In a mountain monastery there was a young novice monk, faithful and ernest, yet undeveloped and prone to mishap. One day, despite his reputation for clumsiness, he was given the honor of cleaning the cell of the master. He took to his task with resolve and determination. He was happy to be allowed to tend to the master’s quarters where there was stored some of the few precious items that the monastery possessed, including an exquisite vase handed down to the master from generations of his predecessors. It’s origin was lost to everyone’s memory, but it was something cherished by the monks as sacred and dear.
The novice waited until he had finished with the other areas of the room before he turned his attention to the shelf with the vase. Up until that point all had gone well so it must have been that the novice’s guard was down as he began to dust. Unfortunately, but predictably, the vase was knocked to the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces.
The novice was stricken with feelings of grief and shame, soon followed by dread at the thought of telling the master what he had done.
The young monk, expecting the worst, summoned his courage and went to the monastery’s garden to find the master and confess. He followed a narrow stone path along a stream and approached the master as he sat quietly beneath the willow trees on the bank. The boy bowed deeply, his voice quivering as he managed to tell the elder his story.
After receiving the news of what had happened to his precious vase, the Buddhist master remained serene. His countenance betrayed not anger nor disappointment, only calm and equanimity. He looked down at the youth, who thought that his days of being a monk would soon be over.
The master told the novice to stand up as he spoke to him tenderly, saying, “To me, that vase was already broken.”
If you want to have a lesson in the Buddhist concept of impermanence then you should go to a country that is so old that many of the buildings are made of clay bricks held together by mud; a country that is visited, as if on a regular schedule, by earthquakes.
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