Read Sailboats and Rowboats before reading this story.
Today was a new beginning for Bud, the first day in a new journey. He had been preparing for this for months, maybe years, and was quite sure that he had found the key to the life of peace he had always wanted. He pulled his boat down off the trailer and carried it several hundred feet toward the shore. As he came over the hill just before the beach, he was surprised to find another man near the shore with his own boat.
Another seeker?”, thought Bud. He nodded to him and the man returned the gesture with an understanding wave. Bud walked toward him and let his boat drop softly on the sand. “Good morning, I’m Chris.”, the man said.
Bud introduced himself and they began to talk. It didn’t take long to find out that Chris was also on a journey. Chris seemed to have a peace about him that Bud admired and even desired. Bud looked at their boats and commented on the similarities. Both were designed with a sleek, pointed bow that would take them through the water with smoothness and grace. Both had a seat positioned low and just behind the center of the boat to maintain balance. Both had a broad flat back to provide stability. It gave Bud a feeling of confidence to know that the vessel that would carry him in his search for peace was so much like the one that Chris was using.
Bud told Chris that he had a few other supplies to get and would return shortly. Chris acknowledged that he too had a few more things to get for his journey. Ten minutes later both returned. Both looked at each other inquisitively.
“What’s that?”, asked Bud.
“It’s my sail.”, replied Chris. “What are those?”, Chris asked in turn.
“They’re my oars.”, responded Bud. “What is a sail for?”
Chris, still amazed at the question, answered “This is what will take me on my journey. How are you going to get to where you are going?”
Bud explained that he would be rowing with his oars and motioned with one of the oars at his side. He asked Chris, “How can you move your boat with a sail?”
Chris raised the sail over his head and said, “I don’t move the boat. The wind moves the boat.”
“The wind?”, said Bud in disbelief. “How can you have any faith in the wind? You can’t see it. You can’t touch it. You certainly can’t control it. You don’t even know if it will be there when you need it!”
Chris said “I could never reach my destination without the wind. I know that it will take me where I am to go. The wind is my strength and my peace.”
Bud shook his head in bewilderment and disbelief. “I have come to believe in a higher force within me that is my source of strength and peace.”, Bud said.
Chris considered this for a moment and then said, “Perhaps, but you are trying to reach your destination by your own efforts. Your journey is over when you reach the limit of all that is within you. The wind, however, will carry me with it forever.” Chris explained to Bud the power and the glory of the wind and the teachings of his Master. Bud was amazed and curious, but unconvinced. Chris knew that Bud would never reach his destination of peace by his own efforts and even offered to let Bud use his boat. The kindness and faith Chris showed was both inspiring and disturbing. Disturbing won out. There was no way that Bud could embark on this journey with such complete faith in something so intangible and uncontrollable as the wind. He had to have his oars in the water to control his direction and his progress.
Until that point, it had seemed that Bud and Chris were so much alike in their search for peace and even in their means of reaching their destination. They were the same until this issue of faith came up. So they set out on their separate journeys.
Before starting, Bud meditated on the teachings of those who had gone before him. He cleared his thoughts so that he might achieve a total focus and concentration on the old teachings which told of Four Noble Truths that must guide his journey. First, was that the sea was full of waves that caused suffering. Second, the suffering was the result of ignorance about the waves. Third, suffering can be avoided by seeking a peace apart from the waves. Fourth, the path to the suppression of suffering was the Noble Eightfold Path which required a steadfast devotion to rightness. Bud would have to have right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation to be successful in his journey.
Chris knelt beside his boat, feeling humbled in the presence of the wind that was beginning to stir about him. He prayed silently. He knew his success would not be based on his own efforts or actions, but on a faith in the wind that would allow him to become one with it, carrying him with it to its destination. He too contemplated the teachings of his master. His greatest command of all to Chris was “Love the wind with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Bud mounted his oars, pushed his boat into the water, got in and began to row. He wasn’t completely certain in which direction he should head. He just knew that if he did everything right he could detach himself from the inevitable suffering that was to be found in the waves. The water near the shore was quite calm, which gave him reassurance. He considered that his greatest peace would be found in a place that had no waves at all, if there were such a place. He somehow never considered that it was the wind that caused the waves or saw that there might be a purpose behind the waves. He continued to row further from the shore. The waves and the wind started to increase slightly in their intensity. This was where the Eightfold path started to become critical. At times he wanted to curse the wind and the waves, but he knew that he must maintain right-mindedness and right speech. The rowing was becoming very hard work, and he felt the pain of straining muscles crying out inside him. He knew though that he must keep his concentration keen and keep every aspect of his rowing right. Without this, his efforts could result in him rowing off course or even in circles, never arriving at his destination of peace. At times it seemed that the wind and the waves were pushing him in a certain direction, but it gave him confidence and strength to know that with his oars he could control the direction his boat would take.
Chris set his sail, pushed his boat into the water and sat quietly inside waiting for the wind. Chris knew that apart from the wind he could do nothing. He waited for the wind to come up around him. He had learned to know and to trust each little nuance of the wind and to hear what it was telling him to do. The wind began to fill his sail and take him gently out to sea. He picked up the rope of the sail and rested his hand on the rudder. The waves started to rise gently around him as the wind slightly increased in intensity. The wind began to blow softly through his hair and cool him from the heat of the day. The boat began to rise and fall in the waves with a relaxing melodic rhythm. The waves splashed against the hull each time, creating a soothing harmony. Chris felt the peace of this surround him with an incredible sense of oneness with the wind. He knew that his journey had begun. Each wave was a precious gift from the wind, as was the journey itself.
Further out from shore, the waves began to grow larger. Bud became all too aware of the great suffering that the waves brought. Each new wave brought another crash of suffering and a spray of cold water against his body and the floor of his boat. He forged on, working harder to row through these waves as the sky grew darker. Bud was not entirely clear if it was better to row with the waves, into the waves or across the waves. Perhaps the direction he was going didn’t matter as much as achieving rightness of his actions and thoughts. Surely this would give him strength. He focused his concentration on the noble Eightfold path, seeking the anesthetizing peace that would be achieved by separating himself mentally from all the suffering that he would encounter physically.
Chris too found that the waves were no longer serene, but growing in size. Neither his master nor the wind had ever promised him that his journey would be without pain or challenges. Wave after wave began to pound cold water against his face and body. At times his hold on the rudder weakened, sending him off course for a moment. Sometimes he tried to control his course, pulling too tightly on the sail and losing some of the power of the wind. He didn’t always like what was happening and didn’t understand why it had to be this way. Still, Chris felt strengthened by the experience and knew by faith that this must be part of the journey. He carried on in good spirit with the hope of the paradise his Master had promised would lie ahead. He looked up to the white sail, now dimmed and gray against the darkened sky, and found peace in seeing that the wind was still with him, carrying him forward. He realized that not only was the wind with him, but that it was in its fullest power and glory when the waves around him were the most threatening. As the waves grew larger yet, the wind embraced Chris with a strength he had never before known. Chris praised and thanked the wind for being with him in this most difficult part of his journey, for making his way so clear. Chris knew he could do nothing better than the wind itself would to set his course and put his complete faith in the direction that the wind was taking him.
Day broke and Bud found himself on another beach, not far down the coast from where he had left the day before. He pulled his boat onto the sand and sat down beside it, alone. He meditated on his journey and on the teachings of his master. Certainly this must be the nature of the journey. His master had taught him that his was an endless journey, with each day filled with suffering until he could master every element of the Eightfold path. Only then would he achieve a higher stage of enlightenment that would give him the peace within himself that he so desperately desired among the endless waves of suffering.
The wind carried the sailboat into shallow water just off the sandy shore on the other side of the sea. The boat pitched slightly as it nestled into the sand, gently waking Chris from his sleep. He raised himself from the bottom of the boat and looked toward the shore, and was almost blinded by the bright light of the son that was rising behind the white beach. There, a luminescent figure, bathed in the light from behind, appeared before him. He extended a strong, warm hand to Chris, lifted him gently from the boat and embraced him against his chest.
“Master!”, Chris wept as his heart filled with joy. “How could I be here already? There were times I weakened my hold on the rudder and times I pulled too hard on the sail. I even fell asleep!”
His master smiled at him with a boundless love and said, “Chris, my precious child. You know that I never asked that you do everything right, but only that you believe and follow where I would lead you. Welcome home, my son.”
Both Bud and Chris ended up where they chose to go. Only one went where the wind wanted to take them.
Some journeys can only be made with faith
in a power you can neither see nor control.
Journey Log, Day 1 – Foundations of my Master’s teachings:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. I shall have no other gods before the Him. I shall love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Chris, October 21, 1995
Journey Log, Day 1 – Foundations of my Master’s teachings:
The Four Noble Truths
(1) Life is suffering. In its very nature, human existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for life is cyclical, with death leading to further rebirth.
(2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance.
(3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment.
(4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of:
Bud, October 21, 1995
Author’s Note: Two words came to me after a prayer to the Lord Jesus that I might help a friend to see the difference between Buddhism and Christianity. The words, which were the inspiration for this story, were “rowboat, sailboat.” The first requires a reliance on your own efforts to reach your destination. The second requires a faith in an intangible power, one that is far greater than you can ever become, to bring you to your destination. May your journey bring you to someone greater than yourself, greater than even an “enlightened” self.