Again the abbot asked: “How high is up?” and the young man replied: “As high as man’s mind may imagine it to be.” But the abbot gave him a look of disdain and said: “Meditate for another month.” And the young man did.
When the month had passed he met with the abbot and his answer was: “Up is as high as existence wills it to be.” Again he was rejected and returned to his meditation. The next month when asked the same question he said not a word, but raised one cold, stiff finger and pointed up. And again he was sent away. Each month he became more and more convinced that no answer could ever satisfy the abbot, and the young man’s frustration increased. The next time he saw the abbot and the question was asked, his voice was taut with suppressed anger: “This is foolishness! There is no answer!” And again he was sent away, this time with more mockery than usual, for the abbot knew the young man was close to the truth.
As he departed from the presence of the abbot, the young man vowed to make a last attempt to discover the answer. He ceased eating even the few lichens and maintained a vigil atop the roof that was raised over the mountains. When the long month finally ended the other monks removed him from the roof and tried to thaw him out so that he could speak with the abbot. Then the question was asked again: “How high is up?”
The young man looked blank for a second, then suddenly he screamed and jumped violently up and down several times, and before anyone could stop him, he leaped across the room and kicked the abbot so hard that he was thrown to the floor. The monks rushed to the aid of the abbot and lifted him up. As soon as he had recovered, he smiled and said to the young man: “You have got it!”
Then the young man quickly gathered his few possessions and departed from the monastery. By the time he had returned home he was filled with happiness, for he had found truth and achieved enlightenment.
Or perhaps the reason he felt so good was because he was warm. The ascetic practices give you a kind of ill, morbid joy. The more you go into them, the more you feel you are becoming a conqueror, you are conquering something. The more the body says “don’t destroy me,” the more you become adamant. You create a rift within yourself, between you and your body, and a great battle starts.
And the body is natural. The body simply asks for that which is healthy, natural, only for that which existence allows and wants to happen. The body has no unnatural desires; all its needs are natural needs, healthy needs. And the more you starve the body, the more the body prays and asks and haunts you. But you can make it a challenge: you can think that the body is trying to seduce you, that the body is in the hands of the enemy, in the hands of the devil. And you can go on fighting more and more, with more strength, with more violence, with more aggression. You go on fighting with the body; a moment comes when you can dull the body.