Theophane the Monk was an artmonk
Next week I’m heading to the Vedanta Society’s Olema retreat center in Marin County. One thing I’m definitely bringing is Theophane the Monk‘s Tales of a Magic Monastery.
Here’s one of his tales:
There’s a monk there who wears a red robe. I was wondering why, but it was my little son who dared to ask him why. “Mister, why are you wearing that red dress?”
“Sit down, sonny, and I’ll tell you. When I was your age I used to dream about becoming a monk. I knew that monks usually wore white robes, but in my dreams I was usually wearinggreen. When I got older I got my parents’ blessing and went off to become a monk. But I went searching all around for a monastery where the monks wore green. No one had ever heard of such a place, but I thought surely there was some place that corresponded to my dream
“Ah, the beautiful monasteries I saw! The holiness! I saw monks who lived on a very high mountain. God spoke to them face to face. They never came down from their mountaintop monastery but would extend their hands in blessing over all the peoples of the earth.
“There was a monastery in the jungle. Every evening when the monks sang vespers the wild animals would come around in a great circle and sway with the rhythm. Lions, tigers, crocodiles—I saw them with my own eyes.
“I would tell you more, but your father would be weary. For many years I traveled from monastery to monastery. I would stay a few months, a few years, but always I moved on—in search of the monastery of my dreams. After many years I met an old sailor who knew of a monastery where the monks wore green. It was on a small island in the middle of the ocean, he said. The monks seemed all to be children. They would play and sing and laugh all day long. And they wore green—he was sure they wore green. He offered to take me there. But a great fear came over me. To become a child again? Do I really want that? I told him I’d need some time to think about it. Did I really want that? Two weeks later he sailed off without me.
“By this time, since I had spent so many years living in many monasteries, people thought of me as a monk, and I guess I thought of myself as a monk. But when that sailor sailed off without me, I knew what I was made of. I settled down here and asked the abbott to give me a red robe. It distinguishes me from the real monks, and it catches the eye of children.”