How To Teach

A young soldier, tired of war, set out on a journey seeking wisdom. But it was the end of Spring, and the path was difficult. After walking many weeks through mud and snow, he came a temple at the top of a hill. He climbed the muddy path to the temple. Perhaps he could join them, and spend his days seeking satisfying and soul-liberating guidance and fulfillment?

Upon reaching the top, he was impressed. The temple grounds were immaculate. The garden contained plants which should not yet be in bloom and must have grown through the winter. The orderliness of the temple grounds made him feel at peace and he thought he could learn much. Surely there was some magic here, some special tricks and techniques to keep this place as the sanctuary it was. He entered the temple, and in his surprise and haste, he did not remove his boots.

He asked the master, “How do you keep order in this place? How do you keep the grounds so clean and useful?”

The master noticed the mud and dirt the man had tracked throughout the temple grounds and on the wooden floors. The master replied, “True understanding takes years of mindful discipline.”

“Please teach me.”

“You may stay the night. And we will see whether you can be taught.”

The man had a simple, silent meal with the temple brothers that evening. And he slept in the large open room of the temple. At sunrise the next morning, there were many people moving about, but he did not rise from bed. And then, a loud thud woke the man from his sleep: the master dropped a wooden bucket next to his head.

“You will need to find a brush,” as the master nodded to the dried mud still on the floors.

The man found a brush and water and scrubbed the floor planks well. He removed the caked mud, dusty footprints of many other temple brothers, and some leaves which someone had tracked inside. He thought it foolish now that he did not have the good sense to remove his shoes at the door. He cleaned the entire morning and waited for the floor to dry.

When he finished the task, he went to the master and said, “I have finished cleaning the floors.”

“Have you?”

The man was confused and went back to the area he had cleaned. While cleaner still, he noticed the dusty footprints of dozens of other people.

He returned to the master. “I did clean the floors of the mud and filth, but I see now that other men soon walked on the floor after I have cleaned it. And it is now dirty again.”

The master looked skeptical and asked: “So, is the temple floor clean now?”

The young man was offended. He returned to his floor and saw that there were even more footprints than before. He retrieved the bucket, brush, and water. He scrubbed the floor again. However, as other men tried to walk across the floor, he would jump up and ask them to go around the cleaned areas.

When he finished he went to the master who was sitting on the floor eating a meal with many other temple brothers: “I have finished cleaning the floor!”

The master asked, “Have you really?”

Alarmed, the man hurried back to the temple floor. And though there were no footprints, a potted plant in the temple had carelessly shed some leaves which came to rest on the just-cleaned floor. The man, angrily, snatched up the leaves in his hand and stomped back to the master.

He angrily declared: “I have scrubbed the floors. And yet, they are still dirty! I foolishly tracked mud here. I caused that problem, but I can be more mindful. But even then, other men do not care that I have cleaned. They dirty it with their most basic activities. How can I control all of them? And when I try to stop them, so I can achieve my task perfectly, even Nature itself conspires against me to ruin my work! I cannot keep the temple floor clean. For me to even try to keep the entire temple clean, I would need an entire battalion of disciplined soldiers!”

The temple brothers ate quietly with their heads looking into their bowls, as if the young man was miles away. The master looked slowly and deliberately at the temple brothers to his left. And then, those to his right. When the young man saw this, he reconsidered his arrival to the temple. It looked perfect, as he imagined. And so, he assumed this was its natural state.

But he looked again at the brothers winding down another day. In that moment, the man was enlightened. The master looked up at the angry young man and calmly asked: “I see. I see you can be taught. Tomorrow, I think you should rake the garden.”

The man proudly announced, “I will not fail!”

But the master cracked a small smile and only replied, “Yes.”

wiki/projects/school/how_to_teach.txt · Last modified: 2023/02/25 19:53 by jeff
Back to top
CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
Driven by DokuWiki Recent changes RSS feed Valid CSS Valid XHTML 1.0