A monk of the desert once was met by an Epicurean philosopher who wanted to tempt the monk to stop his ascetic endeavors and return to a life of luxury.
“You’re missing out,” the philosopher explained to the monk. “I think it is a sound philosopher who told us that we should eat, drink and be merry, for indeed, tomorrow we will die.”
“Why are you so enthralled with the things of the earth, if you will lose them tomorrow?” the monk replied. “How can you be merry with them, if you know in advance, they will not satisfy you and will leave you in the end?”
“Because we do not know what tomorrow will bring, we have only today. Enjoy the day. Enjoy what you have.”
“But what is it that we have?”
“You tell me,” the philosopher replied.
“Nothing! That’s what we have today, and no matter how much we try to hold onto it, tomorrow we will have nothing as well. “
“What do you mean, I have nothing?” the philosopher questioned.
“Is the world and the things in it in flux?”
“You know they are,” the philosopher affirmed. “That’s exactly the reason why we can’t rely upon tomorrow, but enjoy what we have today!”
“But if it is in flux, does that not say the world is becoming what it is, instead of being what it is?”
“And if we say it is becoming, is that not the same thing as saying it is not being? For if it were being would it not be what it is yesterday, today, and tomorrow? Would it not change?”
“Yes, that seems logical enough.”
“Then, what is not being, cannot be said to be, and if is said not to be, then it is not. What do we call that which is not? Nothing. Not a thing. And so whatever we have in the world, as it is in flux, is not some being which we possess. When we have it, we have nothing. For if is not today, and tomorrow it will not be, then today and tomorrow we will have the same, nothing. No matter how much we try to hold onto it, it will be nothing today and nothing tomorrow. And if we don’t hold onto it, we still have nothing. We seek after nothing when there is being itself to look for, being which itself which will provide us the being which we seek. With the nothing of the world we have, whatever pleasure we get from it is impermanent at best; the pleasure does not last because it is false, based upon a false belief that we have come to possess some element of being. But we do not. What we seek to hold onto will slip through our fingers, no matter how tight we try to hold onto it, and if we are attached to it, the worse it will be for us, because we will feel deprived and suffer in accordance to the attachment we hold. It is better to accept the world is in flux, that today and tomorrow, it offers us nothing, and enjoy it without attachment, no matter the form in which that nothing takes. That is why I am here with nothing, for it is the realization that is I have all that I can have in this nothing of a world. Not only is it all I can have, it can’t be taken away. I will lose nothing tomorrow, because there is nothing for me to lose. But you, what do you have? An illusion which is less than nothing, and it is for that reason I pity you. You seek that which is less than nothing while you berate me. You will suffer, while I will be able to find as much peace and contentment today as I to tomorrow.”
The Epicurean, sensing he had lost the debate, left in silence. The monk rejoiced, seeing that at last, the philosopher spoke wisely in his exit.
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