The Story of Shakya-Moni
By Farhan Ahmed
Shakya and Moni were brothers, twins conceived at the same time, sharing the same womb, connected to the same life-force. Their destinies had been entwined from the moment of their birth. Yet, despite the congruence of their cosmic karma, their lives unfolded in perfectly divergent paths, in diametrically opposite tangents. So much so that it made their kinship almost unrecognizable to those who knew them.
Shakya was the ideal child, a paragon of virtue, and the embodiment of studiousness, diligence and integrity. He excelled at everything he did. A favourite among his teachers, and a darling to his aunts and uncles, he was known to be humble, polite, kind, and helpful. He had no enemies and many friends, all of whom saw him as a reliable confidant they could turn to at any time. By the time he was 16, Shakya had all academic avenues open to him to explore any field of study he wanted, winning scholarships and Ivy League admissions. He was also frequently seen speaking at youth conferences and volunteering at orphanages.
Moni was a troubled child, an enigma woven from chaos, and the embodiment of ignorance, laziness and mediocrity. He struggled at everything he did. A pest in the classroom, and a nuisance to his aunts and uncles, he was known to be arrogant, impolite, selfish and destructive. He had many enemies and no friends, all of whom would gladly knock his teeth out if they got a chance. By the time he was 16, Moni had burned all respectable avenues for himself, failed out of school and joined a neighborhood gang. He was frequently seen shoplifting, pickpocketing and smoking crack in dingy alleyways.
Shakya's early 20s were spent roaming the academic hallways of the top universities of the world. He had dedicated himself to the research and study of the classics, learning Sanskrit, Latin, Art History and Eastern Philosophy. At the same time, he was training to be a classical pianist, and was already catching the attention of some of the top talent scouts from Julliard and Berklee College of Music. Yet, despite all the accolades a life of learning had to offer, none of it satisfied his deepest desire. Because Shakya's soul whispered to him of an immense fullness at the core of his being, a bliss that he thought could only be experienced by diving into the light, through a conscious choice to embark on a committed spiritual quest.
Moni's early 20s were spent roaming the cold corridors of the law, going in and out of various prisons. He had dedicated himself to climbing the ranks of a notorious crime syndicate, getting involved in everything from grand theft auto to bank robberies. At the same time, he was fighting in a violent turf war against other rival gangs, and had already caught the attention of top international law enforcement agencies including InterPol and the FBI. Yet, despite all the excitement a life of crime had to offer, none of it assuaged his deepest despair. Because Moni's soul whispered to him of an immense emptiness at the core of his being, an anguish that he thought could only be ended by diving completely into darkness, in an unconscious hope for the sweet release of death.
At 30 Shakya traveled far from home to northern Nepal, exploring the southern ranges of the serene mountains of the Himalayas. He was looking to find himself, searching for a deeper meaning of life. As a result of his search, he came upon an idyllic ashram tucked away at the base of the pristine Parvati Valley, which became his harbor for quiet meditation. He spent the next 3 years there, the last 6 months of which he retreated into a solitary meditation cell, where he spent his days and nights cultivating stillness of the mind, body and soul. He sat in his immaculate robe, fragrant with the perfumes of mountain flowers, bathed from head to toe in vibrations that danced to the rhythm of the universe. He was quietly letting go of all that constituted his egoic identity - his education, his professional accolades, his wealth, his pride, his friendships, his dreams, his desires, his name, and the very last remnants of his entire humanity.
At 30 Moni traveled far from home to southern China, hiding in the northern ranges of the lonely mountains of the Himalayas. He was looking to lose himself, searching for a hideout to evade the long arm of the law. Yet, despite his search, he ended up in a clandestine high security prison at the base of the isolated Sakura Valley, which became his enclosure for a tortuous sentence. He spent the next 3 years there, the last 6 months of which he was banished into solitary confinement, where he spent his days and nights in tempestuous suffering of the mind, body and soul. He sat there naked, reeking of the putrid smell of his own fluids, covered from head to toe in pain, pain and only pain. He was brutally stripped bare of all that constituted his egoic identity - his miseducation, his criminal exploits, his poverty, his shame, his enmities, his nightmares, his despair, his name, and the very last remnants of his entire humanity.
It was then that the clock struck midnight on their 33rd birthday, when both Shakya and Moni experienced the same epiphany. They realized that what they had known themselves to be, until now, was only an idea; an image that was ephemeral, fleeting and impermanent. They awakened to the truth that the primal essence of their being was that of a radiant consciousness, whose true nature was infinite, eternal and absolute. They understood that the depth of their being was incorruptible. No worldly pleasures could add anything to it, and no worldly suffering could take anything from it. And in that moment, although they remained in this world, they were no longer of it. They became silent witnesses to the ebb and flow of existence.
The path towards inner healing, marked by that fleeting glimpse of the eternal truth, takes different forms for different people. The task, therefore, is to shed all preconceived notions of what the journey should look like, accept reality as it is, and surrender to the moment as it manifests. The grace of bliss and the misery of suffering are equal allies on this path. Because truth does not discriminate. It belongs to the virtuous and the sinner alike. It liberates all, monks and delinquents, without prejudice. It arrives when it must, and not a moment sooner or later. As such, all are equally poised to receive it.