The Parable of the Selfish Monk (Halloween Special!)

patch parables video Nov 06, 2020


Long ago in ancient Japan, lived a devout Shinto monk. He lived a simple life but was often distracted in his prayers by the hustle and bustle of the city...he felt as if his neighbors and friends were polluting his soul. One day he decided to undergo a Harai, a purification ritual that would cleanse his body and mind….He set off on a long and dangerous journey to a mountain shrine, which took many days..but he was glad for the peace and solitude it gave him. After returning home, the peace he found was so great that he wanted to hold onto it for as long as possible, and so he continued to do the pilgrimage another 99 times. He would walk alone on his journey to the mountains, ignoring every distraction in his quest for balance.

Rain, storm, or shine; he made the long journey. Eventually, his devotion and practice began to reveal the world of the Kami. The man was able to see and understand the spirits and spiritual essence of all things, like the wind and the rocks that existed alongside our world. ...but still, he spoke to no one, as he was determined to avoid anyone who he saw as corrupt, materialistic, or who had strayed from the path of non-attachment. 

Of all the threats to his spiritual purity, corruption, and disease were the worst, so he avoided those most of all. After visiting the shrine for the 80th time, he set out for home as he always did...but as twilight swallowed the sun, he heard a strange sobbing in the night air. The monk tried ignoring the wailing and pushed onwards, but eventually, it became too he strayed from his path in search of its source. By the roadside, he came across an old cottage with a crying woman lamenting her mother's death and the fact that no one would help her bury her... Upon hearing the woman’s plea, the monk’s heart sank, as he knew that touching the dead body would defile his purity..but as he listened to the woman’s cries, his empathy soared like a Crane in the early morning breeze. 

So, they buried the older woman together to ensure her safe passage into the world of the Kami. The burial was done, but the taboo of death weighed heavy on the monk’s could he have been so foolish as to defile his body by touching the dead? That night he could not sleep and so resolved to return to the shrine to cleanse himself. To his surprise, the usually quiet shrine was filled with people, all gathering around a blind soothsayer who communicated directly with the Kami.

The man hid, fearing to be seen and judged by the spirits. But the soothsayer had other ways of seeing and called him forward. The monk approached the holy woman fearfully, but she merely smiled and took his hand. She whispered a blessing only he could hear, thanking him for his kindness. At that moment, he understood a great spiritual secret...contamination and corruption are two very different things. Filled with insight, the monk set off on his journey again, but this time helped all those who he met as he began to see the beauty of the spirit world in all things, even..the city he had previously shunned...and even though the other monks cautioned him against corruption, he smiled because he knew that real spiritual purity could only come from one’s journey…..

The Importance Of Compassion In Our Life

This old folk tale from Japan has it all, a lonely monk, a blind soothsayer, and Elemental Spirits! You don’t get better than this...the ultimate lesson of this parable, however, is twofold. Many times we may take authoritative statements as fact because they are ingrained in our cultural belief, as with the parable of the ritual cat; however, the most trustworthy authority for us is ourselves...we cannot hope to achieve fulfillment by following other people’s views on can read every self-help book and Buddhist sutra. Still, unless you put those practices into motion yourself, in your own life, and form your view, they will stay words on a page.

The other aspect of this parable speaks to the importance of compassion in our daily life. It echoes the sentiment that perhaps the first step to true peace lies in lessening others' suffering and being in service to both yourself and your community. It doesn't matter what your belief is; helping others in need is always the best deed you can do in your life, with humility and philanthropy being almost universally agreed upon “spiritual” traits. Even when Jesus was asked why he sat and ate with “sinners,” he replied, “a physician goes to the sick, and not to the well... But come back when you understand, for I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

In the end, the soothsayer gave the monk the wisdom that purifying oneself doesn't only lie in going on a pilgrimage and honoring someone or meditating but in helping and caring for someone and living from the heart, regardless of other people’s views and opinions.

This video was created by Team Spirit Connect with the team at

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