MASTER JINBODHI TELLS A STORY
The One-Armed Beggar
Translation by Dan Chi
Illustration by Jun
A one-armed beggar climbed flights of stairs to reach a monastery. He saw the master at the door and asked him for food. Instead, the master pointed to a large pile of bricks and told him to move them to the backyard.
The beggar was furious and shouted that the master was mocking him for his physical disability. The master calmly picked up a brick with one hand and said, “My one hand is able to lift a brick. Why don’t you do likewise?”
Although still fuming, the beggar decided to comply. He spent the whole morning carrying them to the backyard, brick by brick, with his lone hand. Exhausted and hungry, the beggar, at long last, completed the task.
The master rewarded the beggar with some money. “You earned it through hard work and honest effort.” Bowing deeply, the beggar replied that he would forever remember the master’s kindness and teaching.
Not long after, another beggar visited the monastery. The master brought him to the backyard and told him to bring the bricks from the backyard to the front, and that he would pay him some money for the work. However, the beggar refused and walked off.
Baffled, a disciple asked the master if the bricks should be in the backyard or the front. The master smiled serenely and replied that regardless of where the bricks should be located, the moving of the bricks would make a lot of difference to the two beggars.
Years later, a well-dressed visitor came to the monastery to pay his respects to the master. The man was exceptionally dignified. He was the one-armed beggar, now living a completely different sort of life.
After moving the bricks, something in him changed. He had found his self-worth and diligently worked to become successful. As for the able-bodied beggar, he was still roaming the streets, begging for food.
It is always possible to maintain self-respect and put in an honest effort, regardless of circumstances. When we give of ourselves in whatever way we can, the Universe returns the favor. Only by being independent, even in the face of adversity, can one feel dignified and start accumulating inner and outer wealth.