The Monk and the General – a journey into the mystic

The Story of the Monk and the General

Andrew Olivier© – may be reproduced with acknowledgement

The army general is disemboweling all the monks. His reputation spread far and wide as a cruel cruel man. He comes into this village and he says to his adjutant. Tell me what’s happening and the adjutant replies, “All the people are frightened of you and they are bowing down. All the monks in the monastery have fled to the hills but for one monk.”

He was outraged at this one monk. He gets up and goes to the monastery and pushes open the doors. As he walks into the courtyard there’s the monk standing in the middle of the courtyard. He walks up to him and he says, “Don’t you know who I am? I could run my sword through your belly without blinking an eye.”

“And don’t you know who I am? I could have your sword go through my belly without blinking an eye.”

The general bowed deeply and left the monk in peace.1

This story of passive resistance was shared with me by Alistair MacIntosh at a a recent workshop on Spiritual Activism.  It is based on the writing of Ram Dass.  I understood the message immediately.  I had such an experience and I told him about, the first time I had shared that story, ever. It took me back in time.  Thirty-eight years to be exact.

I was a young man then.  A lieutenant, and we were doing a sweep through enemy territory. Our advanced reconnaissance units had been observing enemy activity for some months and we were there to clear out the area.

Our orders were to raze the huts wherever there was evidence of hostile activity.  Collect prisoners, the young men especially.  We were maybe a hundred and twenty troops in that operation.  I remember that afternoon so clearly. It was hot. I recall turning and looking behind me.  We were strung out over the hills, advancing in a line abreast.   Two gunships swept noisily past,  low in the sky, silhouetted against a backdrop of thick, heavy black smoke, lazily spiraling up into the deep blue sky.  Smoke from burning compounds, and an occasional sharp stutter of gun fire.

I entered the compound on a rise; some five large huts surrounded by a stick and thorn ring fence. The men automatically fanned out to search it, coming back maybe ten minutes later with a stack of enemy propaganda.  I was just about to give the order to burn the compound, when a woman appeared. I was not sure how the troops missed her, but she walked steadily and assuredly towards me, weapons now trained on her.  I can see her clearly, etched in my mind’s eye and while I have buried this story deep in the passage of time, her image remains vivid.

She was tall and proud. Maybe in her thirties or early forties.  I don’t remember her features now but I do recall she was unflinching.  Completely unafraid or disguising it well.  She was wrapped in a red, brown cloth, the colour of the earth.  She wore amulets around her neck and on her arms, and a traditional head scarf.  I remember she wore ankle rings.

Alone she faced maybe fifteen armed, enemy soldiers. Our eyes locked.  I remember saying something to her –  to reassure she was not in danger.  But she gave no hint of wanting to communicate.  I was a trespasser in her home; the ground of her ancestors. She was mother of this earth and she was willing us to leave.  She was not hostile, just determined. She was the embodiment of her place and I knew if I burned her home, I would need to kill her as well. She and this place were as one.

I acknowledged that and the fact I could never kill her.

I felt both humbled and in awe of her courage.  I ordered my men to destroy the propaganda and we left, with some grumbling from them. I turned to her as we gracelessly exited.  I said sorry.  She stood, glaring at us, her hands on her hips and her head to one side.

She was the monk, I, the general and yes, she knew I had the power to run her through with my sword without blinking my eye. Decades later, in retrospect, that woman may have re-emerged as the young spiritual leader in my book BECause, a passionate advocate of passive resistance.

Reference: 1.

F*cked we are… so just carry on

This blog post looks at some of the author’s travel observations and outlines the actions he has taken in response.

Having traveled extensively over many years what struck me most was the following;

#1. People. We are a virulent virus across habitable space.

#2.  Waste. It is pervasive. Our legacy is plastic. Not the magnificence of Petra, or Antioch or Caesarea, but instead fields of plastic and rubbish.

#3.  Desires / Aspirations. I like talking to people, asking what are your aims/goals?  Inevitably responses are about Maslow’s fundamentals.  Makes sense. For those who are in the red (struggling to put food on table, roof over head, clean water, security and safety) it is impossible to be green, (unlike those in the top 8% who produce 90% of emissions), but behind the need lurks a strong desire for… stuff, more stuff, = success.

Sadly, this ‘more’, is, hey “good for business”.

Business becomes agile, leaner, embracing new technology, shedding jobs.  Profits rise and that helps the 1% get even richer.  Market capitalism is now saying business needs a vision beyond mere returns – it needs to have a social purpose – see NAB Chair’s latest revelations   (if you can, but you have to pay to read it). Even top-of-the-rung are now disenchanted with corporate and shareholder greed.

Muhammad Yunus, is a Nobel Peace Prize visionary and well worth listening to.  I have just read his new book – Three Zeros, which is inspiring. He is coming soon to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Read more at Grameen Australia. and attend his sessions.   His vision of everyone being a entrepreneur (god help us) has helped, but even if  social business’ were to rule the future economy; it doesn’t matter, f*cked we are.

Why?  Simple answer, too many, wanting too much and driven to instant gratification!

I saw a sign recently at a war memorial  in Malta; ‘we gave our today for your tomorrow’ They did,  but what are we doing to secure the future for tomorrow?

We talk about sustainability, give great speeches, focus on corporate values, customer centricity  and building ‘ecosystems’, while universities add new course on sustainability.  We now have social businesses. Great, part of our evolution you may think.

Truth is, we continue as we are; maybe now more aware and caring, but unable to influence the big ticket items because they are too big and too complex.  The basic unchanging bottom line is we need our economies to grow; so buy, make, sell.  Maybe our sign  will be ‘we’ve had ours, so you have none tomorrow

That is why I wrote BECause... we need a revolution.  If we want to save our planet and ourselves we need real change, not a few cats tinkering with peripheries. Bec in my book represents real change.  And do you think it will be peaceful?

but if you decide to play a small part, what would it be?

I can’t talk for you, but I started small in 2009 and now attempt to do the following;

  1. Ride, run, walk, public transport
  2. Share my accommodation, services
  3. Buy stuff that lasts
  4. Fix, mend, reuse, recycle.
  6. Don’t vote for morons (difficult to find candidates with current climate at home)
  7. Use solar and gas power – (No wind sadly where I live)
  8. I support our community bank (we developed our own community bank at our  eco-village, without recourse to the banks).
  9. We are planing a local currency so as to remove ourselves from the traditional banking system and its greed.
  10. Offset my travel by planting and growing my own food.
  11. I avoid global brands, supporting local business and community.
  12. I support a cause and try and do services that help the common good.

So what will be your legacy? Take action.