Frank Raisinwing never thought fate would lead him traveling backwards in time in search of a missing Buddhist monk.
Being a man of science, when it came to fate and freewill, Frank was always on the side of freewill. Frank felt fate was an ignorant person's way of attempting to control something they lacked control over. In fact, he often illustrated this point to his students by quoting Groucho Marx, “If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” But Frank’s life was about to go somewhere unexpected. It all began when he walked into a bar and crossed paths with a rabbi, a priest, and a Buddhist monk.
The religious threesome each ordered a Scotch on the rocks, well except for the monk who orders a cup of tea, since the Buddha preached that alcohol clouds the mind. No one likes to see a monk with an overcast brain.. No one likes to see a monk with an overcast brain. The bartender takes a long look at the three clergymen, the bearded rabbi dressed in a dark suit, the rosy-cheeked priest in his traditional white collar, and the red-robed Buddhist monk with his clean-shaven head.
"Is this supposed to be some sort of joke?" said the bartender.
The clergymen looked at one another oblivious to the meaning of the bartender's remark.
After an awkward moment, the bartender says, "Alright, I'll pay for the drink of whoever can tell me which I should be most concerned with when I die, the past, the present, or the future."
The rabbi says, "The past because it is the way that you have lived your life, according to our traditions, that you will be judged on. If you have lived in accordance with the laws that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, you should be welcome when you arrive at the gates of heaven."
The bartender thinks for a moment. "What about if I did not live up to the law? Will I go to hell?"
The rabbi strokes his beard for a moment and replies, "We don't have hell."
"Well, that's definitely a plus," the bartender says. Then it's the priest's turn.
The priest says, "It's the future. As long as you are willing to repent for all your sins and accept Jesus as your savior at some point in the future, you will be welcomed by St. Peter when you arrive at the gates of heaven."
The bartender thinks for a moment. "So I could sin all I want now, as long as I repent before I die?"
The priest loosens his collar and looks up at the ceiling, either formulating a response or hoping for divine intervention. "Well, you see my son, it doesn't work like that. You must sincerely repent in order to be pardoned for your sins. If you wish to seek salvation, you must make Jesus' teachings part of your life. The sooner, the better in order to be forgiven and reach heaven. Oh and one other thing… we do have hell."
Then it's the Buddhist monk's turn. "It's the present moment. The past is gone. You cannot affect it. The future is a mystery. You have no way to predict it. The only thing you have an influence over is the present moment."
The bartender looks confused. "The present moment? Isn't that here and then gone? What about heaven?"
The monk stares into the eyes of the bartender for a moment, as if to look into his soul. Then he closed his eyes while he formulated his answer. "You see my friend, you have the world at your feet, but you are afraid you might step in it. You see, if you don't commit to being aware of the present, you will miss the little moments of your life that one day you'll look back on as the good old days. There is no heaven or hell, only the here and now."
Bing! Bing! Bing! We have a winner! The bartender smiles at the rabbi and the priest like the three had all been part of an inside joke, or the monk had just pulled off some elaborate prank on Jesus, Moses and the big bartender in the sky.
"I love that answer," said the bartender. "Pour that monk a second cup of tea."