The Tenth Man.
many of you many have heard before. When I first
heard this story, it provided a kind of ‘Aha’ moment
for me. I didn’t understand the whole import of the
story at the time, and yet I knew that it was meaningful,
and it stayed with me.
The Tenth Man
In ancient times in India, young boys were often sent
at the age of twelve to study with a guru, either at
the guru’s house if the guru was married, or in the
guru’s hermitage if he was a renunciate. The boy would
stay with his guru for twelve years, studying the Vedas
and the Upanishads, and at age 24 he would return to
his home to be married.
This story concerns ten boys who were studying at
their guru’s home. The boys decided that they would
like to return to their village for a festival and
to visit their families. The guru was a bit concerned
about their going as he wasn’t able to go take them
himself at that time.
One of the boys spoke up, and said that he would
take responsibility for the group and make sure
that they all arrived safely.
The guru reluctantly agreed to let them go, and
they started on their journey. On the way, they
came to a swiftly flowing river which they had to cross.
The boy who was leading the group advised them all to
hold hands and carefully ford the river. They did so,
but the current was so swift that the boys were quickly
separated, and some appeared to be swept away downstream.
As they scrambled up the banks on the other side of the river, dripping wet and
frightened from their experience, the leader
advised them all to line up, so that he could count them
and make sure that they all had crossed safely.
The boy counted, “One, two, three, four, five, six,
seven, eight, nine.” Nine! He had them line up differently.
The count was again nine. The leader counted them over
and over again, and every time all that he came up with
was nine. Nine! Nine! One boy had not made it across!
One boy was lost! One boy had drowned! One boy was dead!
The boys all ran around in a panic, beating the bushes,
looking, screaming and crying for the tenth boy.
And the leader? He was banging his head on a tree.
“What will my teacher say? What will the boy’s parents say?
I took responsibility, and now one of us has drowned.”
A wise old man, sitting nearby, watched the whole drama
as it unfolded. He understood what had happened, and
he approached the leader of the group. The boy poured
out his story of woe, weeping in utter despair, “I took responsibility for the
group, and now one of us is lost
One of us has drowned in the river.”
The wise old man said to the boy, “Don’t worry.
I can help you. I know where the tenth boy is.”
The leader was a bit skeptical, but also desperate,
and the old man did appear to be calm and sane,
so he said, “Yes, please do help us if you can.”
The old man said, “Okay, all of you line up,
and I will count you.”
The leader thought, “Well, this is a waste of time
because I’ve counted over and over again.” Still they
did as the old man requested because he did seem sane
and wise, and they were all in total despair.
The boys lined up, and the boy who had been leading the
group took the last place in the line.
The old man counted. “One, two, three, four, five, six,
seven, eight, nine,” And then arriving at the leader,
the old man said, “And you are the tenth man.”
The leader was elated! “I am the tenth man!”
He had neglected to count himself, and now he saw directly
and without a shadow of a doubt, that indeed, he was
the tenth man.
The tenth man hadn’t drowned in the river, and he wasn’t lost.
All the while the tenth man was there, as the leader himself,
but had gone unnoticed, overlooked and uncounted.
This is our situation in samsara. We ‘count’ everything
we see and perceive, and we forget to ‘count’ ourselves.
We even will ‘search’ for our self in all kinds of places,
situations and experiences. And yet we are always and ever
‘right here.’ Our very own self which is totally 100%
present and available, standing as ‘I am,’ but overlooked
in all of our activities.
And so we panic, and are traumatized, searching for
what has never been lost.