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Chapter 12: The Golden Mean

Buddhist monks eat one time a day. Shron would eat only once every two days. He defeated all the monks. He defeated even Gautam Buddha. When they were traveling, every monk would travel on the road, but Shron would always go by the side of the road. In the thorns, the rough stones, his feet would be bleeding. And people started respecting him immensely. Even the other monks thought they were not so great in renunciation as Shron was. Even a few started thinking that they should be followers of Shron rather than Buddha.

After six months, Shron became black - he had been a beautiful man - because he was always standing naked in the hot sun. He destroyed his body by not eating, he destroyed his feet by walking over rough stones, thorns, bushes when there was a road available.

Within six months he was badly sick, and Gautam Buddha himself went to see him. It was a rare occasion because it was not reported that Gautam Buddha had ever gone to see any other sick monk before or after.

The news went like wildfire amongst all the monks that certainly Shron was a great ascetic, otherwise Buddha would not have gone to see him just because he was sick.

But Buddha had gone for some other purpose. He did not ask Shron about his sickness. He said to him, “I have heard that when you were a king you used to play the sitar and you were a master artist. There was not anyone else in the whole country comparable to you - is that right?”

Shron said, “Yes. I love to play the sitar, and I had devoted my whole life to the sitar. I had come to such a mastery that there was no competitor to me.”

Buddha said, “I have come to ask a few questions. One: when the wires of the sitar are too tight, will it give birth to great music?”

Shron said, “To great music? It will not give birth to any music. Too tight wires will simply break.”

Buddha said, “And if the wires are too loose, will it give great music?”

Shron said, “You are asking strange questions. When the wires are too loose they don’t have tension enough to create music.”

Then Buddha said, “What is the position in which the wires should be so that great music can be produced?”

And Shron said, “They have to be in exactly the middle position where you can say they are not loose and they are not tight. And it is one of the secrets of the art to adjust the wires to the exact middle.”

Buddha said, “I don’t have anything more to ask you. I have just come to remind you that life is also like playing on the sitar: if you are too loose you are lost, if you are too tight you are lost. Each extreme is a death, and to find the exact middle is the whole art. You were too loose living in utter luxury. Now you are too tight living in an unnecessarily ascetic way. Come into the middle, listen to me, for the wise have always followed the middle path, they are never at the extremes. Only fools are at the extremes.”

So whatever the situation, the enlightened person will always be found exactly balanced in the middle.

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