The Happy Monk: Joys of the Spiritual Life
There once was a wealthy, upper class man. As he aged, he came to understand that both rich and poor people experienced similar levels of old age suffering. He consequently renounced his wealth and social standing and moved into the forest to live as a destitute monk. He developed his mind through meditation. He liberated himself from unhealthy thoughts and found happiness and contentment. 500 people eventually joined his side as a result of his calmness and friendliness.
Long ago, the majority of monks tended to have rather sombre appearances. One monk, however, always had a small smile on his face despite being very dignified. This inner happiness never left him, no matter what occurred. Additionally, he had the biggest smile and the cosiest laughter of all on happy occasions.
He would occasionally get questions from people, including other monks, about why he was always smiling. Laughing, he said, “I’m sure you wouldn’t believe me if I told you! And it would be a disgrace to my master if you believed I told a lie.” The old wise master was aware of the cause of the uncontrollable smile on his face. He appointed this joyful monk as his primary assistant.
The elderly monk travelled to the city with his 500 disciples one year following the rainy season. For the spring, the king gave them permission to reside in his pleasure garden.
This king was a decent person who took his duties as a monarch seriously. He made an effort to make the populace more prosperous and well-off while also keeping them safe from harm. He was constantly concerned about nearby kings, some of whom were hostile and dangerous. He frequently had to mediate disputes between his squabbling state ministers.
His wives occasionally engaged in conflict over his favour and the success of their sons. On rare occasions, a peeved subject even threatened the king’s life! Of course, he also had to be constantly concerned with the kingdom’s finances. He actually never had time to be happy because he was always worried about something.
He discovered that the monks were getting ready to go back to the forest as summer drew near. The king went to him and said, “Considering the old leader’s health and welfare, “You, your reverence, are currently very frail and old. What benefit does returning to the forest have? While you are still here, you can send your followers home.”
When the 500 monks returned to the forest, the chief monk summoned his top assistant and said, “You are now to be the leader of the other monks, while you all live in the forest. As I am too old and weak. I will remain here as offered by the king.” So the old one remained and the other 500 went back to the forest.
The top assistant continued his meditation exercises in the woods. He had attained such enlightenment and tranquilly that he was even happier than before. He wanted to share his joy with the master because he missed him. He then paid a visit to the city once more.
When he got there, he took a seat on a rug at the old monk’s feet. They didn’t talk much, but occasionally the top assistant would exclaim, “What happiness! Oh, how joyfully!
The king then paid a visit. The head monk received his respects from him. The forest dweller, however, just kept saying, “Wow, what joy! Oh, how joyful!” He didn’t even pause to salute and pay the king his due respect. He was upset by this and reflected, “With all my worries, as busy as I am taking care of the kingdom, I take time out for a visit and this monk does not respect me enough to even recognise me. How offensive!” The elder of the two monks, he said to him, “Sir, this monk must be stupid because he ate too much, you know. He must be so happy because of this. Does he always lie around here being so lazy?”
The senior monk retorted, “Oh King, be patient and I’ll tell you what makes him happy. It is not well-known. He was once a king and was equally wealthy and powerful as you! He later gave up his life as a king and was ordained as a monk. He now believes that his recent joy dwarfs his earlier joy!”
He used to be guarded and protected by armed men who were surrounding him. He doesn’t need armed guards now that he’s sitting by himself in the forest and feels safe. He is no longer burdened by the responsibility of protecting his wealth. His wisdom serves to safeguard both himself and others instead of worrying about money or being afraid of power. He gets to a point in his meditation where he is so at peace inside that he can’t help but exclaim, “What happiness! Oh what happiness!”
The king realised right away. He was at peace after hearing the happy monk’s tale. He stayed for a while and asked both of them for advice. He paid them respects and went back to the palace after that.
The joyful monk, who was once a king, later paid his respects to his teacher and left for the lovely forest. The old chief monk died and was reborn in a world of high heaven after finishing out his life.
The moral is: Unattached to wealth and power, happiness increases.