Three Teachers

by Win Bradley
(Richmond, Virginia)

Original Text: Three Teachers


The young Zen student approached the sage and asked about the first test he would undergo.

"It is simple," replied the sage. "Simply walk through the woods and follow the path you see before you. Along the way you will encounter three teachers."

"That's it?!" replied the astonished young man. "When can I start?"

"Right away if you would like, but do not forget about the teachers."

The young man walked outside of the village and found the path. After a few hundred yards, he encountered a creek. The water was muddy and shallow, and someone had already placed a log across the creek, so he used that to cross over.

The log was very slippery, and after two steps the young man lost his footing and fell into the water. He walked along the creek to the other side and onto the bank. His shoes were now wet and filled with mud.

The young man cleaned himself up as best as he could and continued on his way, but he was furious with himself for having been so careless.

A few minutes later he saw a huge boulder in his path. As he approached it, he realized he'd never be able to move it, so he decided to go around. On both sides of the boulder there were thick brier patches and the briers clung to his pants and scraped against his legs. He stopped, and spent several minutes picking the briers out of his legs.

"This is crazy!" he thought. "Why doesn't someone clear this path? And where are the teachers?!" Angry, annoyed, and in a bit of discomfort, the young man continued on.

He walked for another hour, but no one appeared. Then another hour passed. "This is horrible." he thought. "I've wasted my entire afternoon!"

After another hour he finally reached the end of the path. It had brought him back to his village.

Once inside he found the sage waiting for him. "Did you meet the other teachers?" the old man asked.

"No," the angry student replied. "I have scrapes on my legs, mud in my shoes, and the teachers never even showed up!"

"That's not true at all," said the sage. "Your first teacher was the log. You trusted it and used it to benefit yourself, but in the end it let you down. You will encounter many people in life that are just like that log."

"Next you encountered a boulder. It was large and immovable, and it forced you to change your path. This caused you to experience pain. You will encounter many people in life that are just like that boulder."

The sage added, "anything that is angering you, annoying you, or testing your patience, see that thing as your teacher."

"I understand," said the student. "But what was my third teacher?"

"You," said the sage. "You carried patience with you on this journey, but you refused to use it. You also carried anger, annoyance, and impatience, and at the first opportunity you chose to use those negative feelings. Did they make your trip easier?"

"No," replied the young man.

"We all carry good and bad with us everywhere we go," said the sage. "You must choose which one will help you on this great journey."

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We've all known the slippery log. It can be a person that we trusted, or a situation in life that we thought would be favorable to us, but in the end things did not work out well.

We've also encountered people who are like the boulder. Their presence is large in our lives, they seem immovable, and quite often they are in our way. Having to go around them causes us pain.

Our young student only encountered two difficulties on his path, yet he allowed them to ruin his entire walk. He never noticed the beauty of the trees, the song birds, or the sunlight through the leaves. He walked for hours after seeing the boulder, yet he spent the entire time miserable and angry.

Every life will have boulders and slippery logs, that is a fact. All we can do is accept it, see them as our teachers, learn from them, and then continue on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Revised Text:

A young Zen student approached a sage, and asked about the first test he would undergo.

"It is simple," replied the sage. "Simply walk through the woods and follow the path you see before you. Along the way you will encounter three teachers."

"That's it?" replied the astonished young man, "When can I start?"

"Right away if you would like, but do not forget about the teachers."

The young man walked outside of the village and found the path. After a few hundred yards, he encountered a creek. The water was muddy and shallow, and someone had already placed a log across the creek, so he used it to cross over. The log was very slippery, and after two steps the young man lost his footing and fell into the water. He walked through the creek to the other side and onto the bank. His shoes were now wet and filled with mud.

The young man cleaned himself up as best as he could and continued on his way, but he was furious with himself for having been so careless.

A few minutes later he saw a huge boulder in his path. As he approached it, he realized he'd never be able to move it, so he decided to go around. On both sides of the boulder there were thick brier patches and the briers clung to his pants and scraped against his legs. He stopped, and spent several minutes picking the briers out of his pant legs.

"This is crazy!" he thought. "Why doesn't someone clear this path? And where are the teachers?!" Angry, annoyed, and in a bit of discomfort, the young man continued on. He walked for another hour, but no one appeared. Then another hour passed. "This is horrible." he thought, "I've wasted my entire afternoon!" After another hour he finally reached the end of the path. It had brought him back to his village.

Once there, he found the sage waiting for him. "Did you meet the other teachers?" the old man asked.

"No," the angry student replied. "I have scrapes on my legs, mud in my shoes, and the teachers never showed up!"

"That's not true at all," said the sage. "Your first teacher was the log. You trusted it and used it to benefit yourself, but in the end it let you down. You will encounter many people in life that are just like that log. Next you encountered a boulder. It was large and immovable, and it forced you to change your path. This caused you to experience pain. You will encounter many people in life that are just like that boulder."

The sage added, "anything that is angering you, annoying you, or testing your patience, see that thing as your teacher."

"I understand," said the student, "But what was my third teacher?"

"You," said the sage. "You carried patience with you on this journey, but you refused to use it. You also carried anger, annoyance, and impatience, and at the first opportunity you chose to use those negative feelings. Did they make your trip easier?"

"No," replied the young man.

"We all carry good and bad with us everywhere we go," said the sage. "You must choose which one will help you on this great journey."

----------

We've all known the slippery log. It can be a person who we trusted, or a situation in life that we thought would be favorable to us, but in the end things did not work out well.

We've also encountered people who are like the boulder. Their presence is large in our lives, they seem immovable, and quite often they are in our way. Having to go around them causes us pain.

Our young student only encountered two difficulties on his path, yet he allowed them to ruin his entire walk. He never noticed the beauty of the trees, the song birds, or the sunlight through the leaves. He walked for hours after seeing the boulder, yet he spent the entire time miserable and angry.

Every life will have boulders and slippery logs. That is a fact. All we can do is accept them, see them as our teachers, learn from them, and then continue on.

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