Short Stories

Because the monk was so impatient

Update: 15/10/2011

As soon as my master called me, I quickly went up to the sitting room. Entering the sitting room, I was a little surprised when I noticed the presence of the two novices already sitting there. After I bowed to the master, the latter pointed to the chair opposite the two novices and ordered me to sit down. While I was two minds about what was happening, my master raised his voice:

- From now on, I entrust you to care for and shape these two novices. Have you already mastered the new mission?

- Yes Sir, I answered.

Turning to the two novices, my master emphasized, “Have you both listened what I just said?”

The two reserved novices answered:

- Glory to Amitabha Buddha, yes Sir.

- This morning these two novices had a quarrel leading to a fight against each other. I’d like you to conduct an inquiry and then let me know what had happened and then report the truth to me-who was right and who was wrong.

Upon those words, the master stood up and stepped out of the room. We all also stood up to see him out.

I have admonished in vain the two novices many times about the disagreements between them - one named Lam and the other, Ly. Today, right in front of these two novices, my master has delegated the power of teaching them to me and I felt that I had more strength in governing them. I, therefore, glanced at them once to show off my power. Then with a patronizing voice, I said:

- What, is that right that both of you intend to make a fuss again?

The two novices kept quiet, their faces looking down. Seing this, I added:

This is a solemn and quiet place; it is not a ring or a market place where you can noisily quarrel or fight against each other as you want to. It’s unbearable and intolerable. Don’t you realise that you are at a shrine so that you don’t neglect its laws and regulations? You don’t have any respect for anybody at all! Now, brother Lam, please clearly report to me what had happened so that I may arbitrate the quarrel.

At such a moment, my face looked terribly austere, pretending to be a magistrate. But, looking at his calm face, I knew that my words as well as my showing off gestures did not have any desired effects. Lam, one of the two novices, deliberately answered:

- Sir, this morning, after I finished tidying up the sanctuary, I returned to my room and noticed that the inkpot on the desk in my room was spilling. And while entering my room, I saw that this lad was leaving the room.

- Hey! don’t you know that in front of me you should say things seriously and politely? Do you know how to call your superiors and how to address you inferiors?

- I do, Sir.

- If you say you do, then let me know it.

- Well, I shuould call my superiors brothers and younger brothers when addressing my inferiors.

- Good! Go on with your report.

- Seeing that the inkpot was fallen, I knew that only the lad had . . .

- Oh, you are using implolite words again! You should use the word ‘the younger brother’, but why did you call him ‘the lad’. If you don’t call your inferior ‘younger brother’, you should call him ‘co-novice’ instead of ‘lad’, do you know it?

Lam nodded and went on reporting:

- Seing that, I called the youger novice back and asked about the inkpot, but he persistently denied it. Seeing that some books were spattered with ink, I grew angry and gave him a thick ear.

- Hey! You did have a too hot temper. It’s impossible. You were still too early to wage war against him. I interrupted him:

- Yes. But, as he parried the blow with his arm, my slapping did not reach his ear. Seeing that my slap failed, I was so angry that I used my leg and made a strong kick to his trunk.

- Nonsense! Don’t you know that dealing such a death-blow could kill him? I shook my head and complained:

- Yes. But he quickly held my leg and pushed me so strong that I felt down on my back.

- It served you right! You have bullied a co-novice who was younger than yourself. I laughed up my sleeves.

-Sorry for you! Did the fall down hurt you?

- Yes. But I felt a little dull and lasting pain.

- All right. It’s good that your head didn’t break. Go on with your report.

- At that moment the rage in myself was boiling fast . . .

- Try to be brief. You shouldn’t talk literaturally in this case, I corrected him. You just need to say that you were so angry and I understand what you mean, instead of using the term ‘boiling fast’

- Yes. I was so angry that I snatched a slipper and threw it at him.

-My god! As you failed to answer him with your hand and leg, you now used your slipper!

- As a maxim says, ‘When a person is too angry he will lead to the loss of his wisdom’. Do you know that such a fling is very dangerous?

- Yes. But he was able to catch my flying slipper and then flung it back right at me and it hit my forehead.

Lam used his finger to show the bruise. I tried to hold back my laughter and said to myself: Sorry for you! How come an older couldn’t fight against a younger and was still knocked out by the younger and had a swollen head!. I was touched by pity and said, “Keep temporarily this jar of balm and apply it to the bruise.” I put my hand into my pocket for the jar of balm but then quickly took my hand out, saying, Sorry. A while ago I left it in my office, so it’s not here.

- Thank you for your kindness.

- Not at all. “Love others like yoursel”f, a maxim says so. Your hurt is the same as mine, how should I regret a small quantity of medicated oil in this case? Well, go on with your story.

- At the moment the slipper hit my forehead, I felt as it was a streak of fire flashing on my forehead. Right after that I got the feeling that there were three or four stars appearing and dancing in front of my eyes. As it hurted me too much, I embraced my head with my hands and then stood up with a stoop intending to pay Ly in his own coin but he had flown out already. Being sorry for my fate and angry with my swollen forehead, I directly headed for the abbot’s office to report the matter to him.

- Don’t you feel ashamed when you were older but fought against a younger one? What is worse is that you still went to report the matter to a superior! Moreover, you tried to report things in a literatural way!

- That’s all right. The report on your part is considered temporarily finished. Now, it is Ly’s report. You should be honest to report orally. You’d better tell the truth, neither exaggerations nor decrease.

- Yes. Sir. This morning at the moment I entered elder Lam’s rrom, I noticed that the inkpot had been spilling.

- Why did you enter another person’s room?

- Well. I was trying to return a story book, Sir.

- What story book was it?

- It was ‘War and peace’ by Lev Tolstoi. When novice Lam entered the room, he saw me there and called me and questioned about the inkpot. I frankly answered the ins and outs of the matter to Lam, but he did not believe me. Instead, he persistently passed the buck to me and then beat me.

I turned to Lam and asked:, “Have you finished the book entitled “War and peace”?

- Yes, already Sir.

How come you two did not treated each other peacefully? Instead, you both were putting on a war footing! It’s useless reading a book with such a title!

Ly quickly interfered, “Yes, Sir. I did want to live in peace, but it’s Lam who started the war first and this forced me to defend myself. Anyhow, my defense war was a justice.

Well! Why do you call a fight between two people a country-defense war? What a type of defence it is! Such a war could not even defend yourself, how come do you call it a national defense war? So, do you know the reason why the ink spilled?

- No, Sir. I said: You should have reported to the master when Lam beat you. Why did you hit him back like that?

- Sir. I did not hit him. I just defend myself as a habit. If I had intentionally hit him, he would no longer have any teeth left to eat even soup now.

- What did you say?

Lam’s face turned very pale. He suddenly stood up with the intention to beat Ly.

- Hey, the matter is still there. You shouldn’t have such a hot temper. Sit down, please. Turning to novice Ly I added, “And you. I forbid you not to say implolite things like that, do you understand? Anyhow Lam is older than you and he started cultivating himself before you did; that means you should have much consideration for him! Now, be sincere and let me know whether you have practised martial arts or kung fu.

- Yes, Sir. I really have it.

- What kind of kung fu is it?

- It is called Shao-Lin Wu-I kung fu, Sir.

- Why didn’t you enemurate it when you entered this pagoda so that everybody might defend themselves?

- Because I thought that it was not necessary.

- All right. You said you didn’t spill the ink. Who spilled it then while you were the only person who entered the room?

- Well, I don’t know it, Sir.

- It is really absurd then! You have entered monkhood, but you still tell lies.

- I swear on my honour - he raised his hand and went on - if I tell a lie then I will be bedeviled right now.

- All right. Put your hand down. What is the use of taking swear an oath? If a demon came and took you away then I would have to judge another lawsuit! Do you know that when a person has committed an error and he dares plead guilty, how admired and esteemed he would be?

- But, I cannot accept being guilty when I haven’t committed any fault, Sir.

- Do you know what resignation is?

- Yes, I do, Sir.

- Now, if you know it then explains it to me.

- Yes, Sir. Resignation means endurance or containing oneself. That is, even if something did happen, but you must say ‘No’, and vice versa, neglecting what others may embellish it. Once I have entered monkhood, I should resign everything. My resignation should last for ever and for life.

- Good. It’s very good that you have known everything by heart. But, let me remind you of this: everybody prefers and highly values practice to theory, especially talking on and on or repeating like a parrot-fashion. From now on I forbid you not to show your martial arts or kung fu within this pagoda. If something that is unjust to you, you should report it to me so that I may solve it. If such a thing happens again, you will be punished by kneeling for duration of half meter long incense. You have mastered it, haven’t you?

- Yes, I have, Sir.

Turning to novice Lam I said:

- And you, too. Anyhow you should show you’re a senior, shouldn’t you? It was still early to fight against a colleague who is younger than you. By acting in such a way of yours, how can a younger colleague pay respect to you? Do you know that in this matter there are two points on which you’re blamed? First, you let your inkpot on your desk without being covered. Second, You quickly beat a person without having found out where the guilt lay. Supposing that you had carefully covered the inkpot after use and if it had fallen again and again, the ink wouldn’t have spilled out and once the ink hadn’t spilled out, there wouldn’t have led to such a fight. Have you recognised the consequence of your negligence? As for the spilling of the ink, there could be due to various reasons. So, when you assigned the fault to Ly, it was clearly unjustified. Only when you catch somebody red handed and he denies it then in such a case you may scold him or make him pay the damages for the loss of it. But in this case you just saw a person flinging out from your room and you quickly made a wild guess by deciding that Ly was the culprit - it’s unjust, therefore, for the fact that the wrong thing could have been made by a cat or a rat running by the inkpot and hit it. Therefore, all conclusions should be made only after having carefully studied the relating causes. Having a hot temper would lead to a great failure or unmeasurable consequences. Have you ever noticed my hot temper in any affair?

- Not any, Sir.

- So, why don’t you study and follow my examples then?

- From now on I’ll study and follow your examples, Sir.

- Good! If you repeat any offence, I’ll make you kneel until the one-meter-long incense is finished.

Lam’s eyes glowered and stared at me.

- How come novice Ly will have to kneel with half-a-meter long incense while I‘ll have to kneel with a one-meter long incense, Sir?

- It’s because you are older than Ly, the length of the incense must be the double then.

- As far as I know that everybody is equal in front of the law, Sir.

- So, you’ll have to kneel with the one-meter-and-ten centimeters long incense then.

- Have you realised that you have forced me, Sir?

- So, yuu‘ll kneel with the one-meter-and-twenty-centimeters long incense then.

- You still force me more, Sir.

- Yes. . . .

- The more you appeal against a judgement, the longer the duration of the punishment is.

- Then I will not appeal against your judgement. Please be elated at decreasing the judgement down to the lowest level for me.

- A gentlemanlike person like me never talk back and forth.

Seeing that he kept silence, I asked him:

- Who else wants to appeal anything?

Novice Lam raised his voice:

- No one, Sir.

- Good! You all are allowed to break up then.

- Wait a minute, please. By the way, let me ask one thing on the occasion of your presence.

- Dear Sir, anyhow, according to an adage of ours, it says: The younger generations are to be feared, and I belong to a youger generation. I stared at and secretly cursed upon him: How come an illiterate young lad like him dares to use highbrow terms! But he went on saying: “I admit that both my age and my time in the religion (Buddhism) are still not long enough and my standard in the Dharma cannot be compared to yours. But, anyhow, permit me to present you the following query of mine. And once you have heard it, please let me know whether I have disobeyed any religious taboos.

- All right. Feel free to say it then.

- Well, a girl embraced me last night.

- Stop your nonsense, please. It’s already enough. You let a girl embrace you, it’s intolerable. It’s absolutely unbearable!

- But, Sir . . .

- You don’t have to say anything else. Do you know what the word ‘bonze’ means?

- Yes, I do, Sir.

- You do! What does the word mean? Reply quickly.

- A bonze must be closely connected to tranquility.

- Why did you let such an illicit thing happen in a pagoda?

- But I . . .

- Don’t use the word ’but’ any more. Why did you lead a girl into your room during a quiet and deserted night?

- But I did not do it, Sir.

- Liar! You think you’re the most handsome guy, so handsome that all girls grobe for your room?

- Sir, I swear it on my honour.

- Stop your swearing. Try not to quibble in front of me. If you hadn’t had any amorous intention then who opened the door of your room for the girl?

- Truly I didn’t open the door of my room for her.

- Stop your beating around the bush, you talkative! Wasn’t it that the girl was a fairy who came down from heaven? Suppose that was true, why didn’t you shout aloud but you let the girl embrace you? It’s just what a maxim says, “What is done by night appears by day”!

- Sir, as soon as the girl embraced me, I awoke and realised that it was just a dream.

- Heaven and earth! Why didn’t you tell it to me sooner?

- Well, it’s because you were too hot tempered.

-!?!? ..........

Translated into English by Mr. Hoang Huan, layman.

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