Hello everyone,

I sincerely hope you are as well as the laws of nature allow.

Today's letter will be a little different. More casual.

I want to share with you two stories, that I believe will shed light on some concepts in Buddhist philosophy.

These are both stories I have encountered elsewhere, neither of them are original to me.

The Ring

Once upon a time, there was a king whose emotions fluctuated like the stock market. When a good thing was on the horizon, his excitement would roar, and he would behave recklessly. When the bad was looming, he would fall into depression and anxiety, and inadvertently would drag the kingdom down with him. He acted compulsively, and his decisions affected all, the economies and livelihoods of his subjects would be at the mercy of his monkey mind.

He could see this was a problem. He knew it could not go on like this. There had to be an answer.

One day a travelling merchant appeared before the king with the promise of a solution. He presented to him a ring and claimed that this piece of jewellery had the power to make him happy when he was sad and sad when he was happy.

Intrigued, the king took the ring into his hands and carefully examined it. He smiled, finally seeing hope, a way out of his predicament. Confident in the merchant's words, he paid an exuberant amount for the ring, knowing that it would all be worth it.

The merchant pleased with this turn of events, thanked the king graciously and took his leave. They never saw him again.

The king's high court and all the rest of the Royal Palace admin were worried when they heard about what had transpired. After all, it was not like the king had a good track record.

Weeks went by, then rolled into months - and these in turn became years.

Nothing happened.

By this, I mean the good kind of nothing.

The king's emotional roller coaster ride had been brought to an end.

To everyone's amazement, the ring was every bit as efficacious as the king had believed it would be. The kingdom experienced a period of peace, stability and economic growth that was unprecedented. Incrementally, that is; step-by-step, the denizens of the nation - now free of perpetually having to clean up the king's messes - were able to work slowly towards the land becoming more and more like a utopia.

It seemed too good to be true - but it wasn't - the good times kept on rolling.

Decades of prosperity passed, and the king found himself a wise and elderly man beloved by all of his subjects.

With the torch passed down from one generation to another, most of his citizens were too young to remember the the tragedies of their king's past - and probably wouldn't believe it if you told them!

At the end of a long and fulfilling life, it was the king's time to pass. One morning he was found uncharacteristically resting on his throne, eyes closed, smiling. With a peaceful and radiant look that sparked joy in those that saw him - it wasn't until hours later that they realised he was no longer alive.

Word spread quickly throughout the land, and every single citizen went out of their way to attend the funeral service - no one was obliged, no one was coerced - but they all wanted to be there.

In the aftermath of it all, one of the older members of the king's high court - the court sorcerer - wondered about the sudden transformation of his ruler. How did it occur? Could it happen for future rulers?

He took the king's ring and examined it in his lab, running all sorts of tests on it to determine the nature of its magical powers, but no matter how hard he scrutinised it, he could not find any at all.

There wasn't a trace of magic in the round silver ornament.

Tired from his attempts, he took a good look at the ring in the light and noticed something subtle that he had missed.

He smiled to himself, before breaking into a deep and hearty laugh. So that was it.

Etched into the side of the ring was an inscription...

"This moment too, shall pass."

Do you like video games?

I have been playing one called The Messenger - it is quite cool.

It is a retro-style game where you play as a ninja tasked with delivering a scroll to the three wise sages who dwell atop the mountain. A small little feature, in each area you can access a shop to buy upgrades, one of the options is that you can ask the shopkeeper for a story.

These stories do not help you advance through the game at all; they are for the pure pleasure of the player.

The above story, which I've called The Ring is one of these stories.

In Buddhism, there is a framework called the three marks of existence: Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta

It is believed that the path out of suffering means seeing reality as it is, and that reality is marked with these three qualities.

  • Anicca is Pali for Impermanace.
  • Dukka is Unsatisfactoriness
  • Anatta is No Self

A person might ask how is it that understanding that things are impermanent leads to freedom from suffering?

The story of the ring answers this nicely.

The Real Blue Sky

There was once a man who had no desire for material possessions. He had travelled far and wide without a fixed destination, rejecting all the pleasures of this world at every pass - he had become revered as a truly wise being.

The traveller Kino had the opportunity to meet him in his older years in an abandoned hut, the man where the man was staying.

The man explained to the young traveller that honestly he wasn't particularly wise.

The truth was, as a youth, he was a criminal. During his prison sentence, the scientists of his home country conducted experiments on his brain. They had determined that the cause for strife in human beings was their "self-consciousness", so they studied the brain intending to pick it out as if it were a tumour.

They succeeded in their task - yet deemed it a failure.

The problem was, they did not know what they want.

What they really wanted was a person without self-consciousness, yet with the motivation to work. When they removed the man's self-consciousness, so too did his desire fade. Without his want for things, he was content to sit in the sun from dawn until dusk.

They banished him. It didn't bother him much though.

He didn't feel the need to do much with his life, so he wandered aimlessly from place to place. He only did the bare minimum he needed to sustain his body. Merely what he needed to eat and to sleep.

One day as he was resting by a riverbank, a travelling hypnotist appeared before him with the promise of something more in life:

"You know, I can return you to the way you were."

A tiny part of him reacted to the words, gently tilting his head in the direction of the stranger.

"Let me tell you the key to restoring you to your true self..."


"There. I have now told you the truth, and you have now forgotten it. Simply recall these words of mine, and you will be restored. Oh, you want a hint?"

"In this world, there are no truer words than these."

In one final gesture of amusement, the hypnotist scribbled something down on a piece of paper and crammed it into a bottle.

"To help you remember, I've written those words down. Now all you have to do is read them."

He then threw the bottle into the river and went on his way.

Having been stripped of his desire, our wise man didn't jump in after it, but a tiny part of him couldn't watch it drift away and out of sight. His feet started moving on their own, and he found himself walking alongside the river. The bottle merrily floated down the stream, and the man's footsteps matched their pace.

Days passed by like this with the bottle not leaving his field of vision, until one day it did; it sank under the currents. The man gave up this adventure.

He continued his life as a vagrant, wandering from place to place only acquiring the minimum he needed to live. Over time he became admired for his simple way of life and became revered as a wise man. He found this reverence others had of him, quite amusing.

He revealed to the traveller that throughout it all only one good thing arose from his so-called wisdom. A few days earlier, a doctor examined him and told him of his impending death - he only had a few days to live - and he felt no grief whatsoever. The doctor praised him as being "truly wise".

Sitting back in her chair, Kino thought about the story and pondered the meaning of the hypnotist's "no truer word's than these".

"Is this just like the real blue sky?"

Kino's companion Hermes helplessly chimed in, also interested in what could have been written in that bottle.

The elderly man's curiosity was piqued.

"What do you mean? Real blue sky?"

Kino went to explain that on their travels they had met a young man who had asked about it.

"Before passing away, my grandfather told me that it didn't matter if I found the real blue sky. I never really knew what he meant... what do you think, Kino?"

"Hmm... let me think on that... there's no such thing, that's what I think."

"What do you mean?"

"How blue the sky is often changes based on place, time, season and weather. Every one of them is beautiful. I can't tell you which one is the real one among them. There is no such thing."

The memories started flowing back. The man finally remembered the words the hypnotist had told him all those years ago.

"Let me tell you the key to restoring you to your true self..."

"There is no such thing."


"In this world, there are no truer words than these."

The above story is from the Japanese anime Kino's Journey, from the episode "Her Journey". Kino's Journey is a masterpiece, and I would recommend anyone that has the chance to watch it[1].

Anatta another one of the Buddhist marks of existence means "no-self". There is no such thing as a real, stable, independent self that sails through the sea of time. Like the sky has many appearances that change with conditions, so too does the mind, body, personality and whatever it else there is that can be said to be you.

"How blue the sky is often changes based on place, time, season and weather. Every one of them is beautiful. I can't tell you which one is the real one among them. There is no such thing."

Shunyata is the Sanskrit word which translates to emptiness. I have written about it before. The analogy of the blue sky is perfect here. Just as the sky appears based on a host of causes and conditions, and there is no intrinsic way it is, all phenomena appear likewise - there is no real way that things are. There is more to emptiness than this (or perhaps less), but this is enough for now.

I did something strange with this letter; I decided to rewrite stories I had heard in other media in my own words. I did this once before. I did this to share them with you and explain key Buddhist concepts at the same time, as well as to practice writing stories and take a break after my longest letter yet.

On the current political situation the world is in, I can't say I have finished writing about it. There are still thoughts I have here, but they are fuzzy, unformed.

For now, I want to point you in the direction of two doses of sanity on the matter:

  1. Sam Harris' attempt to make sense of how we reached this point and what we can do from here: Can we pull back from the brink?
  2. Eliezer Yudkowsky's #RebootThePolice, a radical attempt to fix everything we all know is wrong with the police. A comprehensive reboot of law enforcement.

And on that note, I will let you go. I hope you enjoyed the letter and that all is well with you. Feel free to reach out to me by replying.

Take care,


  1. There are two series, I am recommending the one that came out in 2003. The newer series is enjoyable, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece. ↩︎