Oliver discovered a mountain cliff, one thousand feet above the base. Jump from it, and the chance of survival is zero. Consecutive catastrophes — failure in starting up a business, girlfriend’s betrayal and so on — drove this young man into despair. Life without hope can only lead to chaos. To commit suicide seemed to be the only option for him to get rid of all the messes.
The moment Oliver spread his arms, imaging to sail down like a bird, some animal sound distracted his attention. He turned back and his blue eyes met another pair of blue eyes. It was a baby wolf, crying in pain and helplessness. By his knowledge of dogs, Oliver believed the pup was about four weeks old. Approaching the pup, Oliver noticed a big fresh wound on his left leg. “Poor little creature, what has happened to you?” Oliver crouched and reached out his arms. As soon as Oliver touched the pup’s head, he stopped crying. Oliver picked him up slowly.
Following his instinct and the babble in the forest, Oliver found a clear brook and started to clean the pup’s wound. Then he bandaged it with his bandanna. Afterwards he carried the pup across the brook to a boulder and sat down against it. He put the pup on his lap and rubbed his back gently. Oliver’s innate compassion superseded his ego of taking his own life. All that was in his mind at that moment was to take care of the pup.
The pup received a name — Luke. It was the name of Oliver’s best friend who died when they were in college. To feed both, Oliver trained himself to be a fruit and nut gatherer. Hunter was excluded, as Oliver was vegan. These two types of food were their sole source of nutrition and energy: apple, avocado, blackberry, …; walnut, hazelnut, chestnut, …. Thanks to the vegetation diversity produced by the vertical mountainous terrain, Oliver and Luke always had something to eat all year around. If there was a hard shell, Oliver would crack it and mash the nut with a heavy stone. If a fruit was too big, Oliver would cut it smaller with a shard. Once or twice, he studied his stone tools, wondering if they were from Paleolithic ancestors or from some distant galaxy.
With Oliver’s care, Luke’s wound gradually healed. When he turned two months old, he was totally recovered, without any trace of being seriously injured. Now he was a healthy and happy little wolf that ran fast. Carried in Oliver’s arms or following him behind, Luke was always with Oliver to gather food.
Over time, Oliver forgot the flavors and textures of the food he had loved back in the “civilization.” To him, wild fruits and nuts were perfect in flavor now because they tasted like nature — pure and genuine. Luke was never picky about food. They would eat whatever they found. Therefore Luke became a vegan naturally. Instead of having health issues, he was strong and energetic. Who says carnivores must live on meat? Inflexibility lies only in the human mind, never in an animal’s mind nor its biological structure.
The thought of ending his own life was abandoned or postponed. To raise Luke was Oliver’s sole mission. Every day, his life was centered on searching for food and caring for Luke. The rest of the time, excluding sleeping time, he and Luke simply idled together, against the background of the symphony of animals during the day and the ever migrating stars at night.
Luke turned twelve months old.
“He is a big boy now. He should go back to where he belongs,” Oliver murmured.
He decided to send Luke back to the animal realm. Grudging to do so, he believed that was the best for Luke.
“An animal should be an animal and it is not right to hold Luke, even though he is such a congenial companion,” Oliver thought.
On that day, Luke followed Oliver, reluctant and dejected. Oliver noticed that Luke was aware of what was going to happen.
“Incredible! How could a wolf perceive that? Can he read my mind?”
Nevertheless, he tried hard to ignore the feelings of both. Having arrived at the lowland, Oliver patted Luke on the back, saying, “Go get your own territory.”
Luke replied with a bark, “No!”
“This is not supposed to be your life, Luke. Be a brave and free wolf!”
Still Luke did not move forward. Instead, he jumped and twisted his body, whining. After several trials of push, Oliver acted sternly.
“Get out of here! I do not want to see you anymore!”
Oliver’s tone sounded so resolute that Luke saw no hope of staying. He resigned himself and turned away, looking backward at the departing Oliver.
Having returned to his shelter, Oliver could not hold back his tears anymore. His entire body trembled with sob. Now he realized it was a great mistake to let Luke go. He could by no means afford it.
“How reckless and cruel I was!” Guilt and regret tortured him.
Oliver failed to consider the fact that Luke had no training in hunting, and his physical makeup did not allow easy access to fruits and nuts.
“How could Luke survive the harsh wildness? Even if his predatory ability is not extinguished, would he like to kill a life to feed himself?”
Mountainous wind blew through and carried away his tears, and he felt colder on his face. While Oliver was in agony, a squirrel came from nowhere with an acorn in the mouth. It gazed at Oliver for a while, with its head tilted, and then put the acorn under Oliver’s feet and hopped away.
Oliver became increasingly worried. Luke needed him, as a child needed a parent. Or maybe the reverse was truer: he needed Luke, as it was Luke that had made his life meaningful and peaceful.
“Come back, Luke. Please!”
For an entire week, Oliver stayed in his shelter, unable to feel the peace as before. Then at the dusk, he felt something warm laid on his lap. He opened his eyes. It was Luke! No, it was not an illusion; Luke was truly back! In tears, Oliver embraced Luke around the neck, and Luke licked Oliver’s arm in response, as though he meant, “Don’t worry. I have been all right.” He did look all right, as was reflected from his bright eyes, but his ribs were prominent.
“You and I, are never, gonna separate,” Oliver swore.
Most of the time thereafter, they were together. If not, Oliver knew Luke was not far away and could come back quickly upon summoning. There were many beasts around, but Oliver was never attacked. Besides Luke’s presence, it must be that, never did Oliver fear them nor have the thought of hurting them. Impulsively, Oliver would do things such as making wreaths with various leaves and flowers, one for Luke and one for himself, or imitating a wolf howl, which was followed by a real one.
Encounters with strangers happened sporadically. Luke was always by Oliver’s side but never threatening. They were nearby villagers picking mushrooms, stray explorers on adventures, geologists doing fieldworks or whatever. Curiosity, sympathy, admiration, …. Depending on individual life experiences, they would have different understandings and feelings of this hermit. Regardless of who they were and how they thought of him, Oliver would use the same way to communicate: to keep silent with a Namaste gesture. His language ability had become dormant, and awakening it was only theoretical. Besides, words would be superfluous and misleading. All he did was to wish them good luck silently. Then they would leave with inspiration.
When Oliver’s initial clothes were worn out, he just left himself naked. Embarrassment was detached. Muscularity and masculinity, which he had used to take pride in and strive to maintain, lost their significance.
Oliver’s idleness gradually evolved into intense meditation. Free of the cacophonous mundanity, Oliver shed his attachments progressively, until his desires ceased to arise and his ego shattered — he reached Samadhi. Thereafter he often dwelled in that state for one month at a stretch. Without the distortion of the mind, with the exposure to earth and sky, he resumed his intrinsic ability in communicating with the cosmos directly. Suffering became a past and would never be experienced again. Emotions gave way to compassion, the compassion for those who were still restrained by worldly desires and pursuits.
Feeding Luke was not a problem, because Luke had adapted to Oliver’s life rhythm. Whenever Oliver entered Samadhi, Luke entered a similar state; as soon as Oliver exited Samadhi, Luke woke up.
Two decades elapsed in tranquility. Then one day, out of meditation, Oliver found Luke was farther away from him than usual. Instinct informed him that something had happened to Luke. Oliver called Luke’s name. No response. He approached Luke and touched him. His instinct was confirmed. Luke left, forever.
No tears, no celebration. What Oliver expressed was compliment and gratitude. He was convinced that Luke had gone to a wonderful realm. Luke did not end up a normal wolf, but Oliver knew he had been destined to be more than a wolf. It was Luke that had pulled him out of self-destruction, enabled him to experience the greatness of giving, and helped him see the identity between animals and mankind. Above all, it was Luke that had made his enlightenment possible.
Luke’s departure rendered Oliver’s existence as a human meaningless. All that needed to be done had been done. There was nothing to regret. Without any hesitation, Oliver renounced his physical body and became One with emptiness.