Each morning he would go behind his curtain, and reappear in the evening quite exhausted, with drops of perspiration on his forehead. But it was a matter of great perplexity, mystery and wonder that he did not carry any brush or paints with him when he disappeared behind the curtain. Neither were there ever any traces of color on his hands, nor any spots of paint on his clothes, and he carried no brush in his hands. The emperor began to wonder whether he was crazy. How could there be any competition under such circumstances? But it was necessary to wait for six months to fulfill the condition.
With great impatience everyone waited for the six months to pass. The news about the pictures of the Iranian painter reached far and wide, and along with this news, the word also spread about his crazy competitor who had entered the competition without any paints. You can’t imagine how eagerly the people waited for those six months to pass.
After six months the emperor went to see the pictures. He was spellbound on seeing the pictures of the Iranian painter. He had seen many paintings in his life, but he had never seen paintings of such unsparing skill. Then he requested the Chinese painter to show his work. He removed the curtain covering his wall. On seeing it the emperor was very much puzzled. It was the same picture. The Chinese painter had created the same picture as the Iranian, but with one additional feature: it was not painted on the wall, but emerged from twenty feet deep inside the wall. The emperor asked, “How have you done this? What is this magic?”
He replied, “I have done no magic. But I am an expert in making mirrors, so I turned the wall into a mirror by rubbing it continuously for six months. The picture which you are looking at is that of the Iranian painter’s on the opposite wall. I simply turned the wall into a mirror.”
He won the competition, because shimmering in the mirror the Iranian painting became infinitely more profound than its original. The Iranian painting acquired great depth when seen in the mirror. It became a three-dimensional picture. The Iranian one was two-dimensional; it had no depth. The Chinese painter’s picture gained a three-dimensional depth. The emperor asked him, “Why did you not tell us in the beginning that you only know how to make mirrors?”
The Chinese painter replied, “I am not a painter, I am a sadhu, a monk.”
The emperor said, “This becomes more and more interesting. First you didn’t tell us that you make mirrors, and now you tell us you are a sadhu. Why should a sadhu make mirrors?”
The Chinese painter replied, “I have been making only mirrors since I made myself a mirror and saw the world in it. Just as I turned this wall into a clean mirror by continuously rubbing and cleaning it, so I made myself a mirror, pure as crystal, by keeping constant watch on myself. And such a beautiful image of this world as I have seen within was never seen without. The day on which I saw and realized the world within me, I became like a mirror. All the animate and inanimate objects of the world have penetrated within me.”