During my last trip to the Holy Mountain, I visited the Monastery of Simonopetra. A majestic monastery, filled with the azure blue of the sky. There I met a charming novice monk, from China. His presence truly surprised me. An Orthodox cassock (rasson) on a Chinese person. It gave me a strange sensation, as I had never seen one at close range before - only in Missionary photographs. A bearer of such a vast cultural tradition, and yet espousing Christianity? Both myself and my companions gave way to our curiosity to ask him.
-Brother, how is it that you, a Chinese with such a vast cultural tradition came to espouse the Orthodox Christian monastic life? Weren't you a Buddhist?
-Yes, I certainly was a Buddhist.
-Then what won you over to Christianity?
-Yes, yes, father ... hahahaha... (and he laughed, as it is customary for the Chinese to break into a laugh after every two or three words that they say)... In Buddhism, my Father, you are very, very much alone. There is no God. All the struggle is up to you. You are alone with yourself - with your ego. You are absolutely alone on that course... So much loneliness, father... but here, you have an assistant, a supporter, a travelling companion on the road to God. You have someone who loves you and cares about you. He cares about you, even when you don't perceive it. You talk to him; you tell him what you feel, what you would hope for... there is a relationship...
It was a truly remarkable response and a significant experience. Nevertheless, I came to perceive this response - this stance - more fully those days. A very heavy cold landed me in bed. None of the doctors could find something wrong with me; the overall status of my health was perfectly normal - well, at least the doctors couldn't see anything. And yet, the pains were unbearable and no pain-killer whatsoever could alleviate them. I tried three different pain-killers, but the pain wouldn't subside.
At the same time, news reached me that my father's brother - whose name I bear - has advanced stage cancer in his vocal chords and throat. That meant laryngectomy and whatever else may arise thereafter. You see, years of consuming alcohol and smoking...generally speaking, a bad lifestyle, lacking in quality.
That is when you come to feel what the young, former Buddhist and now Christian monk on the Holy Mountain had said - that you have a need for God to exist, Whom you can talk to. To sense, to feel that someone else besides yourself is listening to you.
I don't know if it is right or wrong...I do know however, that it is a deep-seated need of man. And it is certified by life itself. Even Buddhists - who have a non-deistic religion - have created numerous deities, even if only in a dream-like language and cosmoses. They still feel the need to report to someone, to something - someone beyond, someone far away from them, albeit in a dream-like way. [....].
Then the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian - with that sensitive and melancholy nature of his - came to mind, when he said: "When you aren't well or don't feel well: talk. Talk, even if it is to the air.."