Many moons ago, in another life in a galaxy far, far away, I used to practice karate. I did it for some time, attended a few gradings, and eventually attended a grading in the hope of being awarded the green belt. When the names were called out and I realized mine wasn’t one of them, my heart sank. I was somewhat surprised by my own reaction; after all, the belt is just there to hold your gi together. Anyway, it was the sensei’s call. A bit later on I stopped training and, as it turned out, wouldn’t see the inside of a dojo again for a number of years.
At one time before class, the sensei told two stories that have stayed with me ever since. Bear with me if I bungle up some of the details — these are stories that I heard exactly once more than ten years ago.
Running From the Lions
A man was being chased by a pride of lions. He ran for his life, but the lions were gaining on him. It was obvious that they would soon reach him. Also, he hadn’t noticed that he’d been running towards a cliff edge until he was at the ledge. He leaped off the ledge and fell. There were a few scrubs and small trees growing out of the cliff face. He managed to grab onto a branch and stop his fall.
Hanging in mid-air, the man noticed another pride of lions waiting for him on the ground below. He also noticed that there was a beautiful red flower growing on the cliff face. He leaned towards the flower to smell it. The branch creaked as if it was about to give.
As he inhaled and the fragrance filled his nostrils, he smiled and thought to himself: “What a lovely scent!”
Two Monks and an Old Lady
Two old monks were walking towards the town to get some supplies. The sky was grey; it was raining quite heavily. As they reached the town, they saw that all the streets were muddy and flooded.
As part of their vows to become a monk, they’d promised that they would never touch a woman as long as they lived. An old lady was trying in vain to locate a dry spot to cross the street. One of the monks asked her if she’d accept assistance. She said yes, and the monk carried her across the street through the mud.
As they were heading back to the monastery, the other monk asked: “Don’t you remember what you promised when you became a monk? What has become of you?” The monk who helped the old lady said: “You’re still carrying her with you — I’m not.”
After a long break I eventually started practicing karate again, in a different country, in a different style. Last Sunday I graded to 6th kyu, or green belt.