An old man with flowing beard and hair, wearing the saffron robes of a sannyasi, sat cross-legged, silently gazing into the darkness of a cold mountain cave.
His earnest disciple waited patiently beside him. Many hours passed, during which the younger man felt the chilled darkness seep into his being and a growing sorrow. His heart longed for the sun rising over the waters of the Ganges that habitually brought joy to his meditations. Finally he could not resist speaking:
“Master, why are we here in the pitch darkness and not outside where the sunlight illuminates all creation, beside the waters that bring life and vigour to all things?”
“Can you not see?”
“I see nothing but the blackness of despair, the empty lifelessness of the void,” replied the disciple.
“Then we shall sit here for a while longer.”
Unable to detach his mind from his discomfort, the younger man began to while away the hours by running through the events of his life to date. Such was the darkness of his mood that he saw only the troubles, the suffering, the unreciprocated kindness, the painful injustices to which he had been subject, and all the good works he had performed which had apparently come to nothing.
As they sat, the cold of the cave intensified for winter was setting in, and the elderly sannyasi began to cough. Eventually it became apparent that he was close to death.
“Can you not see?” The sannyasi asked again.
“Can YOU not see the futility of sitting here?” The younger man protested.
“My son, look harder and with time you will see that nothing is futile. The cruel thing, the unfair thing may not be prevented. Yet still you are, and all is well.”
With those words, the old man closed the eyes, which even in the cave had reflected the sparkle of the stars, and died. His younger companion wept then, as much because he recognized that the old man had sat in the dank darkness for the sake of his disciple’s illumination as for the loss of his beloved teacher.
But even as the tears flowed from his eyes, he felt the life assert itself within him. An unaccountable peace and warmth came upon him, and as he gazed into the darkness he saw an all-enveloping love.