Killing the Buddha on the Road
Once there was a great swordsman who traveled throughout the land fighting great battles and defeating all manner of challengers. So great was his mastery of the blade that he had never been defeated, and in time, he became prideful and brash.
One day the swordsman was walking down a distant and lonely road. As he reached a narrow pass, he came across a man sitting in the road in meditation.
“Stand aside” he said, “that I may pass”.
The man slowly looked up and nodded. “Certainly”, he said. “In just a few moments when I have finished my meditation. In the meantime, please sit and enjoy the summer morning.”
“I am in a great hurry.” Said the swordsman. “Now stand aside that I may pass!”
The man shifted such that the swordsman was able to catch the sight of a sheathed sword across his lap. “Surely, it is too fine a morning to be in such a hurry. Please set for a moment and enjoy the sounds of the forest.”
By now, the swordsman was quite angry. Placing a hand upon the hilt of his sword, he commanded, “Step aside and make way, or I shall cut my way through you!”
The man simply nodded and spoke, “You will do as you must.”
The swordsman drew his blade and swung with a mighty chop, but the man moved slightly to one side, too quickly for the swordsman's blade. With all of his swordsman's speed and concentration, he struck again, but again he missed. Again and again, he struck, and again and again the man shifted, and he struck only air. Finally, with a roar, the swordsman swung a mighty blow, but where the man had been only a moment before, his blade passed through empty space and struck a stone, where the finely crafted weapon shattered into many pieces.
The swordsman fell to his knees and bowed his head. “For the first time, I have failed in combat. Now, draw your sword and release me from my dishonor.”
“Tell me, swordsman,” the man asked, “The fox is the most clever and cunning of creatures. Does it dishonor the fox that he is not as strong as the ox? Does it dishonor the ox that he cannot run as fast as the horse, or dishonor the horse that he cannot fly as the eagle?”
“No, it does them no dishonor to be as they are, rather than be judged against their nature”.
“And when you, swordsman, were a young boy, did a master teach you the way of the sword?”
“A great master, yes.” He replied.
“Were you dishonored when he beat you in battle?” The man asked.
“No,” said the swordsman, his eyes gone wide, “he defeated me many times before I learned the way of the art- That is how it is taught.”
“Then, there is no dishonor in your defeat, for I am to all men as a great master is to a young boy. Come now, I have finished my meditations and would enjoy some company on my journey.”
The swordsman rose. “I would be honored. But tell me, when I faced you, why did you not draw your own sword?”
The man smiled. “It would do little good. I shattered the blade upon a stone many years ago. Now come, the day is short and the road is very long.”
In time, the swordsman became a great teacher. He traveled far and wide, and wherever he went, he carried with him his broken blade, neatly tucked into it's sheath.