Near Chiswick Square, I stopped for a while to look at a board in front of the entrance to an Anglican church. There was an advertisement for tai chi chuan. While I was standing in front of the board, a man about thirty years old with an athletic body came up behind my shoulders. He reached me and I assumed he was probably about to talk to me of tai chi chuan.

“No, thanks.” I said, anticipating his words. “Sorry, I am not interested.”
“Come up with me, I want to talk with you.”
We went to the upper floor and entered a room equipped as a gymnasium. It was a traditional gymnasium, that is, without apparatuses for bodybuilding. On one of the sides, there was a step. We sat down on that step. The light was very dim, but I could see him clearly. I cannot forget his face, his eyes, and everything of him. He left an indelible imprint in my heart and mind.
The young guy was a bit taller than me and wore brown running trousers, a green T-shirt, and white training shoes. His hair was light brown and his eyes green. He had a small scar in his large forehead. His nose was a little bit snubby and his lips were very thin. His arms and legs were so stout and beefy that they made him seem capable of knocking a bull down, but his smile was the sweetest I had ever seen. As soon as we sat down, I went to the core of my issue one more time.
“I would like to know whether everything ends, or there is something that survives the decay of our body after death.”
The young English athlete stared into my eyes for a short while. All of a sudden, he stood up and bent his right arm.
“Stand up! Push my arm hard with all your strength!”
I stood up, too. For a while, I had the sensation of being in another world. That unexpected action of the young athlete, the half-light in the gymnasium, that chance meeting in London in a country different from mine, all these made me think that I was daydreaming or I was in an unreal place. I couldn’t feel like I was living in this world.
I had an instant of confusion, and then I decided to follow the instructions given me by the athlete. So, I put my hand on his arm and pushed it hard, with all the strength I could muster. The athlete went back markedly.
“Now you are strong!” he exclaimed.
Soon after, he recovered and pushed my arm back. Even though I tried hard to withstand him, I couldn’t help stepping back.
“Now you are weak! What’s happening?” he said to me.
We kept doing this exercise for a while, and the smile appeared on my face. Just that smile that I had lost for many, too many, years!
“What happened to you? When we entered the gymnasium, you were pale, pensive, and tied up with your question about death. Now you are smiling. How is it possible?”
“You are an angel, aren’t you? How can I thank you for the smile you’ve brought back to me!”
He seemed to appreciate my praise, with a big smile.
“Thank you! Today, I gave you a small amount of fire. It’s a fire that you will pass to others later!”
Then, he explained the meaning of the exercise we had done.
“You must never permit yourself to be conditioned by the result. Never ever act, work, study, fight, love, and so on only for the sake of a good outcome. The good action is important, not the result! You shouldn’t stop any action only because you haven’t achieved good results. In other words, you must be authentic to yourself regardless of success or failure. Success doesn’t give you strength or energy, nor can failure deprive you of your good qualities. So, remember this: Don’t depend upon anything outside yourself, but only rely on your inner energy! It is possible to apply this principle to sports as well. If a football team wins a match, it doesn’t mean that it is a strong team, and if a boxer wins a fight, it doesn’t mean that he is a champion. Both the football team and the boxer are really true champions only when they have a real autonomous, inner strength, regardless of winning…”

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



I stood in front of the gilded dome for a short while and then entered the temple. At the entrance, a man asked me to take my shoes off and wash my feet. He picked up a reddish headscarf from a large basket and wrapped it around my head. At last, I was allowed to go in. There were two prayer rooms; the floors were covered with white sheets and no chairs. I noticed that the best places to sit down were by the pillars because I could lean my back against the pillar while sitting on the floor. I chose one of those places and sat down. I turned my head slowly to one side and then to the other side to see what kind of people were sitting there. The women were on the left side; the men on the right. Between the two groups, a long central space was left clear. Opposite me, on the left side, there was a window divided into three smaller ones. Three women, each in one of the small windows, seemed to be reading a book. At the center, I saw a lectern with a book on it. (Later, I knew it was the holy book of the Sikhs.) Standing behind the lectern, a man slowly waved a fan made of feathers over the holy book. Every about ten minutes, the person behind the lectern alternated. On the right side, there was a wooden platform with a small harmonium and a man was playing it.
Close to me, there was an olive-skinned man with a white turban and a graying, long beard. He looked quite relaxed while waiting for the ceremony to start. From time to time, he turned to me and looked at me in the eyes. Obviously, he wanted me to ask him something.
“In which town are we?” I asked.
“Is this a Hindu temple?”
“No, we are Sikhs.”
“Our religion was revealed to Guru Nanak Dev by God; then, the precepts were handed down to other gurus and collected in our holy book.”
“I am looking for a guru, a spiritual master. Can I find a guru in this temple?”
“Why do you think a guru is helpful to you?”
“I would like to progress in my spiritual path and know whether everything ends or whether there is something that survives the annihilation of the body when a living being dies.”
“To know the answer there is only one way. You have to ask God for help. Our religion is based on praising God and calling for his help. Do you expect that the human being can progress in his life without God’s protection and guidance? Reflect upon it for an instant! There is only one guru indeed. Life itself is the real guru or master. Live your life intensely. It will be your best guru. No guru is greater than life. Who taught you the way to arrive at this Sikh temple?”
“Circumstances, chance, fate!”
“In a sense, it is true. Man deceives himself about having his own willpower. One believes he is capable of making decisions, but actually the individual has no decision-making power. Only circumstances take the lead. We are like flags blown by every wind. Everything is fortuitous — to be born in that town and not in another place, to have those parents, families, and friends, not others. Even the encounters we make in the course of the day depend upon fortuitousness. You can make all the efforts you can and read as many books as those kept in the Library of Alexandria, but if the circumstances are not favorable for you, your efforts and knowledge will remain a dead letter. It is up to you to establish if there is mere chance or something else, some entity behind the happenings. In my opinion, the one who creates the circumstances is only God. Since God is the one who controls the events, it is natural that we invoke Him. But you, as a Christian, can invoke your master, Jesus. The result is the same.”
At the end of the ceremony, everyone was handed a bit of sweet, purplish pastry. Then, in a little procession, the holy book was carried along the central aisle and placed in an adjacent room. The man whom I had talked to before busied himself in tidying up the prayer room, folding the sheets, and cleaning the area where the holy book had been exposed.
When I was about to leave the temple, a man came up to me and asked me to accept the food that was being offered in the dining room. So, I entered a room where there were a few long carpets for people to sit down and eat the meal offered by the community. The food was vegetarian, abundant, and tasty. Each one took his own metal tray, which had four or five sections, and got in line to receive his ration. When my turn came, they put yogurt, some well-seasoned rice, and other spicy, Indian specialties, typical of the cooking of the Sikhs, in each section of my tray. Moreover, they gave me some soft bread similar to our dough for pizza.
I took my tray full of food and sat down at one side of those carpets to eat my meal. A man close to me talked about the meaning of that food, which was so abundant and free.
“Sikhism,” he said, “has eliminated castes and discriminations among the people who belong to different social levels or classes. We are equal before God. Eating together strengthens the feeling of equality.”…

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



“One day, I was walking on Portobello Road. I entered a small booth where some antique objects were exhibited. Rummaging in the bits and pieces, I found a scroll in a bronze case. I took it out. To my surprise, it was a copy of an ancient Chinese painting, The Vinegar Tasters. I unrolled the scroll and spread it out on a little table. I was very happy to find so excellent a copy with the colors still vivid and brilliant. Three different characters were portrayed in the act of licking their finger after dipping it into a pan containing vinegar. After tasting it, they showed a different expression on their faces. Obviously, the painting had an allegorical meaning. The three men were not common and ordinary tasters, but the masters of the most important schools of thought in China. Vinegar symbolized life itself in that painting. The three masters were Kung Fu (Confucius), Buddha, and Lao Tzu. This last is the author of the most ancient book about Tao. After tasting the vinegar, Confucius assumed a sour expression, Buddha showed a bitter look, and Lao Tzu had a smiling face. Apparently, each of them expressed a different way of intending life. For Confucius, life on this earth is sour and not up to heavenly life. According to Buddha, life is bitter because it brings suffering. For the third master, Lao Tzu, there exists a natural harmony between heaven and earth. According to him, life is an incomparable teacher. There is a paramount force over heaven and earth, called Tao (the way). This cosmic principle or force can’t be described correctly in words. But why is Lao Tzu smiling instead of assuming a sour or bitter countenance like the other two? Because Lao Tzu lives in harmony with the circumstances, without fighting or forcing the events. He thinks that unfavorable situations are a source of personal growth. In Taoism, the sourness and bitterness of life are not caused by life itself, but by our minds, which don’t know how to transform the unfavorable situations into favorable ones.”
“Who is right among them?” I asked.
“I think all of them are right. We can’t say which way is the best.”
“So far, you haven’t answered my question about life after death.”
“I can say once more that you have to find the answer by yourself, inside yourself. Even if I knew the right answer, I wouldn’t tell you. This is a path that each one has to cover individually. It is an inner journey that everybody has to experience alone!”
Then he took a leaflet about tai chi chuan out of his pocket and wrote the titles of four books in the corners. Two of them were about Tao, one was about the concept of time and space, and the last was about the search for mindfulness through breathing meditation.
In the meantime, it was getting late, very late. The conversation had lasted a long time, maybe more than two hours. I felt like time had stopped. The caretaker of the gymnasium hurried us to go out because he had to lock the room. We said goodbye to each other, and I have never seen that young man again…

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind




At dawn, I went to the beach for my usual jogging. It was a foggy day, and the sun seemed to be unwilling to rise.

As I jogged on the beach, I felt like running amid the clouds. It was as if maya (illusion) mixed reality with dream.

Then, I recalled an experience that happened to the Chinese master, Chuang-tzu.

Last night,” he said, “I dreamed to be a butterfly. Now, I don’t know if I am a man who dreamed to be a butterfly or a butterfly that dreams to be a man.”

I sympathize with him. We cannot be sure if we are living a real life or we are dreaming.

Anyway, how about following the way our heart directs us? It cannot lead us astray.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind




A mandala is a ritual drawing or painting usually round-shaped. It symbolizes the universe.

In some parts of India, every day housewives draw a colorful mandala in front of their house. To make it they use chalk powder which they drop from their hand very skillfully. Over the day the drawing of mandala fades away because people step on it.

Walking on the beach of Goa, I could find somebody who draws a mandala on the seashore. The work will not last long. Soon the tide will erase it.

While looking at a mandala on the sand, I recalled what once happened in an ancient Zen Monastery. A master gave his disciple the task of heaping dry leaves under the blowing wind. There was a deep meaning in that seemingly absurd task?

A mandala drawn with chalk powder or a mandala on the sand has the same meaning of heaping dry leaves under the wind? I think they symbolize our life. Every day we strive to heap dry leaves that the wind will blow away sooner or later. Every day we draw our mandala which will disappear tomorrow like that on the sand.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind