The Buddha Statue
One day, a monk was walking back to his monastery. He always took a short cut that led him to a small pathway behind some houses. This particular day was no exception. With his mala (prayer beads) in hand, he was reciting his prayers when he came up to the narrow alley. A big pile of rubbish lay on one side of the path.
“Looks like someone has just done some housecleaning,” the monk thought to himself as he tried to walk around the pile. Just then, he spotted a red clay Buddha statue amongst the discards. The color of the statue had faded and many cracks on it were visible.
“Goodness, an image of the Buddha lying in the rubbles…” almost instinctively, he picked up the statue, wiped away the dirt and placed it on top of a stone wall on one side. He then went on his way.
A little while later, another monk came along the same pathway. He, too, walked around the refuse pile. He looked up at a house with a brown chimney.
“The garbage probably came from that house.” He thought when the red statue caught his eye.
“That’s a strange place for a Buddha statue!” He picked up an old shoe from the pile and covered the Buddha’s head with it. He continued on his way.
Later on that same day, a visitor was on his way to visit the monastery. While walking through the same pathway, he was taken aback by the sight of a Buddha statue capped by a ragged old shoe!
“Who could do such a thing…right on the head of a Buddha too!” He quickly stepped up and lifted the shoe off of the red figurine. He was still mumbling incredulously at what he thought was an unforgivable sacrilege.
At the monastery, as soon as the visitor saw the Abbot, he recounted to him how he had found the old shoe on a Buddha statue’s head. He urged the Abbot to give a special teaching at the next gathering about the rules of respecting the image of the Buddha. He was visibly still angry. The Abbot listened but he remained quiet.
That evening, the visitor was invited to attend tea together with the abbot and the monks of the monastery. While enjoying the tea offered to him, he overheard some monks talking about respect for the Buddha image. This drew his attention right away.
“I found a red clay Buddha in a heap of rubbish. Imagine that, so I set it up on a stone wall because the Buddha should be placed on a high place,” said one monk.
The second monk said, ”Well, so it was you. I thought it strange that the Buddha statue was up on the wall.
When the visitor heard the second monk’s explanation, his indignation about the shoe subsided completely. He turned to look at the abbot who happened to be looking his way. They smiled at each other.
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