The Happy Monk
[Joys of the Spiritual Life]
Once upon a time, there was a high class rich man. As he became older,
he realized that the suffering of old age was about the same for rich
and poor alike. So he gave up his wealth and class position, and went
into the forest to live as a poor monk. He practiced meditation and
developed his mind. He freed himself from unwholesome thoughts, and
became contented and happy. His peacefulness and friendliness gradually
drew 500 followers to his side.
At that time, long ago, most monks usually
looked pretty serious. But there was one monk who, even though he was
quite dignified, always wore at least a little smile. No matter what
happened, he never lost this glimmer of inner happiness. And on happy
occasions, he had the broadest smile and the warmest laughter of all.
Sometimes monks, as well as others, would ask
him why he was so happy that he always wore a smile. He chuckled and
said, "If I told you, you wouldn't believe me! And if you thought I
spoke a lie, it would be a dishonor to my master." The wise old
master knew the source of the happiness that could not be wiped from his
face. He made this happiest monk his number one assistant.
One year, after the rainy season, the old monk
and his 500 followers went to the city. The king permitted them to live
in his pleasure garden for the springtime.
This king was a good man, who took his
responsibilities as ruler seriously. He tried to protect the people from
danger, and increase their prosperity and welfare. He always had to
worry about neighboring kings, some of whom were unfriendly and
threatening. He often had to make peace between his own rival ministers
Sometimes his wives fought for his attention,
and for the advancement of their sons. Occasionally, a dissatisfied
subject even threatened the life of the king himself! And of course, he
had to worry constantly about the finances of the kingdom. In fact, he
had so much to worry about, that he never had time to be happy!
As summer approached, he learned that the monks
were preparing to return to the forest. Considering the health and
welfare of the old leader, the king went to him and said, "Your
reverence, you are now very old and weak. What good does it do to go
back to the forest? You can send your followers back, while you remain
The chief monk then called his number one
assistant to him and said, "You are now to be the leader of the
other monks, while you all live in the forest. As I am too old and weak,
I will remain here as offered by the king." So the 500 returned to
the forest and the old one remained.
The number one assistant continued practicing
meditation in the forest. He gained so much wisdom and peace that he
became even happier than before. He missed the master, and wanted to
share his happiness with him. So he returned to the city for a visit.
When he arrived, he sat on a rug at the feet of
the old monk. They didn't speak very much, but every so often the number
one assistant would say, "What happiness! Oh what happiness!"
Then the king came to visit. He paid his
respects to the chief monk. However, the one from the forest just kept
saying, "What happiness! Oh what happiness!" He did not even
stop to greet the king and show proper respect. This disturbed him, and
he thought, "With all my worries, as busy as I am looking after the
kingdom, I take time out for a visit and this monk does not respect me
enough to even recognize me. How insulting!" He said to the senior
of the two monks, "Venerable sir, this monk must be stupid from
overeating. That must be why he is so full of happiness. Does he lie
around here so lazy all the time?"
The head monk replied, "Oh king, have.
patience and I will tell you the source of his happiness. Not many know
it. He was once a king, just as rich and mighty as you! Then he was
ordained a monk and gave up his kingly life. Now he thinks his old
happiness was nothing compared to his present joy!
"He used to be surrounded by armed men,
who guarded and protected him. Now, sitting alone in the forest with
nothing to fear, he has no need for armed guards. He has given up the
burden of worrying about wealth that has to be protected. Instead, free
of the worry of wealth and the fear of power, his wisdom protects
himself and others. He advances in meditation to such inner peace, that
he cannot keep from saying, 'What happiness! Oh what happiness!"
The king understood at once. Hearing the story
of the happy monk made him feel at peace. He stayed for a while and
received advice from both of them. Then he honored them, and returned to
Later the happy monk, who once had been a king,
paid his respects to his master and returned to the lovely forest. The
old chief monk lived out the remainder of his life, died, and was reborn
in a high heaven world.
The moral is:
"Unattached to wealth and power, happiness increases."