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from the October 2005 issue

The Novice at Songgwang Temple

In the mid Joseon period,
when Buddhism was only practiced high in the mountains,
a mendicant monk heard that the head monk
at Songgwang Temple in Jogye Mountain
renowned in the Way, was encouraging monastic practice,
and came from the North to see him.
Below the temple, the river turns into a stream
and as he climbed up alongside the stream
a cabbage leaf came floating down on the water.
Seeing that, the wandering monk exclaimed:
'Why, I've come on a fool's errand.
What kind of virtue,
what kind of teaching
can I expect to find in a temple
that doesn't know how to treasure sacred offerings,
the goods of the community?'
And he turned tail, back down the way he had come.
Just then a little novice monk,
panting, came rushing down:
'Monk, Sir! Monk, Sir! Mr. Monk, Sir!
On your way up did you
happen to notice a cabbage leaf floating down?'
he asked with what seemed his final breath.
'Well, I did see one,
yes, and in that case . . .'
The wandering monk reversed his steps once again,
made his way to Samil hermitage in Jogye forest,
stood before the head monk's door
and requested instruction.
Just then heavy drops of rain began falling
from clouds covering the whole of Jogye Mountain.
The birds busily flew away.
The head monk's door opened.
And would you believe it,
the cute little novice he'd met just before,
who had come racing after the cabbage leaf, emerged:
'Why, rains come
and guests come.
Guests come
and rains come.'

Read more from the October 2005 issue
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