Wrong Perceptions

By Nora Houtman-de Graaf

Two brother monks were living in a mountain temple—a master and his disciple, known as "One-Eye." One night, a monk arrived at the temple asking for shelter. It was customary for a visiting monk to be challenged in Dharma combat, and if the visitor was successful, he would be given room and board. The master was tired and he asked Brother One-Eye to present the challenge.

Upon greeting the visiting monk, Brother One-Eye pointed one finger in the air. The visitor replied by holding up two fingers. One-Eye followed by holding up three, and after some hesitation, the visitor folded his fingers into a fist. Then One-Eye shoved the guest's arm to the ground.

The visiting monk went to the master's room. He told the master that since he lost the debate, he would be leaving. The master asked the visitor to tell him what happened, and the monk replied, "First your disciple held up one finger. I understood that to represent the Lord Buddha. I wanted to reply that the Buddha without the Dharma would be of no benefit, so I held up two fingers. Your disciple then held up three fingers, meaning that without the presence of the Sangha, the other two could not exist. I made a fist, meaning that the Three Jewels are one, but your disciple pushed me away, telling me that all such ideas are empty."

The master went to find his disciple. When he met One-Eye, the young monk was shouting, "Where is that scoundrel? He insulted me!" Then Brother One-Eye told the master, "You know how others taunt me because I have only one eye? I knew this guest would do the same, so I held up one finger to say that I have only one eye. But he chided me by holding up two fingers to say that he has two eyes. I held up three fingers to say that together we have three eyes, but he made a fist threatening to smash out my good eye. So I pushed his hand down to the ground."

This is a story about misunderstandings due to wrong perceptions.

Nora Houtman-de Graaf, True Fruition, is a Dharma teacher in Bilthoven, Holland.

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