Tales : External Means

It happened once upon a time that a certain monk was approached by a seeker who requested to become his student. The monk lived quietly in the countryside, and he did not object if the student wished to Iive nearby. He gave the student some simple practices, and thought no more about it.

The student did his practices, but he also began to study the monk, and to adopt his way of life. He saw, for example, that the monk usually dressed in black, and so the student began to wear only black clothing. He also noted that the monk ate only vegetarian food, and so the student changed his diet, living only on plants. Seeing that the monk avoided luxury, the student now slept on simple straw.

The monk of course noticed these changes, and one day spoke to the student about them. “What is the reason for the changes in your behaviour?” he asked.

“I am learning from your example,” said the student. “Black clothing I believe symbolises simplicity. Eating only vegetarian food will purity my body. Sleeping on straw shows my commitment to the spiritual path.”

“I see,” said the monk. “Now come with me.”

They went a little way to a meadow, where a black horse was contentedly cropping grass.

“This horse is black,” said the monk. “It eats only plants. And every night it sleeps on straw. Do you think it is a candidate for enlightenment? Do not concern yourself with appearances,” he concluded. “External means will not accomplish the necessary changes within.”

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