At the wee hours of the morning, even before the sun peeked over the horizon, we were awakened by the morning gong that was sounded everyday at 4 a.m. without failure, even when there were hailstorms. We were assigned with duties of collecting water- we have to hike our way down the hill to the nearest river, fill the buckets up, both buckets of water weigh around 10 kg, and we have to carry the water back up.
It was impossible for us to carry those buckets with our bare hands, we had to have a turgid bamboo stick to act as a carrying pole for the buckets. The main goal of this routine was to enhance our physical strength. Little did we know, our master trimmed the bamboo sticks by a few millimetres everyday before we carried out our duties. The routes to the water source and back to the Shaolin temple were undulating.
For the first few months, we did not complain anything, we just obeyed as the master had instructed us to do. We went through this arduous process, clockwork, no delays, no questions, no dilemma, no rebellion, just pure obedience.
After half a year, our master had discarded all of our bamboo sticks. He asked us to carry those buckets with our bare hands. We were in dispute, but when our questions were put aside, we were able to do it.
A Shaolin monk’s diet consists of only vegetables, quite banal. However, in our temple, we had an exception, which was we were allowed to eat fish if we caught them by ourselves. None of us- Shaolin apprentices- were capable of catching the fishes by the river where we got water from every morning. Only the masters honed the skill to relish upon ‘white meat’.
“If you want to eat other than artificial meat or vegetable, go to the river and catch it with your bare hands before the appointed time.” our master cited, “and cook it yourselves.”
Some of us were keen to satisfy our taste buds, some of us were comfortable with the food that we had, some of us could not care more about putting more effort into getting a better meal.
We, the ones who were eager for the addition of fish into our meal, woke up earlier than usual, attempted to catching fish. The first few weeks were a drudgery, the fish swam away once we reached out to get them.
Another week past, a few of us returned to the normal routine, leaving two or three or us still there, making a valiant effort to catch those fishes.
One more week had gone by, we managed to ‘catch’ the fish but it slipped away as soon as we grasped it.
A whole month had past, one of us finally caught a fish. We were overjoyed as we could taste something new.
These were stories that were told by one of my teachers a few years ago. I felt that it would be inspiring if I posted these stories here because the stories will reveal to you different lessons by not leaving out the minute things that happened in other people’s life.