from Rediscovering Life by Anthony De Mello

Sometimes a story says more than a whole day’s lecture because it speaks to the depths within us. I want to tell you one of my favorite stories that speaks to the depth of me. It has to do with true happiness.

It is a story of a villager in India who happens upon a sannyasi. A sannyasi is the wandering mendicant, who having attained enlightenment, understands that the whole world is his home and the sky is his roof, and God is his father and God will look after him, so he moves from place to place the way you and I would move from one room of our home to another.

“I cannot believe this,” the villager say to the sannyasi when their paths cross And the sannyasi says, “What is it you cannot believe?”

“Well,” the villager says. “I had a dream about you last night. I dreamed that the Lord Vishnu said to me, ‘Tomorrow morning, you will leave the village around 11 o’clock, and you’ll run into this wandering sannyasi.’ And here, I’ve met you.”

“What else did the Lord Vishnu say to you?” asked the sannyasi.

And the villager replies, “He said to me, ‘If the man gives you a precious stone he has, you will be the richest man in the whole world.’ Would you give me the stone?”

The sannyasi tells the villager to wait a minute and he rummages through his knapsack and retrieves an object.

“Would this be the stone you’re talking about?” the sannyasi asked handing it to the villager. The villager could not believe his eyes. It was the largest diamond in the world. He holds the diamond in his hands and he asks,

“Could I have this?” the villager asked.

“Of course,” the sannyasi said. “Take it, I found it near the river and you’re welcome to it.”

The villager took the diamond and he went to sit under a tree on the outskirts of the village., where he clutches the diamond to his heart and experiences great joy.

This is the way our joy feels, isn’t it, the day we get something we really want? Do you ever stop to ask how long it lasts? You got the girl you wanted, right? You got the boy you wanted? You got that car? You got the degree. You were the top of your class. How long does the joy last? How many seconds? How many minutes?

Eventually you get tired of it, don’t you? Then you are off looking for something else, aren’t you?   Understanding this is more valuable than studying the scriptures—because  what  good is it to you to study the scriptures, if you’ve not understood this? If you’ve not understood what it means to live, and to be free, and to be spiritual?

So, the villager sat under a tree all day clutching his diamond and he became immersed in thought, and toward evening he went down to the river where the sannyasi was meditating, and gave him back the diamond.

“Could you do me one more favor?” he asked.

“What is it?” said the sannyasi.

“Could you give me the inner riches that makes it possible for you to so easily give away this thing that would have made you the richest man in the world.”