The monk in the saffron robes waited for the morning alms. He waited but he knew they would not come. The people in the castle before him did not need anything. Yet still he waited. He observed the iron gates. He knew gates similar to these once, in another life. He wondered, having been on the the other side of the gates, who was the prisoner and who was the free man. For certainly , if he remembered how a prison worked ,the prisoner was on the inside the walls and the free man was on the outside.
In his other life, he was a captain of industry. He owned many cars. He owned many factories. He owned many people. If he was not a god in this past life he was certainly nearly one. People suffered or prospered with the words that came out of his mouth. He could make a man, or leave him shattered. He could put food on his table, or leave him to starve. People revered him, or feared him, more the latter than the former. That was his past life. A life that he would try to forget. A life that would haunt him late into the night while all the other people were asleep.
The monk did not wipe the sweat going down his forehead. He did not notice that his feet ached. He did not notice that his stomach yearned for food as the minutes of the morning ticked away never to be be recaptured. This were not suffering. He had suffered before so he knew. He took joy in his new found life. He had not known what joy was until he realized he had not had any. He had not known he was alive until he was dead.
The woman who had been seated next to him in the car so many years ago pleaded with him to slow down. She was scared. He was going too quickly. He had too much to drink. He ignored her. Who was she to tell him what to do. He told her that. She pleaded with him if he loved her just to slow down. He reminded her, as he often did when the quarreled , that she was nothing without him. It was the last thing he would say to her. Moments later she would be dead and he would find out in fact it was he who was nothing without her. His country was awed by his money. They were wooed by his good looks. They were frightened by his presence. Fate however is not a person and could not posses any feelings. His body was alive, but his soul was dead. The newspapers would trumpet his survival, Heaven would pronounce its sentence. He walked away from the court house with the sympathy of the judge, but he had been punished in a way far worse the death. He would never again know love.
The monk would come to the rows of castles last when he gathered alms. Their doors remained shut. Their guards of dogs, men and steel unaware of his daily mission. Sometimes when the markets were unsettled, or a marriage needed to be arranged, or a love one was sick, they would come out. But when they did not need him they would wait inside. The poor people, the ones whom he got alms from early so they could go to the factories to work or open their shops, gave with their hearts. They were generous beyond their means. Perhaps they had no money but they were far richer than the people in the castles.
After the accident he sold his company. His lawyers and friends all thought he had gone mad. He sold his home. And his family knew he had gone mad. He did not want anything because the one thing he wanted in this world he could never have. The woman who was supposed to be his wife was gone forever. All the trinkets he had acquired from foreign lands could not bring her back. The finest food that he ate no longer had any taste because his companion of so many years was the reason they the food tasted so delicious. He sold his plane, he sold his stocks. And he walked to the temple near his home. The temple his mother had taken him to so many times when he was young. He asked for the senior monk and gave him two suitcases of money and walked away. His life, The one he had spent so much time building. The one he missed weddings, and funerals, and family for, was now over.
He spent many years at the temple in a province so far from his own. People had forgotten his name. The newspapers that once followed his every move had forgotten he ever existed. In this small village he was only known as the sad monk. He would gather morning alms. Pray. Then sit under a tree hoping heaven could not see him under the branches. Then he would pray again. Then he would lay in his bed until the next day started. Sometimes he slept. Usually he could not. One day as he sat under a tree a young girl approached him. She asked if he was the sad monk. He nodded yes. She asked why he was so sad. He said because he did not know how to be happy. She said , with the kind of wisdom that children lose when they get older, if he would forget how to be sad the only thing left would be happy. He had the finest education that money could buy, but this child with no education, was wiser then he had ever been.
The monk waited for the morning alms. He knew they would never come. The people who lived in the castle were people of society in a society with no people. He walked slowly from the castle that was once his own. He stopped in front of the next castle. He waited for morning alms. He knew they would never come.