Deschen Thurman was my teacher yesterday. He told the myth of The Spade Sage during our yoga class. It goes like this: In the mountains of the Himalayas there lived a very holy renunciate. He lived in a hut with only the most essential rudimentary belongings except….he had a beautiful spade. It was hand forged and the handle was made from the finest wood. The sage treasured his spade; he used it everyday and thought about it all the time. He hid it under his blanket when he was not using it to ensure it would not get stolen. One day it dawned on the sage that this spade was a source of much attachment. It was something of the world that distracted the holy man from his thoughts of God. The sage decided he must let go of the spade.
He carried the spade into the woods, wrapped in a piece of old fabric. He carried the spade with so much care and love; you might think he was carrying a loved one who had passed away. He went deep into the forest, selected a beautiful spot and buried the spade.
That afternoon the monk could not meditate. That night he could not sleep. He kept picturing his spade. In his mind he saw his vegetables withering on the vine. He saw himself in springtime unable to dig the soil. He saw his hands in the mud, digging holes with his fingers, bloody, and he saw himself hungry.
The sage couldn’t stand it, he went into the forest and retrieved the spade, he brought it back to his hut and oh then the real suffering began.
The sage immediately began to feel tortured by the failure he experienced. He suffered around his inability to let go of the spade. Every time he used it he felt disdain for the tool and disdain for himself. When he tried to meditate again he felt regret. After a few days the monk could not stand his attachment for the shovel that had turned into aversion.
The monk carried the spade to the river, this time he carried it as if it were a tool. He decided he would close his eyes, spin around three times and throw the spade into the raging water. He would toss it in a place where he could never find it.
One, two, three, and the sage spun around, eyes closed and then he threw…
He heard the splash, and then all of a sudden he began to laugh…the monk felt so free he was laughing and dancing and singing …he was awake, alive and full of joy.
Next the sage heard running and the drawing of bows…he heard feet marching in formation toward him. The monk stopped and he opened his eyes. With the smile still on his face the monk stood before the king of the kingdom, the ruler, the most powerful and the richest man ever alive.
“Why are you so happy? “ the king said to the monk. I have just come from conquering the lands in the north and the west; I have just come from doubling my land and my wealth. Our carriages are so full of treasure but I do not feel nearly as happy as you are?
The king looked at the holy man and realized the value of renunciation with joy. He saw the happiness the monk felt after really letting go. The king immediately abandoned his power, his wealth, his fame and went to live at the river with the monk and nothing but joy.