A hermit was sitting in front of his tiny hut and gazing across the expanse of the prairie around him.
A young man approached and asked him, “Is there some guaranteed way to happiness and heaven?”
“Oh, yes,” replied the holy man. “But it is only for athletes.”
“Great!” said the man. “Then count me in. Take a look at these muscles; I’m a body fitness expert.”
“Good! Very Good!” remarked the hermit. “Then you’re just the man for the job. Now let’s give you a little test. I’m going to check how far you can jump. This is the starting line here. I’ll start by marking off a line one meter from it. And I’m going to add another 50 centimeters to the distance for each of the possessions that your heart is set on. I’ll start by taking it for granted that you have a car.”
“Of course,” remarked the young man. “Who doesn’t?”
The hermit added 50 centimeters to the distance for the jump.
“And what about a house?” he then asked.
“Oh, yes, I inherited a boarding house from my father.”
With that the hermit measured off another 50 centimeters.
“Naturally you would have a TV and video, I presume.”
“Right. Who hasn’t? I’m modern.”
The hermit smiled, “You’re modern, all right. Typically you live in the present and don’t make any plans for the future.”
Then he asked a few more questions and when he was finished, the distance he had marked off on the ground came to nine and a half meters.
He then turned to the athlete and said, “There you are: now take a long run and clear those nine and a half meters.”
“What! You want me to jump nine and a half meters? Look, I said I was an athlete, but not a world record holder.”
“But you want to be happy and in paradise one day; and you asked me to show you the surest way to get there, didn’t you?”
With a surprised look on his face, the athlete asked, “But what have my possessions got to do with a nine and a half meter broad jump?”
“You mean you haven’t got the point?” asked the hermit. “Well, the more things you have which possess your heart, the farther you have to jump. It’s as basic as that.”
As the astounded athlete blinked his eyes, the hermit went on: “The person without any possessions has to take only one long step and he or she is in paradise. That is the safest way to get there. Does it not say in the scriptures: “What does it profit to gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of one’s soul?”