a buddhist story

South-East Turkey, September 2017

A buddhist story

Four days ago I left the Turkish city of Van, headed north, hoping to make my way up to Iran, followed by Armenia. After 49 kilometers on the road, a discussion with a local man radically changed my hopes. We had spent a wonderful evening together, I had slept in his mosque, and we were now casually discussing over breakfast.

– Actually friend, what’s your route?
– I’m headed towards Dogubeyazit, through Muradiye. I should get there in 4 days. Then I turn right and make it to Iran
– Nope, impossible. That road is closed. It used to be safe, but it’s now a war zone. Even local transports take the long way around, adding hundreds of kilometers.
– Seriously? What can I do?
– I’m sorry, but your best bet is to turn back exactly where you came from. You have to do 40 km back towards Van, and then turn left. You will then get into Iran through a smaller road that is still open. I wouldn’t call it safe but it’s definitely better. Please do it. You are my friend. I don’t want you to die!

So I did those 40 km back, I turned left, and now I’m actually headed towards Iran. This means I spent 2 days of walking one way and 2 days walking back, with apparently no result. It sounds like an utter failure, but it was actually quite meditative. Have you heard the buddhist story of a monk asking his diciple to build a stone house on a hill? After endless effort, when the house is finally complete, he tells his disciple “I like your work. The house is very fine… but to tell you the truth, I’d like you to take it apart, and bring it to that hill over there. I just realized it would be nicer over there.”

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