The Best Laid Plans


Before becoming a member of the Sangha, a certain monk’s nickname was ‘Perfect Planner.’ On the night he was ordained, he immediately planned a schedule for practice: everyday he would recite the Diamond Sutra seven times, chant the Great Compassion mantra 108 times, prostrate to the Buddha 108 times, etc.

After three days, the Master asked him, “How do you feel after becoming a monk?” He replied proudly, “I chant the Great Compassion mantra 108 times everyday,” thinking that the Master would be proud of his diligence. But instead the Master replied, “Don’t chant any mantras.”

The monk thought, “If I do not chant any mantras, then it should be okay to recite sutras?” So he said to the Master, “I also recite the Diamond Sutra seven times and do prostrations 108 times everyday.” The Master said, “Don’t recite any sutras and don’t do prostrations.”

The monk was dumbfounded and finally asked, “Shifu, if a monk doesn’t recite sutras, doesn’t do prostrations, what should he do?” The Master answered, “Keep the present mind still and in suchness, and contemplate the reality of the Middle Way.”