After listening to his employee’s talk the old man figured, that is what I would do when I retire. I will go to Tibet and ask the Dalai Lama.
Two months later he retired, he sold the business, his house, his car, and he sold every thing he owned. He gave all the money to his children keeping only what he needed for his journey.
Then he started to walk; he walked all the way to New York from Chicago where he boarded a boat to France. He walked the length of the boat every day so he could say he walked across the ocean to France. From France he walked through Germany, Poland, Belarus and Russia to the Ural Mountains. He crossed the mountains to the West Siberian Plain and on to the Mongolian Mountains. From the mountains of Mongolia he crossed the Gobi Desert to China and Tibet.
Four years had passed since the old man retired and started his journey and now he was in a village at the base of the mountain with the temple on top. In the village he was greeted by a monk that asked him if he was there to see the Dalai Lama. The old man said yes, and the monk told him to see the Dalai Lama you must sign this list, live in the village and serve the temple until it is your turn to see the Dalai Lama. The old man took a deep breath saying I’ve come this far and signed the list. For the next five years the old man lived in the village and toiled in the fields, planting crops in the spring and harvesting the crops in the fall waiting for his turn to see the Dalai Lama.
One day the monk that greeted the old man in the village came to him to tell him it was time for him to ascend to the temple. The old man bowed to the monk and dutifully followed the monk to the base of the mountain, it was finally his time to ask his question. At the base of the mountain the monk pointed to steps that led up the mountain. The monk told the old man, follow the steps to the temple and speak to the monk at the top. The old man took a deep breath saying to him self; "Well I’ve come this far." And up the stairs he went.
One step at a time the old man now in his seventies climbed the steps towards the top, every once in a while a small stream that followed the steps gathered in a pool giving the old man a chance to drink from the cold mountain runoff. It took him the rest of the day to reach the top of the steps and the temple. There at the top was a monk patiently waiting for the old man, barely able to stand he took the old man by the arm and guided him into the temple. The monk took the old man to a room with a bead, food on a table and a fresh clean robe. He slid aside a door with a warm bath and instructed the old man to eat, bathe and sleep, he would begin his training in the morning. The old man was too tired and hungry to argue so he did as the monk bid him to do.
In the morning the monk that greeted him at the top of the steps, came to his room and instructed him not to speak during his time in the temple unless spoken to and only then to answer a question or to ask a question when necessary. He was to do chores and meditate every day until the Dalai Lama asked him his question. Unlike the village it is not first come first served here, there are sixteen that have come to ask a question and the Dalai Lama picks the one that may ask a question at random and then he must leave the temple. He was instructed on how to greet the Dalai Lama and then the two of them went to the dining hall to eat the morning meal in silence.
Each day was the same as the next, everyone would rise in the morning, go to the dining hall for the morning meal, eat, do their daily chores, eat the mid day meal and greet the Dalai Lama in the great hall. The sixteen men would stand in a row four deep and bow to the Dalai Lama and wait for the Dalai Lama to choose one to ask him a question. The man would ask him his question, the Dalai Lama would answer his question and he would bow and leave the temple. The Dalai Lama would dismiss the rest of the men and they would meditate on the events of the afternoon. The evening meal would be eaten then they would do the evening chores and go to bed for the night. All done in silence and one monk would greet the new man at the top of the steps.
The old man watched as man after man was asked there questions and patently waited his turn to ask the Dalai Lama his question. He noticed that some of the questions were not very good and he began to contemplate his question. He would make sure his question was a real good question the perfect way to ask his question and it wasn’t long and he had it.
A year passed and the Dalai Lama still didn’t ask him his question when one day The Dalai Lama asked the man next to him what was his question. The man bowed to the Dalai Lama and spoke, "I didn’t come to ask a question, I came to learn and serve." The Dalai Lama bowed to the man and gestured to the man to stand at his side.
Since the Dalai Lama hadn’t answered a question he looked at the old man and asked him what is your question? The old man was delighted after ten long years he was finally going to get the answer to his question. He gave away all his riches and every thing he spent his life working for, he spent four years crossing the world to get here, five years he spent labouring in the village below the temple and one-year meditating and waiting in the temple. He bowed to the Dalai Lama and asked, "What is the meaning of life?"
The Dalai Lama paused for a moment, the old man could see he was concentrating the Dalai Lama looked at the old man and said, "Forty-two."
The old man was dumfounded, everything, he did everything, he gave away everything for forty-two. The old man was outraged, his face turned red and he yelled, "Forty-two, I did all this for forty-two." He yelled at the Dalai Lama and stormed out of the temple. Not watching his step he stormed towards the steps to the village below the temple stumbled and fell to his death on the mountainside.
The Dalai Lama calmly watched the old man as he fell to his doom and dismissed the remaining fourteen men to meditate on what they have seen. Then he told his new disciple to come with him. The Dalai Lama returned to his chambers and prepared to meditate handing his ornate garb to the disciple. Curious the disciple asked the Dalai Lama why he deceived the old man.
The Dalai Lama looked at the disciple and said, "I did not deceive the old man. If the old bugger can’t figure out, forty-two is the alphanumerical sum of, To be.
What makes you think he can figure out "To be?"
"The Dalai Lama is wise." Said the disciple he then bowed to the Dalai Lama leaving the chambers and that evening two more men ascended to the temple.
Josehf Lloyd Murchison