Once upon a time, there was a young monk renowned for his holiness who was living in the wilderness. It was said that the cause of this monk’s holiness was that everything could be his teacher: that he could learn as well from the moon at night or rocks on the ground as from prayer and the holy scriptures, that he could sit for days being taught by a speck of dust twirling lazily around him.
And so the demons got together and concocted a clever plan. They said, “If this monk has agreed to let a speck of dust teach him, then certainly he will let one of us teach him as well.”
They sent their wiliest demon to the young monk. And the demon appeared before him and said, “I have heard that you are renowned for your ability to let everything be your teacher, will you not let me teach you as well?”
The young monk, seeing who the demon was, stopped and considered. He said, “Yes, I will allow you to teach me.”
And so, for forty days and forty eights, he sat at the foot of this demon, who expounded, in its most seductive fashion, a diabolically clever discourse filled with evil and lies. And as the days wore on, much to the demon’s delight, its teaching seemed to be working. It noticed the monk gazing in rapt attention at its face while it spoke. It noticed the long periods of silence after its lessons, where the monk seemed to be pondering its words deeply. It noticed the monk called it “Rabbi” respectfully before every question he asked.
At the end of forty days, the demon knew that its work had been completed; it was time for the monk to become its disciple. It said, “Now you know the truth of this world, come with me and I will ensure that there is no more powerful person on all this planet than you.”
But the monk sadly shook his head, “Teacher, you know that I cannot do that.”
The demon was very confused and said, “But why not? Have you not listened to my lessons? Did I not expound to you in the most convincing and convicting ways about the true nature of this life?”
The monk said, “Yes, and I thank you for that. You see, when you came, I knew that every word out of your mouth would be a lie.
So, whenever I heard your teaching and thought, ‘This Demon speaks sense’, I had to learn the foolishness in your apparent wisdom
Whenever I received your words and thought ‘That is indeed good!’, I had to discern where your advice spoke evil.
Whenever I sat at your feet and my heart sang ‘Yes!’, I had to learn how my heart was still a liar.
My rabbi, you have advanced me further in holiness than all of these others ever have. So no, I will not go with you; but will you stay with me? For you are the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
And so, the demon, realizing that it had failed, vanished, never to return again.