The Old Woman Burns the Hermitage

(extracted from <<The Whole World is a Single Flower>>)

It is said that if you practice hard for ten years you will attain something. So, as is customary among many Buddhist laypeople, an old woman in China once supported a monk for ten years. She provided him with food and clothing, and allowed him to live in a hermitage that she provided. For his part, the monk only practiced very, very hard, and did not have to concern himself with anything else.

After ten years, however, there was still no news from the monk. "What did he attain?" she wondered. "I must test this monk." So one afternoon, the woman summoned her sixteen-year-old daughter, who was considered one of the most beautiful girls in the village. Her mother asked her to put on makeup, her best perfume, and clothing made of the finest materials. Then she gave her daughter instructions for testing the monk, loaded her up with plenty of fine food and clothing, and sent her off to the hermitage. The woman's daughter was very excited about the

When she arrived at the hermitage, she bowed to the monk and said, "You have been here for ten years, so my mother made this special food and clothing for you."

"Oh, thank you very much," the monk replied. "Your mother is a great Bodhisattva for supporting me like this for so long."

Just then, the girl strongly embraced the monk, kissed him, and said, "How do you feel now?"

"Rotten log on cold rocks. No warmth in winter."

Releasing him, the girl bowed deeply and said, "You are certainly a great monk!" She returned home, full of happiness and admiration, to report the incident to her mother. "Mother, Mother! This monk's center is very strong, his mind is not moving! He must have attained something!"

"It doesn't matter if his center is very strong, or if his mind cannot be moved, or if he is a wonderful monk. What I want to know is, what did he say?"

"Oh, his words were also wonderful, Mother. He said, ‘Rotten log on cold rocks. No warmth in winter.'"

"What!?" the old woman shouted. Fuming, she grabbed a big stick, ran to the hermitage and mercilessly beat the monk, shouting, "Go away! Get out of here! I've spent ten years helping a demon!" Then she burned the hermitage to the ground.

  1. What kind of practice did this monk do for ten years?
  2. The girl strongly embraced the monk and said, "How do you feel now?" If you were the monk, what could you do?
  3. Where is the monk's mistake?
  4. What did the old woman attain that made her beat the monk?
  5. If you were the old woman and the monk said, "Rotten log on cold rocks. No warmth in winter," what kind of teaching could you give him?


Mother has mother's job, daughter has daughter's job, businessman has businessman's job, monk has monk's job. If you don't understand your job, you don't understand your responsibility.

This monk sat for ten years. What is his job? If you are holding something, and attached to something, then you lose your original job. Put it all down, then your original job and your correct situation, correct relationship, and correct function will appear clearly.

If you understand one, you lose everything. If you attain one, then you get everything.
Be careful! What are you doing now? Just do it.