“Tell me one thing… why are you so ugly?” – This question hit me hard while I was standing there having an innocent cup of coffee in the dining hall of the monastery. One of the monks who was standing close to me started this very odd conversation with me. He looked at me with a broad smile, waiting for my answer. At first I was stunned, my mind running like crazy looking for possible answers. There was some shame and some anger burning upwards in my chest. Who does this monk-guy think he is, talking to me like that? Why would anyone in their right mind say something as aggressive and stupid as that?
After an awfully long and awkward moment I finally got myself together and gave him an answer. “You know, I think it’s because of my past life. I must have made some negative Karma and now I am ugly like that. That might be the reason”. The monk looked at me, chewing at a cookie. There was nothing but this chewing sound crushing through the silence of the dining hall.
He swallowed and then said: “Tobi, why are you talking so much? Why did you not just answer by saying ‘because you are so beautiful!'”
He was looking at me, biting off another piece of his cookie as if this was the most normal and logical conversation in this entire world. This felt outrageous – I couldn’t believe this monk! First he suggested that I am ugly, then he found fault in me talking too much? …What the hell?… My thoughts were spinning faster with every second. By now the anger must have reached my face as the smile of this monk just broadened a bit more. So here’s me trying to look peaceful and untouched by the conversation, barely able to keep my cool: “Well, you were asking me a question – isn’t it right to give you an answer? I mean I…”
What’s Going on Here?
Suddenly the monk turned away from me and slowly left the room. Then, at the door, he dropped the third bomb: “Tobi you aren’t ready yet. One day you will understand! It’s obviously not the right time.”
“This was absolutely insane,” I thought. Now I stood there looking like an idiot. I had absolutely no idea why the monk came and “attacked” me in this way. It all seemed wrong. The monk seemed to be unfriendly, unwise and mean. The dining hall seemed to be the wrong place, my feelings were all awkward. Why didn’t I give a shorter, more clever answer? Why did I not say something wise? I could have said something clever for sure… right?!
Only much later did I actually understand this little play of wisdom and saw that I received three gifts at that time. So here I am sharing these three gifts with you:
Why are you so ugly? – The gift of offense
If someone is offering you the gift of offense there’s a chance for you to accept it with silent kindness. Notice that on one hand there is the offense. It usually comes together with feeling offended on the other hand. Imagine there was an offense but nothing within you that feels offended – would there still be the pain of feeling offended within you? Every offense is a chance to give a kind space to the feeling of being offended and allow it to vanish in your spaciousness. The more you contract and tense up internally, the bigger the pain. The bigger the pain, the more painful your response. The more painful your response, the more painful the situation becomes. If you are offering kind space to your own painful feelings they dissolve – every offense is therefore a chance to practice expanding your inner space. This is true forgiveness and it always leads to peace.
Why are you talking so much? – The gift of disdain
Having someone looking down upon you is a great chance to grow in true strength. I am not at all talking about building a stronger EGO, trying to put oneself above others, trying to be better than the rest etc… This has everything to do with letting go of that very thing that hurts so badly. True strength happens when you become center-less. Nothing can collide with your “sense of self”. You can not be a target and you can’t be hit as this idea of a “me in the center of everything else that happens around me” is an illusion crafted by the moving mind. So every time you feel that someone looks down upon “you” then ask yourself what exactly it is the other person disdains. Is it really “you” or is it their perception of what you said earlier? Can we ever really look down upon another person or are we actually only able to look down upon our own conditioned perception of this world?
You aren’t ready yet – The gift of disparagement
Feeling worthless and insecure about ourselves usually remains hidden within the depths of our mind. Once somebody comes and disparages us in any form we will directly see just how insecure and worthless we feel about ourselves. This is a gift as it helps you to see the reality of yourself. What do we really know? How much of our knowledge is actually based on wisdom and experience? How much of our knowledge comes from other sources and how much comes from observing our own mind and body? This feeling of insecurity and worthlessness is good news for anyone that practices meditation. It’s another feeling to let go of, another sign that we are holding onto an imaginary concrete idea of a “self” that’s supposed to know it all and be perfect in any sense. The painful feeling here is proof that there’s more stuff to be released. The highest knowledge that offers most security is the knowledge that follows release.