1 Lesson from 4 Buddhist Monk Stories
(1) Book and Donation
A traveler wrote a story about a monk who approached him while he was running toward the train station. The monk offered a little Buddhist book in exchange for a donation, but he didn’t have enough cash. Thinking that the book costed more than the cash he gave the monk, he asked the monk to keep the book. The monk accepted the cash but offered him to really take the book. He couldn’t refuse. Why?
Quoted: “I recall thinking about how prosperous and affluent he was even though his circumstances suggested he had very little.”
A sense of security is what the monk had. He didn’t fear rejection from people who probably would refuse to donate. The traveler’s refusal of accepting the book didn’t cause any ripple effect in the monk’s energy. The monk could ask the traveler to accept it with the same love he had when he first saw the traveler.
(2) Old Zen Tale
Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?”
“Because,” the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”
Quoted from someone’s response to the story above: “It is wise to follow the promptings of your own nature in response to life, rather than to alter that response based upon the actions of others. We are not here to be reinvented at the whim of someone else’s mood. In fact, your response is more important than the event itself.”
Relating it to the traveler’s story above, the monk knew human nature. Anything could be done by the traveler to him, but he was open to accept all possibilities. It’s more important that he kept his service of distributing books to travelers.
(3) Time’s Up!
I had a similar experience with a monk when I stayed 24 hours in a temple. We were having a free tea time. Then time was up and he had to go for dinner before the evening prayer. He reminded us of dinner time, got up, and left briskly, nonchalantly ignoring our questions.
He was joyful although exercising discipline. He had that prosperity in his energy, that he had a lot of things to give, to serve us throughout our stay. It affected us. We didn’t feel like questioning his act.
He didn’t have fear in his conduct. What he did wasn’t dependent on how our reactions could be. He was open to all possibilities of our reactions. It affected us. We simply followed through.
Another Buddhist monk and train station story. In a train station in Korea, I saw two men fighting in public. A monk approached calmly, put his hand between the two men, and the two men stopped fighting. Just like that.
It’s not easy to mix joy and discipline. It’s not easy to feel prosperous when you have nothing. It’s not easy to stay true to our nature of serving the world. It’s not easy to stop guessing how others would react to our action.
There were a few circumstances in my life where I could fully forget fear and used love instead. Using a mindset that I’m simply doing a service. Focusing that I do what I do instead of fearing of other people’s reactions. It led me to a synchronicity of events!
We need to go within, find our inner magnificence, and let it shine outwards. When we do, we can be serious and joyful at the same time. And we can stay to our nature, our service to the world. When faced with love and fear, choose love.