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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Old Monks Don't Lie

These few days, my revered Buddhist teacher, Ajahn Brahmavamso, came to KL for a teaching visit.  Among the many activities, my family and I attended a Buddhist Gem Fellowship charity dinner.  I attended a 1-day meditation retreat, and on Labour Day, I took both Wei and Yuan to attend a full day public seminar with Ajahn Brahm at Sunway University.
Ajahn Brahm signed Yuan's book

Ajahn Brahm is never tired of sharing his stories and jokes so that people lead more happy, peaceful and fulfilled lives.  I am thankful for the opportunity to listen to the Dhamma from him these few days.
Old Monks' Don't Lie is one story he told at the public seminar about fulfillment, which touched me very deeply.
Once upon a time, there was an old forest monk who went wandering for alms from village to village.  When it was near the Vassa months (rainy season) the old monk came upon a poor farmer's house to ask for food.  The kind farmer was happy and asked the monk to stay with him for the 3 months' rains retreat where he built a small hut for the monk and made food offerings once a day.
When the rainy season was over, the monk had to say goodbye.  The poor farmer's family was very sad to see the monk go.  But before the monk left, he told them that he wanted to thank the farmer for his kind hospitality, and he had seen with his powers that there was some treasure buried somewhere near the farmer's house.  If the farmer followed his instructions and dig up that treasure, then they will never live poor again.
The old monk gave the farmer these instructions.  "Tomorrow morning, stand at your front door, and hold a bow and arrow.  As the sun rises, aim that arrow towards the sun, and let the arrow go. Where the arrow falls, dig up a hole, and you will find the treasure."
So the poor farmer followed the old monk's instructions.  He stood at his front door, pulled up a bow and arrow, and watch the sunrise.  Then he shot the arrow at the sun, and followed the arrow.  When it fell, he dug up the land where the arrow was, hoping to find the treasure.
But instead of treasure, he found trouble, because the arrow landed in a rich man's garden.  The rich man was furious that the poor farmer had ruined his garden, and wanted to beat him up.  But before he did, the poor farmer blurted out that it wasn't his fault, an old monk told him there would be treasure where the arrow landed.  So the rich man said, "Old monks don't lie.  What he said must be true.  If there's no treasure, then it must be something wrong with your technique.  You are a thin and weak farmer.  It must be because you don't shoot the arrow strongly enough.  Tomorrow morning, I will shoot the arrow from your house.  And when we find the treasure, we will share it equally." 
The farmer agreed, and the next morning, the rich man did the same thing that the poor man did.  Only that he was indeed, a well-fed and stronger man, and he did shoot the arrow farther.  But where the arrow landed, there was no treasure, only more trouble.  For this time it landed in the army general's garden, who was furious with the rich man and wanted to punish him.  But when the rich man told his story, the general said: "Old monks don't lie.  What do you know about shooting arrows, you lazy rich man!  I am an army soldier, I will definitely have the better technique at shooting arrows.  Tomorrow, I will shoot the arrow from the poor man's house.  Then we will find the treasure and share it 3-ways."
So the General shot the arrow from the poor man's front door next morning, following the instructions of the old monk.  Where the arrow landed, which was indeed much farther away, there was still no treasure, and this time the 3 men had dug up the King's garden.  The King's guards caught them and brought them before the King, who was not pleased that his garden had been ruined.  So the General told the King about the story of the old monk.  
This time, the King was wiser.  To get to the bottom of this, he asked his guards to look for the old monk.  When they found him, the King and the 3 men all went to the farmer's house the next morning, where the King now held the bow and arrow, and prepared to follow the old monk's instructions.
The King stood at the front door, and looked at the old monk, who reaffirmed that the King was correct.  Then he waited for the rising sun, and he aimed the arrow at the sun, and again the old monk affirmed that the King was correct.  When the King pulled on the bow strings, and looked at the old monk, the old monk said, "No, that is wrong, I didn't say shoot the arrow at the sun, I said aim at the sun and let the arrow go."  So the wise King let the arrow drop right at his feet, and the old monk said that was correct.  Where the arrow landed, which was right by the front door, the men dug up a hole and in it they found a treasure chest. Old monks don't lie.

The story serves to tell us, our happiness isn't out there somewhere in the distant land or in the distant future. Our fulfillment and happiness is here and now, if only we would open our eyes to see.  We can never wait until we get a bigger house, a better job or when our children grow up to achieve happiness.  Our fulfillment is now, and we have arrived.  And Ajahn Brahm added that we had better believe him, because old monks don't lie.

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