It was a quiet night when the prayers of a Buddhist monk, famous for always telling the truth, were disturbed by the rustling of leaves in his front yard. Few moments later, a thief rushed into his room with a knife in his hand, asking for the monk’s money.
“But, why would you interrupt me for an unimportant issue such as this?”, screamed the monk. “The money is in the cupboard. Just go and get it. And leave me to my meditations, please.”
The thief went straight to the cupboard and, truly, the money was there. While he was putting as much as he could take in his bag, he heard the monk grumbling from the other room:
“Now, don’t take everything. I will need some of it to pay the taxes this year.”
What’s the use of bothering for such a small amount, thought to himself the thief and put some of the money back in the cupboard. Then, disbelieving his luck, headed straight for the door.
“Now, that’s no good manners!”, the monk said. “You come here, you disrupt my meditation, and you are not gracious enough to utter a mere ‘thank you’.”
Is there a point in arguing with a madman? – figured the thief. He thanked the monk and left the scene.
Few days passed and the police caught the thief. They summoned the monk as a witness and within a week a trial was scheduled.
“But why did you bring him here? This poor man is not a thief!”, the monk told the jury. “He needed the money and I gave him as much as I could. He even thanked me before leaving.”
After being released, the thief visited the monk once again. Soon enough, he became his most devoted and distinguished student.
- Victor Hugo, possibly the greatest French writer in history, used this story in his famous novel Les Misérables. His goal: to show that nothing can change a man so profoundly as compassion and mercy.
- In fact, being kind to a person – no matter how heartless he may be at first sight – may work wonders after a while.
- “The Thief Who Became a Disciple”, Once Upon a Time in Asia: Stories of Harmony and Peace (James H. Kroeger & Eugene F. Thalman), 2006