There was, once upon a time a simple farmer who lived far off in the country, in a tiny village of which no one now knows the name. The farmer was a very quiet and pious man, who visited the local temple faithfully and was known to be honest and true to his word. He had a son, who was also a good person, but restless by nature, and when the boy reached a certain age, he told his father that he felt he must go out into the world to learn. “I am sure there is more in the world than our simple life,” he told his father. “Please give me your blessing, and I will go.”
The father of course blessed his son, and the son went forth in search of learning. He wandered, always seeking, a long way through the world, until at last he came to a monastery high up in the mountains, and there, surrounded by the silence of the rocks and snow, he began to study many deep and mysterious subjects.
After years of study, he accumulated so much knowledge that he even acquired the ability of walking on water. When he realised this attainment, he thought perhaps he should return to his father and show him what he had learned.
Arriving home once more, the son took his father to the edge of the vigorous, foaming river that flowed there, and then began to walk across its surface. When he reached midstream, however, something distracted him – perhaps the flight of a bird, who knows? – and before he knew it, he was in the water, in danger of being swept away.
Instantly, the father ran across the water, seized his son, and hauled him to safety.
The dripping son looked at his father with a mixture of shame and astonishment. “Father,” he said, “I did not know that you know how to walk on water!”
The father shook his head. “I don’t,” he replied. “The difference between us, my son, is this: you know many, many things, but I know only one thing. I know what is required of me.”