds, mesmerized by the water’s rhythmic flow, chanted a soothing chorus. The young visitor sat on a stone bench, rapt in wonder by the garden’s tranquil morning symphony.
Alone in silent reflection, the young man was suddenly startled by the presence of a woman standing beside him with folded hands. A scarf shrouded her features and a soft voice belied her years; however, the woman’s gnarled fingers and frail stature revealed her advanced age. She bowed slightly toward him as she spoke. “I bid you good morning young man. Welcome to the garden.”
“I bid you good morning too, kind madam. I am here to visit the Wise One”, the young man replied, bowing his head in deference. “He is usually tending his flowers at this time of morning.”
“Yes”, she nods. “But this morning his attention is elsewhere”.
The young man attempts to mask his disappointment with an anxious smile. “Madam I have come to rely upon my regular visits to the garden. The Wise One has taught me many lessons from which I have found great peace. It is with great anticipation that I come today so that I may advance my journey toward enlightenment.”
The old woman pulls back her scarf slightly, revealing a glint in her deep-set brown eyes. “Tell me young man, what has the Wise One taught you?”
Staring ahead, but speaking in a voice from within, the young man begins recounting his list. “The Wise One has taught me to absorb the beauty of the world and repel evil. He has taught me the difference between real truth and random fact. Through his lessons, I’ve learned that beauty lies in the journey rather than the destination. I have come to realize inner peace can be cast as a beam of light in the direction of those also in need of peace. I have learned to pull the weeds of hatred and destruction from my life so that my inner flowers may bloom.”
With this, he raised his eyes toward the old woman standing before him. “But, madam, surely you already know of these teachings.”
“I also know what I see before me today my son. Through these old eyes, I can see a young man firmly on the path toward peace and enlightenment. I see a young man who recognizes beauty and is drawn to it as the hummingbird is drawn to nectar. You come here seeking knowledge that you already possess. The Wise One is inside you today though you do not see him in the flesh. Take your lessons from the insects and birds around you. Hear their song. Cleanse your soul with the fragrant lotus blossom. Meditate with the mantra of the flowing fountain. Sit here for as long as you like. I will fetch you a cup of tea.”
With that, the old woman turned and made her exit. The young man smiled, nodding his head in assent. Rising from his seat, he approached the waterfall, kneeling down to watch a koi fish swimming in the rippling water. A feeling of great peace enveloped him. He found himself somehow relieved of the burdens he had previously carried.
A freshly painted picket fence separated the garden and the old man’s stone dwelling. The modest but sturdy home was partially obscured by lush bamboo and trellised roses of many different varieties. Inside, from an ornately framed rear window, the Wise Man peered out, through the bamboo stalks, into his garden. A smile formed as he watched his student. The morning sun shone on the young man’s face revealing a look of contentment as he busied himself pulling weeds from a bed of yellow flowers.