The Parable of the Sitting Man

The other day in the shower (always the best place for inspiration), I posed this question to myself: What is a simple but powerful example that demonstrates how one person can change the world? Stories are always excellent teaching tools, so I immediately thought of an idea and started writing it out in my head. Here is what I came up with:

The Parable of the Sitting Man

For thousands of years, the man did not move. He sat on the beach Indian style, meditating with his eyes closed, as the waves crashed along the shore. He sat far enough away from the shoreline as not to be splashed by the waves, but near enough to remain connected with the current of the sea.

For thousands of years, the man had not eaten a bite or drank a sip. It was not necessary, since he was fulfilled by the energy of the sun. He had not read a book, spoken a word, or ever gone out on a date. His place was on the beach, and he did not require anything else.

For thousands of years, the regimes of mankind rose and fell, billions of people came and went, technology evolved, and a never-ending stream of new thoughts, trends, and philosophies were dreamed up and manifested, yet the man remained as still as ever, connected with the universal pulse of nature.

One day, a boy ran up to the man, asking for his help. He said his little brother had fallen off the rocks into the ocean, and that he nor his brother knew how to swim. The man did not move a muscle. The boy yelled at the man and pulled on his arm as he pleaded for help, but still, the man did not respond.

Eventually, the boy gave up his plea for help, and ran out to the rocks, overlooking where his brother was still struggling. As he saw his brother’s head disappear under the water, the boy gasped and yelled his brother’s name, but when he heard no reply, he knew what he had to do.

The boy jumped into the water after his brother, and although the boy struggled with the waves at first, he quickly overcame the current, grabbing hold of his brother and dragging him to the shore. He helped resuscitate him, and soon enough the two brothers were able to make it back to their family’s home, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Ten years later, the boy, now a young man, was 18 years old, and one day he went down to the beach, curious if the sitting man was still there. To his surprise, he found the man sitting in the same spot that he’d seen him in all those years ago, as radiant and focused as ever.

The young man, unable to believe his eyes, went up to the sitting man, and even though the man did not react to his presence, the young man told him the story of his life, and how he saved his brother in the sea all those years ago.

While he had always resented the man for not helping him, he realized that by being forced to save his brother himself, he not only learned how to swim, but discovered true courage and responsibility within himself, and for this, he was grateful that the sitting man did not lend a helping hand all those years ago.

As the young man left, he felt sorry for the sitting man being alone all the time, so he promised he would tell others about him someday, and maybe then he wouldn’t be alone anymore.

Ten years later, the young man was now 28 years old, and a successful businessman. In an interview with a top media outlet, he shared his story about the sitting man, and how that experience changed his life. The interview went viral, and soon enough masses of people wanted to know who the sitting man was, and how they could find him.

Soon enough, journalists and other interested people from all over the world began visiting the sitting man, studying him, and some even meditating with him for days on end. Some were even so inspired by him that they created an entire charitable organization in his honor, and others even developed a new religion based on ideas inspired by him.

And yet, even after all this attention, the sitting man did not move.

More years passed, and as the influence of the sitting man’s philosophy grew, wars broke out all over the world, as those who opposed the sitting man wanted him dead, so the sitting man’s followers moved him into a secure temple off the beach.

The sitting man still did not react, and yet the people worshiped him as if he were a god. Hundreds of books inspired by his presence were written, documentaries were filmed, and he even won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Many years later, the young man who approached the sitting man all those years ago was now an old man at 93 years old, and he traveled all the way to the sitting man’s temple to pay him a visit.

Using a walker to make his way up to the sitting man’s throne, the old man slowly walked up the stairs until he finally stood before the sitting man, panting and exhausted. He filled the sitting man in on the rest of his life story since their last meeting, including the finest details of his memory, until he finally reached the present moment, and said:

“You know what, Sitting Man, I think you’ve had it right all along. All those years I spent wondering what to do with my life, and yet now, even at 93 years old, I still don’t have any more of a clue now than I did then. I guess all that’s left to do is sit down and think about it.”

And just as the old man sat down on the floor and closed his eyes, for the first time in thousands of years, the sitting man opened his eyes, smiled, stood up and stretched, and then disappeared in a flash of light. No one ever saw him leave, and no one had any idea where he went, but they all knew that he was gone, and never coming back.

And so the legend of the sitting man was passed on for centuries, from parent to child, teacher to student, and now I have shared it with you. What does it mean, exactly? Well, it’s hard to say, there are plenty of explanations, so why don’t you sit down and think about it?

2 thoughts on “The Parable of the Sitting Man

  1. Great story Skyler!
    It’s true, not to get involved with other people and their dramas is essential to understanding what is right for you and your own growth. Everyone is here to evolve for their spiritual progress – including that very realisation, that one must respect others and their own learning curves. The awareness that this world is an illusion and is a drama that must play itself out for the vast slumbering masses is essential for those who are going through this, including the sage who watches this – the test is; will he get involved and fall back into the illusion. It is however wrong, that they should expect participation in the form of hindering and deliberately creating obstacles for others who do not want to participate. Many people mistake this non-participation as being irresponsible, when in fact they cannot see that the drama is a ploy to keep them in this illusion and playing out the same stories over and over.
    The boy was correct on all accounts – he went to find help because he didn’t believe he could swim, but, his brother also could have died as well in the process while he went to find someone. The sage knew this and also realised that it was not his place to get involved and that the boy would either find a tragedy when he got back to his brother, or learn how to swim very quickly and thereby save his brother, which he did. This was valuable for him, apparently so valuable, that he came back to see the sage on more than one occasion and at the end of his life to figure out what was important. But, also, what is interesting is that people worshipped the very thing that they themselves were not willing to do. This is how the slumbering masses create religion.

    • Laurie,

      Excellent analysis – you nailed it. The question I hoped to bring to mind was this: Did the sage change the world, or did the world change as a result of him? He never actively tried to change anything, but by serving as an idol, he provided an example for others to aspire to. Some people saw him as a god, and put him on a pedestal (literally), while the boy with the drowning brother actually learned from him, eventually understanding the philosophy of dropping the ego, quieting the mind, and finding his own power within, rather than seeking external answers and acceptance, i.e. religion or other social dogma.

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