Almost as much as I love the light in this picture coming through the front window on a cold winter afternoon. We read this book from Jon J Muth (one of my favorite authors/illustrators) at least once a week. I love the pictures and often ponder what Stillwater’s “slight panda accent” sounds like. Interwoven between the story of how the the children first came to know Stillwater, Muth includes three short stories that help illustrate a particular Zen principle. My favorite story is the one about the two monks:
Two travelling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.
The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk, she just shoved him out of the way and departed.
As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”
“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”
I find myself turning over the last line of the story in my mind through out the day – prone as I am to dwell on something and try to figure out ten different ways I could have handled it better.
Edited to add – Great interview with Jon J. Muth on NPR over here.