A young martial artist kneeling before the Master Sensei in a ceremony to receive a hard-earned black belt. After years of relentless training, the student has finally reached a pinnacle of achievement in the discipline. “Before granting the belt, you must pass one more test,” says the Sensei.
“I am ready,” responds the student, expecting perhaps one final round of sparring.
“You must answer the essential question: What is the true meaning of the black belt?”
“The end of my journey,” says the student. “A well-deserved reward for all my hard work.”
The Sensei waits for more. Clearly, he is not satisfied. Finally, the Sensei speaks.
“You are not yet ready for the black belt. Return in one year.”
A year later, the student kneels again in front of the Sensei.
“What is the true meaning of the black belt?” asks the Sensei.
“A symbol of distinction and the highest achievement in our art,” says the student.
The Sensei says nothing for many minutes, waiting. Clearly, he is not satisfied. Finally, he speaks.
“You are still not ready for the black belt. Return in one year.”
A year later, the student kneels once again in front of the Sensei. And again the Sensei asks: “What is the true meaning of the black belt?”
“The black belt represents the beginning – the start of a never-ending journey of discipline, work, and the pursuit of an ever-higher standard,” says the student.
“Yes. You are now ready to receive the black belt and begin your work.”
– by Shuri Karate Dojo
I have heard about three Chinese mystics. Nobody knows their names. They were known only as the ‘Three Laughing Saints‘, because they never did anything else; they simply laughed. They moved from one town to another, laughing. They would stand in the market place and have a good belly laugh. The whole market-place would surround them. All the people would come, shops would close and customers would forget for what they had come. These three people were really beautiful — laughing and their bellies waving. And then it would become an infection and others would start laughing. Then the whole market-place would laugh.
They had changed the quality of the market. And if somebody would say, ‘Say some thing to us,’ they would say, ‘We have nothing to say. We simply laugh and change the quality.’ When just a few moments before, it was an ugly place where people were thinking only of money — hankering for money, greedy, money the only milieu around — suddenly these three mad people came and they laughed, and changed the quality of the whole market-place. Now nobody was a customer. Now they had forgotten that they had come to purchase and sell. Nobody bothered about greed. They were laughing and they w ere dancing around these three mad people. For a few seconds a new world opened.
They moved all over China, from place to place, from village to village, just helping people to laugh. Sad people, angry people, greedy people, jealous people: they all started laughing with them. And many felt the key — you can transform.
Then, in one village it happened that one of the three died. Village people gathered and they said, ‘Now there will be trouble. Now we have to see how they laugh. Their friend has died; they must weep.’ But when they came, the two were dancing, laughing and celebrating the death. The village people said, ‘Now this is too much. This is unmannerly. When a man is dead it is profane to laugh and dance.’ They said, ‘You don’t know what has happened! All three of us were always thinking of who was going to die first. This man has won; we are defeated. The whole life we laughed with him. How can we give him the last send off with anything else? — we have to laugh, we have to enjoy, we have to celebrate. This is the only farewell that is possible for the man who has laughed his whole life. And if we don’t laugh, he will laugh at us and he will think, “You fools! So you have fallen again into the trap?” We don’t see that he is dead. How can laughter die, how can life die?’
Laughter is eternal, life is eternal, celebration continues.
Actors change but the drama continues.
Waves change but the ocean continues.
You laugh, you change and somebody else laughs, but laughter continues.
You celebrate, somebody else celebrates, but celebration continues.
Existence is continuous, it is a container.
There is not a single moment’s gap in it. But the village people could not understand and they could not participate in the laughter this day.
Then the body was to be burned, and the village people said, ‘We will give him a bath as the ritual prescribes.’ But those two friends said, ‘No, our friend has said, “Don’t perform any ritual and don’t change my clothes and don’t give me a bath. You just put me as I am on the burning pyre.” So we have to follow his instructions.’
And then, suddenly, there was a great happening. When the body was put on the fire, that old man had played the last trick. He had hidden many fireworks under his clothes, and suddenly there was diwali! Then the whole village started laughing. These two mad friends were dancing, then the whole village started dancing. It was not a death, it was a new life.
No death is death, because every death opens a new door — it is a beginning. There is no end to life, there is always a new beginning, a resurrection.