The Story of a Monk's Two Pieces of Cloth
(Originally in English)
There was a monk in India who devoted himself to God, like all monks are supposed to do. So he had only one piece of cloth with which to cover his body. And he had only one pot, in which he would put water and also cook and put milk and so on.
And it so happened that the lid of the pot broke. But the monk didn't buy a new one; he just used one corner of his cloth to cover the pot. Anytime he sat, he would sit near the pot. So a man came along and said, "Why don't you buy a new lid for your pot?" And he said, "I've already sworn that whatever I have here, I'll never get more, and just use what I have."
And then the man said, "But why are you so stubborn? One lid is no problem; how about buying a new pot?" The monk said, "No, no. You increase this, and tomorrow it's that and the other. Just like one monk..." He then told the story of another monk. It was a true story, and went like this:
There was a monk in India. who used to go out begging for things. He had a loincloth that covered where he thought he was supposed to cover. (Laughter) But it was no problem; he was content. Every day he went out and got alms from people; he would beg and get enough to eat, and then he would go and meditate. It was very beautiful. And he had a small hut.
The problem was that he had only two cloths: one that he washed and one that he wore. So, sometimes when he went out, he put his cloth on the roof to dry. And then came a mouse that always tore his cloth into ribbons. And then he would have to go out and beg for another piece of cloth. It happened many times like this.
So the monk was at a loss as to what to do. Then the neighbors advised him, saying, "You can't go on forever begging for cloth. Why don't you just keep a cat, and the cat will take care of the mouse. Then you'll have no problem. Otherwise, who's going to keep donating cloth to you all the time like this?"
So the monk, after many times begging, said, "OK, that's not bad." So he kept a cat. Someone came along and gave him a cat. And then now the cat was there. But he had more trouble. He had to go out and beg for milk for the cat. And then some good-hearted person came along and told him, "You can't go on forever, going out begging for milk and food for the cat. Just keep a cow. Because we don't mind giving you milk, but if we have to give milk for the cat as well, it's a little bit too much. It's OK that we give, but everyone else is not the same. They won't give it to you every day. Then you'll even have to sacrifice your own milk for the cat. So keep a cow. We have a cow; we can donate it to you. It can be very convenient for you to have milk for yourself. And the cow will also give you some whey that you can use for cooking; everything will be convenient."
So they also had a cow ready for him. But in India, you can get a cow at any cost. They just walk around, and maybe you can just take one; some of them are ownerless, homeless cows.
Anyhow, after much consideration, the monk accepted the cow. But now he had to milk the cow and all that. And now he had to go out and beg for straw for the cow. Because he was a monk, he didn't know what else to do. And he lived in the part of the Himalayas with not much grass. He had to beg for straw and build a shelter for the cow.
Now, so far, so good. But then someone else came along and advised him by saying, "You can't go on begging forever for straw. Who's going to give you straw all the time for the cow? We'll feed you, but we're not obliged to feed your cow and your cat and all that. So, keep a housemate. Or marry a wife; get married."
So now the monk was having serious problems. Because he didn't know how to cultivate land. Therefore, a good adviser said to him, "You can keep a housemate, like a male farmer. Or, marry a farmer so that you can cultivate the land. There's so much land around here, all over; you can cultivate it, and have enough straw for your cow. And also you will have enough corn, wheat and so on for you to eat."
Now the monk was getting more and more serious. So he married. And afterwards, he and his wife cultivated a farm. Then they had children and they had to take care of the children, and then they had to get a teacher for the children and so on. And it was getting to be a bigger and bigger business.
So one day, his Master came back. And he kept asking for the so-and-so monk that was supposed to have been living in a thatched hut next to the river three years ago. But no one knew if there was such a monk at all. So he kept asking his way up to the farm of the monk.
And then he realized what had happened all because of a piece of loincloth, one extra piece more. If he had had only one, and wore it, there would have been no problem. But he had two - one to wear and one to wash - and that's why there was a problem. So that's what happened, and that's a true story.
The monk had much regret after his Master came back. But the Master didn't want to stay. He said, "I told you to practice spirituality. I didn't tell you to keep cows, dogs, cats, a wife and children." And then he had a whole farm. He had to hire many farmers, because so many things grew, and they kept expanding. It had become a farm.
He left everything in the world to become a monk, to be detached from the world and to have the minimum necessities for his life. And then he ended up wealthy: a big farmer, with many cattle and a wife and children and many workers. It was getting bigger and bigger all the time. And he was so busy counting money and checking the harvest that he had no time for meditation anymore. It was all finished. The monk's job was finished; he had gotten another job.