What Is More Sacred?

The master got caught in a heavy rain one night and was soaking wet when he saw a Buddhist monastery nearby. He knocked hard on the gates until a monk came and opened the gate.

“What do you want?” the monk asked, thinking that the drenched figure was a beggar.

“I just need a place to stay out of the rain,” said the master. “May I stay here for the night?”

“No, I’m sorry but this isn’t an inn,” said the monk.

“Please, let me just stay in the temple hall. I can sleep on the floor and be gone early in the morning,” said the master.

The monk considered this for a moment, and in a stern voice said, “Okay, but you better be out of here before the other monks come for their morning prayers.”

“Of course,” answered the master.

A few hours later, that same monk woke up earlier than usual to check and make sure that the unwanted guest would indeed leave early.

photo by topbanana
photo by topbanana

When he entered the temple area, he saw the master huddled on the floor with the dying embers of a small campfire by his side. The monk wondered where the man got wood for a fire when he suddenly saw an empty space where a wooden Buddha statue had once been. Horrified, the monk shook the master.

“Hey, you there! Wake up! What have you done? You burned the Buddha! You burned the Buddha!” cried the monk.

The master woke up and hearing the accusations of the angry monk, picked up his walking stick and sifted through the embers of the dying fire.

“Now what are you doing? Didn’t you hear me? You did a terrible thing! You burned the Buddha!” said the monk.

“What are you talking about?” said the master. “I don’t see the bones of this Buddha among the ashes. You must be a very bad monk, because you regard a lifeless statue as more sacred than a live person.”

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