Yesterday morning, Sensei told the monks that they were invited to stay at the legendary Fog Monastery in the upper mountains. Fog Monastery was a secluded and private monastery in the northern mountains whose name was inspired by the mystical mountain fog that always surrounded the Monastery.
The monks began their long journey and reached Fog Monastery late at night. The sun had set and it was pitch dark. There was a heavy fog everywhere. A rickety and long rope bridge separated the monks from the Monastery cliff. Amidst the gloominess, the twinkling lights of the Monastery looked very inviting.
Humble Monk – the leader of the pack came near the rope bridge and stepped back. He seemed scared to walk across it. He said, “Sensei, the bridge is very narrow and seems to be swaying. I can see some planks missing in the middle. Can’t we stay here tonight and cross the bridge in the morning?”
Sensei said, “Don’t worry. Just walk one step at a time. Don’t look too ahead. When you feel scared, look up and be reassured by the Monastery lights.”
Humble Monk bowed to Sensei and began walking. As he traversed the bridge, he shouted out in panic a few times, but finally did make it to the end. He clapped when he reached the other side as a signal and invited the other monks over. The rest of the monks followed and an hour later they all had reached the other side. Inside the Monastery they had a warm, hearty meal and slept in cozy, soft bunk beds.
In the morning, Sensei and the monks gathered in the garden that overlooked the two cliffs that were connected by the rope bridge. The fog was so intense; they could not see how really deep the mountain ridge was. The monks assumed it went way down, to the base of the mountains.
Sensei asked the monks to describe their experience of crossing the rope bridge.
Humble Monk said, “I was very scared and helpless. I had no faith in myself. I only had faith in Sensei.”
Honest Monk said, “I followed Sensei’s directions. And I was safe. I learnt that when you have complete belief in someone, there is no reason to worry.”
Angry Monk said, “I think Sensei likes to torture his students. He could have spared us this treatment and arrived here via another route. But I guess teachers have to be cruel to show the path.”
Sensei smiled and chuckled.
Silent Monk (who spoke very rarely) said, “Thank you Sensei.”
Head Monk was the last to speak and said, “Sensei always does things with a reason. I think we have to still find out what we learnt..”
Sensei smiled and clapped three times and just then the heavy fog that had mysteriously surrounded the mountains lifted itself. Bright sunshine shone through!
As the monks looked in wonder, they were shocked to see that the cliff under the rope bridge was not a cliff at all! They were on a flat mountain plateau. Just a few feet below the bridge was soft brown ground. Even if the monks had fallen from the rope bridge, they would have safely landed on the soft ground.
Sensei clapped three times again and said, “Walking the rope bridge was your karma. Thinking of just one step at one time was being in the present moment. Looking at the twinkling Monastery lights was thinking about the future, but only temporarily. Looking back at the bridge and the cliff now, with clarity is reflecting on the past.
If you keep your self in the present, then the future is secured and the past will not seem worrisome after all.”