Every year, Buddhist monks of my tradition stop traveling and stay in one place for the three-month “rains retreat.”

An old wandering monk arrived at the door of a poor farmer’s cottage a few days before the start of the rains retreat. The husband, though poor, was a devout Buddhist and, having offered the monk some food, asked the monk to stay nearby for the retreat.

“I can build a simple hut for you, Venerable Sir, in a quiet meadow next to the river, and my wife will be happy to provide you with food. All that we ask is for you to teach us and guide us in meditation from time to time.” The old monk agreed.

Over the next three months, the farmer, his wife, and even their children got to love that wise and kindly old monk. So much so that at the end of the rains retreat, when the old monk told them he was leaving, the whole family cried and begged the old monk to stay.

“I cannot stay any longer,” said the old monk. “However, because you have looked after me so well, I want to help you in return. A few days ago, in a very deep meditation, I saw that there is a huge treasure buried nearby. I want you to have it. Please listen carefully, follow my instructions, and you will never be poor again.”

The whole family stopped crying. They listened intently. They believed that monk because old monks don’t lie. “Stand at the threshold of your little cottage at dawn. Take up your
pow and one arrow. Point the bow in the direction of the rising sun, and when the sun appears over the horizon, let the arrow fly. Where the arrow falls, there you will find the treasure.”

The old monk left that evening. The following morning, the whole family was so excited that they were up well before dawn. The farmer stood at the threshold of his cottage with his bow and one arrow. His wife was carrying the spade. The sun, it seemed that morning, took forever to rise above the horizon, but when it finally rose, the farmer shot the arrow in the direction of the sun, and they all ran after it. When they reached the place where it fell, he told his wife to dig a hole. Deeper and deeper, she dug.

What did she find? Nothing! Only trouble! The arrow had landed in a field belonging to a rich man, and he caught them red-handed.

“You can’t dig a hole in other people’s property!” shouted the rich man at the poor wife. “I’ll sue you! I’ll send you straight to jail!”

“It’s his fault,” pleaded the wife, pointing to her husband. “He told me to dig here.”

“It’s the old monk’s fault,” said the husband. “He promised that we would find a treasure here.”

“Old monk?” queried the rich man. “Well, old monks don’t lie. What did he say to you?”

“Stand at the threshold of your little cottage at dawn. Take up your bow and one arrow. Point the bow in the direction of the rising sun, and when the sun appears over the horizon, let the arrow fly. Where the arrow falls, there you will find the treasure.”

Having been told the old monk’s instructions, the rich man exclaimed, “Oh, I know where you’ve gone wrong! Look at yourself, farmer. You’re so poorly fed that you’re too weak to shoot an arrow properly. I’ll make a deal with you. Tomorrow, I will shoot the arrow from your cottage and, when we find the treasure, we’ll split it fifty-fifty.”

The farmer had little choice but to agree. So the following moming
the rich man was holding the bow and arrow at the threshold, waiting for the sun to rise, and the husband was holding the spade. (It wag his karma to dig today because he had made his wife dig yesterday) When the sun appeared over the horizon, the rich man shot the arrow, tt went much farther. They all ran after the arrow and, where it landed, the husband dug a big hole,

What did he find? Nothing! Only more trouble! The arrow had landed in a plot of land belonging to a general, and he captured them,

“You can’t destroy my land!” screamed the general. “I’ll order my Soldiers to cut off your heads!”

“It’s his fault,” pleaded the farmer, pointing to the rich man. “He told me to dig here.”

“It’s the old monk’s fault,” said the rich man. “He promised that we would find a treasure here.”

“Old monk?” queried the general. “Well, old monks don’t lie. What did he say to you?”

“Stand at the threshold of your little cottage at dawn. Take up your bow and one arrow. Point the bow in the direction of the rising sun, and when the sun appears over the horizon, let the arrow fly. Where the arrow falls, there you will find the treasure.”

Having listened to the old monk’s instructions, the general declared, “Oh, I know where you’ve all gone wrong! What does a civilian know about shooting an arrow? Only a trained soldier like me can use a bow. I’ll make a deal with you. Tomorrow, I’ll shoot the arrow from your cottage, and when we find the treasure, we’ll split it evenly three ways.”

So the following morning the general was holding the bow and arrow at the threshold, waiting for the sun to rise, and the rich man was holding the spade. It was his karma to dig today. When the sun appeared over the horizon, the general expertly shot the arrow.
It went a very long way. They all ran after the arrow, and where it landed, the rich man had to dig a big hole.

What did he find? Nothing! Only more trouble! The arrow had landed in the garden of the royal palace, and the king’s guards arrested all of them. Soon they were brought bound in chains before the king.

“It is a capital offence to destroy the royal garden,” said the king. “What is the meaning of this?”

“It’s his fault, Sire,” said the general, pointing to the rich man.

“It’s his fault, Your Majesty,” said the rich man, pointing to the farmer.

“It’s that old monk’s fault, Your Highness,” pleaded the farmer. “He said that we would find a treasure.”

“Old monk?” queried the king. “Well, old monks don’t lie. What did he say to you?”

“Stand at the threshold of your little cottage at dawn. Take up your bow and one arrow. Point the bow in the direction of the rising sun, and when the sun appears over the horizon, let the arrow fly. Where the arrow falls, there you will find the treasure.”

When the king heard the old monk’s instructions, he couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. So he sent out his soldiers to find that old monk and bring him back to the palace to explain. The monk was soon found and brought before the king.

“Old monk,” said the king with respect. “You’ve got all these people into big trouble with your buried-treasure story. Explain yourself.”

“Your Majesty, it is not a story. Old monks don’t lie,” explained the old monk. “They didn’t find the treasure because they didn’t listen.”

“What part of the instructions didn’t they follow?” asked the king, intrigued.

“Your Highness, why don’t you come to the poor farmer’s cottage
It went a very long way. They all ran after the arrow, and where it landed, the rich man had to dig a big hole.

What did he find? Nothing! Only more trouble! The arrow had landed in the garden of the royal palace, and the king’s guards arrested all of them. Soon they were brought bound in chains before the king.

“It is a capital offence to destroy the royal garden,” said the king. “What is the meaning of this?”

“It’s his fault, Sire,” said the general, pointing to the rich man.

“It’s his fault, Your Majesty,” said the rich man, pointing to the farmer.

“It’s that old monk’s fault, Your Highness,” pleaded the farmer. “He said that we would find a treasure.”

“Old monk?” queried the king. “Well, old monks don’t lie. What did he say to you?”

“Stand at the threshold of your little cottage at dawn. Take up your bow and one arrow. Point the bow in the direction of the rising sun, and when the sun appears over the horizon, let the arrow fly. Where the arrow falls, there you will find the treasure.”

When the king heard the old monk’s instructions, he couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. So he sent out his soldiers to find that old monk and bring him back to the palace to explain. The monk was soon found and brought before the king.

“Old monk,” said the king with respect. “You’ve got all these people into big trouble with your buried-treasure story. Explain yourself.”

“Your Majesty, it is not a story. Old monks don’t lie,” explained the old monk. “They didn’t find the treasure because they didn’t listen.”

“What part of the instructions didn’t they follow?” asked the king, intrigued.

“Your Highness, why don’t you come to the poor farmer’s cottage tomorrow? I will show you how they all failed to follow my instruction I will guarantee that you’ll find the treasure, but I would ask that it be divided equally four ways between Your Majesty, the general, the rich man, and the farmer.”

The king assented.

So it was that the farmer and his family, the rich man, the general, the old monk, and the king, were at the farmer’s cottage early the next day. The old monk repeated the instructions.

“Stand at the threshold of your little cottage at dawn. Take up your bow and one arrow. Point the bow in the direction of the rising sun and, when the sun appears over the horizon, let the arrow fly. Where the arrow falls, there you will find the treasure.”

As the king was standing at the threshold of the little cottage at dawn, he turned to the old monk for confirmation.

“Correct, Your Majesty,” said the old monk.

The king took up the bow and one arrow.

“Correct, Your Majesty.”

The king pointed the bow in the direction of the rising sun.

“Correct again, Your Majesty.”

When the sun appeared over the horizon, the king was about to shoot the arrow when the old monk shouted, “Stop! Incorrect, Your Majesty.”

The king stopped and stared at the old monk in confusion.

“Listen, Your Majesty. ‘Let the arrow fly.’”

The king paused, repeating the words in his mind. Then, he began to smile. He had understood. The king let go of the arrow and it flew straight down, landing right between his two feet, right where he was standing. A shallow hole was dug, and they found such a large treasure that one-quarter of it was enough to satisfy a king, not to mention the general and the rich man. How much more did it satisfy the poor farmer and his family!

The old monk further explained that when you shoot the “arrow of craving,” aiming to find happiness, you usually find nothing, only more trouble. But if you let go of the arrow of wanting, it falls right where you are standing, in the here and now. There you will find the treasure of contentment, more than enough to satisfy even a king.

I can confirm this, because I’m an old monk, and old monk don’t lie!

Ajahn Brahm


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