Two brothers went to meet Sensei. One of them was sad, while the other was aggressive.
The aggressive brother went into the meditation hall and said, “Sensei, I want to make my brother happy”. Just as Sensei began to say something, the aggressive brother added, “Sensei, I will give you anything you want, if you can do this”. The sad brother tried to stop him from anything further, but it was too late. No one had ever offered Sensei a bribe.
Sensei gently looked at both of the brothers and began to laugh. His laughter got louder and stronger until the Monastery starting trembling. This was Sensei’s famous Mountain Laugh. He laughed like this ever so seldom.
After quieting down, Sensei looked at the aggressive brother and said, “So be it. Outside the Monastery you will notice three mountain peaks. My laugh is now an immortal echo there. Go there, capture my laughter and bring it back to me. Only then your wish will be fulfilled”.
The twin brothers set out on this seemingly impossible journey.
It took them one long year to reach the three peaks. The mountains looked much farther than they seemed, and climbing them was something the brothers had never done. Once they reached the top, just as Sensei had said, they heard his Laugh resonating as an echo amidst the three mountain peaks.
The brothers had no idea how to capture echoes, and quietly settled in a mountain cave, waiting for some inspiration. The sad brother began to quietly meditate and prayed to the mountains for help. Winter began to set in and this became a trying period for the two. All they could do was to wait and hope.
After four months of intense prayers, the sad brother heard a mountain wind that whistled at him. The wind explained that the laughing echo could be collected as dewdrops from the fir trees that surrounded the mountains. The wind also cautioned that no more than one dewdrop could be collected from each tree; else the echo would not be heard.
For the next few months the brothers waited for summer to fully set in and for the dewdrops to start falling. When the time was right and as the dew just began to fall, they suddenly realized they did not know how to collect dewdrops at all!
The sad brother meditated again and just as summer was beginning to end, a bird sang a song to him explaining that the cones which fell at the bottom of the fir trees could be made to ‘drink’ one dewdrop at a time. Once full, the cone would be a vessel for the collected dewdrops.
It took a lot of patience, effort and perseverance to carry a single fir cone from tree to tree; then stand under each one and perfectly catch that single dewdrop into the cone. Summer was nearly over, but their cone was only half full.
The sad brother had become less gloomy by now and implored his brother to abandon this exercise and return home, but the aggressive brother decided to wait another year in the mountains to complete what they had started. The mountains and the waiting had subdued his aggression; but he was still quite stubborn.
The next summer, the brothers started early and patiently filled up a fir cone with dewdrops, one drop at a time. It was a long and punishing process. But the brothers persisted. Just as the last dewdrop fell into the cone, it magically closed and sealed itself. The cone changed colors and began to look delicious. A few minutes later it developed a kind of warmth. It now looked like a fruit meant for the Gods.
The brothers were excited and anxiously put their ear to the cone to hear Sensei’s laughter. Instead they heard the sound of a bee.
The sad brother had by now become perceptive of how things worked in the mountains. He sat quietly in the cave and prayed for a bee.
Three months later, a bee came into the cave and whispered in his ear that the mountain stream would lead them to a saint who had the power to unlock the laughter in the cone. But by now, winter had set in again and the mountain stream had stopped flowing. The brothers would have to wait a few months more for spring to set in.
They waited. Counting their days and being patient.
Finally, the next year, in the bloom of spring, the twin brothers thanked the mountains, the trees, the bees, the wind; bid goodbye to their cave and set out to follow the stream as it slowly meandered its way down from the mountain towards the plains.
The aggressive brother had become considerably calm by now and the sad brother actually smiled occasionally.
Over the next four months, the brothers followed this crooked stream. It took them all across the mountains, the plains, the villages, boulders and valleys, as it slowly sloped downwards. Sometimes, it seemed that the stream brought them back to places they had already crossed, but they kept on following it.
And then when they were just about ready to give up, the brothers saw that the stream magically ended in a well right in front of them!
A moment later, the brothers realized that the well belonged to the Monastery where they had met Sensei. Sensei was the saint they had been directed to. They had come full circle!
With apprehension, the brothers climbed the steps of the Monastery and requested to meet Sensei. They crossed a sun calendar and noted that this was the same day and month they had visited the Monastery three years ago.
The brothers entered Sensei’s meeting room and slightly bowed. The sad brother silently handed the precious, magical and delicious looking cone to Sensei that he had safely kept in a red satin pouch.
Sensei opened the pouch, giggled and said, “Nice! A fresh fir cone from the mountains! It’s been a while since I’ve eaten one”. And before giving the brothers a chance to say anything, he popped the cone in his mouth and quietly ate it.
The sad brother looked at his aggressive brother who had a shattered look on his face. Sad brother suddenly smiled at him and his smile started getting bigger and bigger. Then he giggled a bit and finally started laughing uncontrollably. He laughed and laughed! Seeing him laugh for the first time, his brother began to weep. The brothers looked at each other with a happiness they had never experienced before.
Sensei did not seem surprised. He waited till the brothers regained their composure. Then he blessed them and wished them farewell.
The brothers bowed and left the Monastery.
A while later, both brothers noticed that there was an unknown object in the pockets of their coats.
When they reached within their pockets, they were taken aback to find a red satin pouch with a fir cone for each of them. They instantly understood that this was Sensei’s parting gift to them.
Quietly, and gently the brothers put their respective cones to their ears and listened.
The now happy brother heard Sensei’s voice that said, “No one in the world can give you happiness other than yourself. Just look within yourself and be happy”.
The now calm brother too heard the voice of Sensei that said, “Aggression leads to sadness of people around you. Be peaceful and make people happy”.
The brothers looked at each other, and set forth as changed men with knowledge that was nothing less than magical.