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The Best Way to Learn

Dr Alex Tang

 

The reputation of Abba Ah Beng as a spiritual master with great wisdom, skilled knowledge and mastery of the Bible spread far and wide. One day, there came to the gates of Sow-lin monastery, a young man who has been searching for truth, happiness, joy, and the right way of living. After many years of travelling, many diverse experiences, and many hardships, he realised that he had not found any answers and that he needed a teacher. So he came to Abba Ah Beng. On seeing Abba Ah Beng, the young man immediately he went to him, threw himself at his feet, and said, “Please, Master, be my teacher.”

“Well, you can join my disciples in their classes,” Abba Ah Beng began but was rudely interrupted by the young man. “No! I do not want to be taught in class like your disciples. I want to be taught by you directly.” “I am sorry then because you will have to seek your guidance elsewhere,” Abba Ah Beng dismissed the young man.

The young man is still determined to be taught by Abba Ah Beng so he knelt just outside the front gate of the monastery, refusing to move until Abba Ah Beng acceded to his request. It was during the winter season and the disciples from the monastery helped the young man by passing him bowls of hot porridge and occasionally digging him out of the snow. After about 10 days the young man fainted and there was a commotion as the excited disciples wondered whether they should do CPR and volunteered disciple Ah Lian to do the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

With Abba Ah Beng’s permission, the young man was brought into the monastery and nursed back to health. One day, Abba Ah Beng sent for him. “So are you still keen to learn from me?” asked Abba Ah Beng stroking the few strands of salt and pepper coloured hairs that make up his beard. “Yes, I do” said the young man. Abba Ah Beng thought deep and long. Then he looked up at the young man with a gleam in his eyes.

“I normally teach and spiritually form my disciples following my monastery’s curriculum for Christlikeness. However I will make an exception in your case and make you my personal assistant. You will make appointments for me on my PDA which I do not know how to use and remind me of them.”

Happily the young man accepted the post, thinking that the great spiritual master will give him extra teaching in between his busy schedule.

Wherever Abba Ah Beng went, his new personal assistant went with him. But although the Abba spoke to many people who came to him for advice and counsel, he never spoke to his personal assistant. And he continued to teach his disciples but the young man was not invited to the teaching sessions. After three years, the young man was so disappointed and frustrated that he could no longer restrain himself. One day he burst out in anger, saying to Abba Ah Beng: “I have sacrificed everything, given away all I had, and followed you. Why haven’t you taught me?” Abba Ah Beng looked at the young man with great compassion and said: “Don’t you understand that I have been teaching you every moment you have been with me? When you bring me a cup of tea, don’t I drink it? When you clean my desk, don’t I say: ‘Thank you very much’?”

The young man could not grasp what his Abba was saying and became very confused. Then suddenly Abba Ah Beng shouted at the top of his voice: “When you see, you see it direct.” At that moment the young man whose name is Augustine realised that he had received the best teaching in the monastery.

 

| 20 October 2010 |

               

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