Just Two Words
There once was a monastery that was very strict. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But there was one exception to this rule. Every ten years, the monks were permitted to speak just two words. After spending his first ten years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. "It has been ten years," said the head monk. "What are the two words you would like to speak?"
"Bed... hard..." said the monk.
"I see," replied the head monk.
Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk's office. "It has been ten more years," said the head monk. "What are the two words you would like to speak?"
"Food... stinks..." said the monk.
"I see," replied the head monk.
Yet another ten years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, "What are your two words now, after these ten years?"
"I... quit!" said the monk.
"Well, I can see why," replied the head monk. "All you ever do is complain."
( This story is a favorite in many western monasteries. It may or may not be an original Zen tale. Like any good anecdote, it makes us laugh, but also encourages us to think about why it is funny .)
People's reactions to this story:If all you ever do is complain you can't expect to cross the finish line, you'll convince yourself otherwise first.
"I heard this story, originally, from my father who heard it from a Francisican Abbot. The chuckle it evokes is welcome, of course, but it does beg the question - Why was the monk there in the first place if he refused to let go of physical, mundane and certainly egocentric concerns and not search for universal truth?"
"I believe that we have the choice to either focus on the positive aspects of our lives or dwell of the negatives. He obviously chose the negatives and therefore was not accomplishing much - he was basically wasting his time with negative preoccupations."
"The thing that makes it humourous and enjoyable is not the fact that the monk should not have been there in the first place , it's that he stayed thirty years before he left. This makes us realise that if we were in that situation then we would have simply walked out and not have waited another ten years!"
"When eating, eat; when sitting, sit. These are not complaints. They are the moment. It would seem the head monk has no awareness...and talks too much!"
"The head monk is shallow. The monk was enlightened."
"The punchline of this story is certainly very Western. But if you look deeper, it deals with the basis of self deprivation. After thirty years the younger monk had learnt nothing. The head monk was understandably disappointed. And it was about time the younger one left."
"Although he spoke only six words in thirty years, the monk did nothing but complain the whole time - in his head. That's why he had nothing better to say when he had the chance."
"Although the monk only said two words every 10 years, he constantly thought of unimportant things, instead of focusing on what he was being silent for."
"It's just funny............period. Quit analizing and enjoy a moment you people!"
|| Gutei's Finger || Elephant and Flea || Sounds of Silence ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.