Aditya sat down on the bench at the bus-stop with a sigh of relief. It was his daily routine to take a bus to the office. He was early today, which meant he had some time to think peacefully.
He had been under a lot of stress lately. His boss was making unreasonable demands and his family wanted him to return home early. The lines of worry on his forehead had become a permanent feature.
As he closed his eyes, and reclined against the backrest, he heard a deep voice.
“Who are you?”
Frustrated at having been pulled out of his much needed state of rest, he opened his angry eyes.
He found in front of himself a feeble old man, dressed as a monk. Out of respect for the priest, he shifted to a side and gave him a place to sit.
The hermit, occupying the place, asked again, “Who are you?”
Aditya wanted to tell him that it was none of his business, but nonetheless replied gently, “I am Aditya. Who are you?”
The monk shook his head.
“I didn’t ask your name. I asked who you are.”
Confused, the young man thought for a moment and answered: “I am an engineer by profession.”
The stranger spoke immediately. “I didn’t ask you what you do. I asked who you are.”
Frustrated, Aditya replied irritably. “I am a human!”
He wished to add “Would you get lost?”, but refrained out of fear of angering a holy man.
The monk smiled, and asked. “How then are you any different from the billions of other humans?”
Aditya looked around. The bus would arrive in another fifteen minutes. He was no longer in a mood to wait idle, so he decided to carry on the discussion.
“For one, I look different from any other human. Also, I am extremely competitive, more-so than anyone. That sets me apart.”
The holy-man laughed. “As a kid you looked extremely different. Likewise on your deathbed. Your body changes, but you change not. As a child you knew no competition, you gained it with time. As you mature into old age, you might lose it again. But you shall still be you. I ask again, who are you?”
Aditya went into deep contemplation. This man certainly had a point!
“I am the ego. The feeling of ‘I’.” He answered after much thought.
“Everyone has this feeling of ‘I ness’. Yet you say you are unique. I ask again, how are you any different? Who are you?”
Aditya had no answer.
After an eerily long silence, the man spoke again. “Why are you here?”
“I am waiting for a bus.”
The monk shook his head. “I meant: ‘why are you here in this world?’.”
“Well… Because I was born?” He answered, confused.
“You tell me how this body came to be. I ask why you are here? What is the purpose of your living? The body changed, but you remained. What makes you think its creation or dissolution can affect you? You say you were born. Everything which is born comes from something. Your body came from matter, but where did you come from?”
Aditya nodded. The sage was making him think about notions he had never before considered.
“You were never born, and never will you die. So I ask you, why are you here? Why do you exist in this mortal body? What is the purpose of this illusionary temporary existence?”
“I don’t know.” Aditya replied, humbled. It was the first time he had spoken these words in years.
The ascetic smiled, and got up from his seat. He turned, and started to walk away.
Aditya called after him. “Sir! But you didn’t tell me, who are you?”
The hermit turned and spoke softly. “The day you find the answer to my questions, you shall know.” With that he merged into the crowd.
The bus screeched to a halt in front of the awe-struck young man. He got up, and walked in. He made this journey everyday, but today he was starting a new journey.
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