THE MASTER’S WAY OF TEACHING
A young Japanese boy growing up in a remote village had his heart set upon becoming a swordsman. He had heard of a master swordsman who lived in a monastery, where only pupils with great courage were accepted. This monastery was located in a deep jungle, the path to which was very difficult. Most of those who attempted to reach the master would give up and turn around half-way. Others, who succeeded in joining the master’s monastery, would leave the training half-way, finding it too difficult to go through. The boy was determined to learn the art of swordsmanship from this particular master. He undertook the journey through the jungle and after great trials and tribulations reached the monastery. His first meeting with the master left him confused. The master accepted him, but straight away put him to work, of sweeping and mopping the whole monastery.
Every day for several months the boy continued to sweep and mop the entire monastery, hoping that soon one day the master would begin training him. Finally after six months had passed, the boy decided to approach the master to ask him when his training would begin. The master saw the boy coming and asked, “What do you want boy?” The boy said, “Master I have been here for six months sweeping and mopping. During this time I have not received any instructions on swordsmanship.” The master became very annoyed and began reprimanding the boy, complaining how useless he was. “You cannot even sweep and mop the floor properly.” The master shouted, “If you cannot even do this simple chore properly, how can you possibly hope to become a skilled swordsman?” The master chased the boy away, telling him to leave if he were going to be so useless. But the boy returned to his sweeping and mopping, though now he felt even more confused. Also the thought that he had upset the master made him feel worse. He swept and mopped the floor with extra care now in order to please the master.
As he was mopping one day, the master came walking by him, and as he passed, he struck the boy on his back with his stick and then walked away. The next day again the master did the same thing. This happened repeatedly for the next several days. The boy was wondering why the master was beating him. So one day, he approached the master and asked, “Master are you upset with me?” The master said, “No my child, but why do you ask that?” The boy said to him, “You beat me every day. Why do you do this if you are not upset with me?” The master laughed and said, “This is part of your training. From now on you must attempt to dodge my blows.” The boy was confused by all this, but he continued to follow the master’s instructions. So the next day, as he continued to sweep and mop with great care, his attention was focused on the blow that he knew the master would attempt to deliver. Sure enough that day the master came in through the same hall he had the day before, and the boy was able to dodge his blow successfully. The next day the master appeared not once but several times, especially when the boy least expected him to deliver the blow. Although the boy managed to dodge some blows, for most part the boy got a good beating as the master constantly changed his strategy catching him unawares. It took months, but finally the boy became so alert to the master’s every possible move and strategy that he was able to anticipate and dodge all his blows. The boy enjoyed playing the master’s game because it seemed to please the master and it was also a diversion from his routine job of sweeping and mopping. Still, the boy continued to wonder how this beating would make him into a swordsman.
Soon after the boy had mastered the art of dodging the master’s blows the master called him one day and instructed him, “As of today, I do not want you to dodge my blows any longer. Instead, you will try to block them using your mopping stick. By the way your mopping is better but still needs improvement.” The boy could not understand the master’s ways but continued to follow his instructions.
Blocking the master’s blows proved far more difficult then dodging them. So for days the boy received a good thrashing. He would continue to focus on mopping the floor properly, while at the same time, concentrate on the master’s attack. With great difficulty, finally the boy began to defend himself using his mopping stick. The game went on for many years, until finally one day, the boy had mastered the art of defending himself with his mopping stick. He could now counter every blow the master made with his stick. The master could change his strategy to any extent, but the boy’s sense of concentration had become so sharp that even with closed eyes he could sense the master’s blow coming and turn quickly enough to block it. When the master knew that the boy had mastered this art he called him one day to say, “Your training days are almost over now and it will be time for you to leave me.” The boy was confounded, for he had not even held a sword in all these years. He complained to the master, “But master, I came here to be a swordsman and in all these years I have not received any instructions on the subject, nor have I ever held a sword.” The master looked at the boy compassionately and said, “My child, you have already become a great swordsman. But you do not believe me, so here catch this.” Saying this, the master reached for a sword nearby and threw it at the boy. The boy caught the sword and felt it in his hand. The master then removed his own sword and went to attack the boy. Without thinking, the boy moved to counter the master’s blow. The master attacked again but every blow the master made the boy easily countered. He dodged and blocked the master’s attacks in the same way that he had learnt to defend himself with the mop stick. This dance between the master and student continued for some time. At the end, the boy felt completely amazed by his own skills. He understood now that all the years of sweeping and mopping, along with the game of constant beatings that the master had played with him had made him into a great swordsman.
Master sends different directions to each of His disciples. Two souls cannot have the same direction towards spirituality. Master only knows and He teaches His disciple according to His plan which is best.