Jan 31, 2019

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 15 Comments

Short Story: THE RECEDING SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAIN (Truyện ngắn: Bóng núi xa dần trong mắt ai)

Short Story: THE  RECEDING SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAIN (Truyện ngắn: Bóng núi xa dần trong mắt ai)

Dear disciples!

A story goes that a young man, for some reasons, found ways to a high mountain asking a reputed martial arts master to teach him. Having overcome challenges, he was accepted to be the disciple of the master. The first lesson for him was to carry water from the foot of the mountain to the middle of the mountain and rip bark off dry trunks with his five fingers.

In first months, the ripping left many scratches on his hands making them bleeding but he was glad to have finished a large area of dry trunks near the edge of the wood. Things were becoming so harder when he stripped barks off fresh trunks that he had to cease for a whole month for the wound treatment. After the wound healed well, he continued that painful work. It was strange that this time he did more smoothly as merely sliding along the tree with four fingers, the barks correspondingly fell off. However, now it’s turn for his legs to become heavy and tired, feeling hard to move on. He almost lost his breath for carrying water from the foot of the mountain to the hermitage on the mountain slope. Ironically, the master again moved the hermitage to near the top of the mountain. The man felt want to cry. A shadow of doubt crossed his mind on whether the master had used him to carry water and rip the bark for over one year. He felt as if he was merely a piece in the master’s chessboard – nothing more than a servant.

  • “Dear Master,” said the young man in a decisive tone, “I came here to learn martial arts. I have completed Bai Shi ceremony and fulfilling all responsibilities. But look at what I’ve got in return? For over one year, all I have learnt is just carrying water and ripping bark off trees. Would you please have mercy on me by giving instruction on some kicks and punches!”
  • “Once you are my disciple, I will take responsibility for training you,” the Master smiled gently while stroking his beard, “However, each master has their own way of training so you shouldn’t remind or query me. If you find it uncomfortable and unhelpful, you should return home for a rest and find another master then!”

Next day, the young man said farewell to the master and went down the mountain. Strangely enough, he couldn’t help but feel melancholy at the thought of leaving the master. Surely the master did not teach him any kick or punch but still he felt a strange sense of lingering attachment to him. This feeling normally just came from the thought of his beloved father who passed away long time ago. Suddenly, tears trickled down his sunburnt cheeks. Turning his head to look at the hermitage for the last time, the man wiped out every tear from his eyes, kowtowing before walking solitary steps down the mountain.

While his mind kept wandering for the thought of seeing his family again, the scream of a girl echoed through his ears awoke him: “Help me! Help me!”. From far away, he saw five men chasing down a young beautiful girl. Without a second thought, he immediately ran toward them, crossing over vines and creepers. There, layers of the girl’s costume, one by one, were falling down in the wild laugh of the muggers. The man quickly kicked the mugger away from the shivering girl who tried to hide her body from being exposed. Just like a conditioned response gained from a long time of ripping barks off trees, he strongly scratched both sides of the mugger’s hip.

A painful, terrifying yell rent the air as the mugger slumped down on the puddle of mud. The red of blood had spread all over the mud. Quickly the man continued to attack the rest four muggers who were still standing astonishingly at that sight. Strangely enough, their clothes automatically fell down together with pieces of bloody flesh, just like barks of the trunk! He employed all his strength to make quick and flexible moves and grasping like the monkey swinging through the trees appearing and disappearing alternately. The muggers, though faster than ordinary people, still could not catch up with him. Not let himself be amazed with his new ability, the young man continued to fight against the opponents on every side, leaving them seriously wounds with pieces of flesh and blood thrown all over the place.

The muggers were creeped out, pushing and shoving one another to run away without turning their head. Since their life of mugging, they’d never seen such a martial arts whiz with peculiar feat. All they could remember in this panic attack were hot blood and flesh scattered all over the place. The girl remained terrified and trembling with cold, picking up the costume while saying thanks in her tiny voice. As the assaulters ran away, the young man sat flat on the ground breathless, still being stunned at his potential mightiness. Suddenly his thoughts went swiftly back to those days on practicing ripping bark off trunks and carrying water on the mountain. He recalled the image of bleeding fingers or those legs that felt weighted, stiff and tired as if they were detached from his exhausted body. But at that very moment, he suddenly realized that the master had taught him two styles of martial arts – the wonderful “Tiger claw kung fu” and “Flying kung fu” through daily works. He would forever doubt the master’s kindness until this incident helped him realize how high his level of martial arts was.

The young man felt thankful for those five muggers who helped him discover his ability but at the same time, filled with extreme remorse for having wrongly thought of the master. Stricken by repentance, he howled loudly like an insane man and ran without stopping up to the mountain to ask for forgiveness from his master. At an extraordinary speed, he ran to the top of the mountain where his master had settled the hermitage to help him train higher techniques of the “Flying kung fu” after seeing him complete the first stage. However, much to his surprise, the hermitage was no longer there, just a wisp of smoke flowing up from the ash from the fireplace. The master knew he would come back after the awakening but the master-disciple relationship had no space for doubt and suspicion, thus the disciple would have no chance for seeing him again. The young man collapsed like a big trunk being cut by blows of repentance. Exhausted, woozy, regretted, he got high fever and gradually became unconscious.

Next morning, as the sun rose high in the sky, he rubbed his eyes and woke up, feeling fatigued all over his body. Yesterday’s incident was still engraved on his mind but he took no heed of it, just feeling the depth of sorrow and pain. Looking at the scene he was familiar with, still there the calm, peaceful and relaxing atmosphere of summer nights sitting next to the master listening attentively to his stories and teachings. But now all left was just a cold hermitage that stood isolatedly there. He knew for sure that he would no longer have a luck to receive teachings from his compassionate master again. It was his doubt and selfish demand that built up a wall unbroken by the repentance, how much sincere it might be though. The melodic voice of a lark bade welcome the early morning that he used to love sounded like a mock of his disrespect and ingratitude. He tried to pick himself up and dragged his legs down the mountain. Sprouting on the two sides of the mountain was green grass and vines hung on big old trees which he used to swing between them were now dangling down like blaming the disrespectful disciple. Couldn’t stand anymore, the man turned his head towards the hermitage and kowtowed, then continued walking silently. The sky began to change as clouds were darker and thicken, showing sign that the first rain of the season was on the way. The young man took solitary steps on dry leaves that crackled underfoot like his gasping sob. By-and-by, the shadow of the mountain receded and there appeared the village with some shepherds being out in the field early, leisurely tending the buffalos. He only got discernment upon facing adversity but gained no more light of compassion from his reverend master. First rays of the new rising sun were dancing to welcome in a new day but from now onwards, he would walk in a life of ups and downs with no more warmth from the precious master-disciple relationship…

A rainy afternoon on the peak of Phu Van Mountain, January 28, 2019

Thinley- Nguyen Thanh

Translated by Mat Hue Phap

Vietnamese version: Truyện ngắn: Bóng núi xa dần trong mắt ai

  1. Aman Prakash says:

    Dear guru

    Thank you for this article. Great story by you. This story tells us the true relationship between guru and learner. This truthness only comes from trust.The learner should have great faith in guru teachings as he has experience and knowledge. In India there is always a great respect after parents as guru use to give us spectacle (third eye) to see world.

    I also like to share you the devotion of student towards guru. Eklavya was a lower caste boy who wants to learn teaching of archery from Dronacharya( higher caste teacher) but problem was that guru only give to higher caste students.so Dronacharya refused to him. But eklavya not use to go home so he made statue of that guru and practice archery under that statue at far away from that place.time passed and the time came when both eklavya and Dronacharya’student meet together.surpringly eklavya was best of them.eklavya wisely devoted his winning to droncharya as he made statue and made practice.now that particular guru used to say – give me guru dakshina as your right thumb.and yes it is true that he gave him right thumb without any thinking. This is called the true devotion toward guru.it is unimaginable.

    I have great fortunate to have guru like you.i bow my head on your lotus feet.

    May all sensient being attain true nature.

    Om Mani padme hum


  2. Mật Chánh Tấn says:

    Mô Phật!

    Đệ Mật Chánh Tấn hoan hỷ tán thán thiện hạnh của huynh Mật Huệ Pháp đã chuyển ngữ truyện ngắn “Bóng núi xa dần trong mắt ai” sang tiếng Anh. Từ đó, những bạn đọc hữu duyên biết tiếng Anh có thể hiểu được giá trị lớn lao về mối quan hệ Sư – Đệ, trân quý hơn cơ hội khi được theo học vị Thầy. Cầu nguyện cho bài viết này sẽ tiếp cận được nhiều bạn đọc hơn nữa, để từ đó họ có cơ hội được kết nối với vị Thầy, có cơ hội tìm được con đường để đạt được hạnh phúc tự tâm, hanh thông thế sự, thành đạt xã hội và tiến dần tới mục đích “An lạc đời này, Cực lạc đời sau”.

    Con thành tâm cầu nguyện cho sức khỏe và sự trường thọ của Thầy Cô vì sự lợi lạc của tất cả chúng sanh.

    Cầu nguyện cho huynh Mật Huệ Pháp hanh thông thế sự, thành tựu mọi ước nguyện chính đáng.

    Cầu nguyện cho tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc của Phật tánh.

    Om Mani Padme Hum!

  3. Tantra Upatissa says:

    Dear Guru thanks for sharing this article.

    This article is very interesting. It tells the story how a ordinary man met Martial Arts Master and requested him to accept him as a disciple and teach Kung-Fu. Many months passed by and the person was carrying water from down the mountain to top of it, working with wooden logs. He was getting disappointed as there was no progress in his training and left the Master going back to his own way.

    Then after getting into fight with few muggers he could recognize the power in his martial arts taught to him by his Master and felt deeply sorrow as he left such a Good Master. But by the time he reached top of mountain to meet his Master, his Master already disappeared.

    It was his mistake that he did not believe in his Master and had doubted him, as a result he missed his Master.

    Similarly in our lives we should not have even a slightest doubt in Guru’s teaching and we should follow them with sincerity. If we doubt on his teachings we may loose him and its very difficult to encounter holy Guru with such a compassionate heart. I hope we may all follow his teachings strictly without seeking for more knowledge.

    May Guru and his Consort live long for benefit of others and get enlightened.

    May all beings be free from suffering and get enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  4. Reverend Guru,

    I take delight in reading a new short fiction of you: “Receding the shadow of the mountain”.

    The story began with a young man who found his way to a high mountain to learn martial arts from a well known master. His enthusiasm soon faded as his only job, as assigned by the master, was to carry the water and rip bark off dry trunks with his five fingers. Ironically, after some time, the master moved his hermitage to near the top of the mountain which made his already-tired legs seem to detach from his body. The man lost his patience. He said goodbye to the master and walked down the mountain. At first, readers must have sympathized with the man’s doubt over the master’s instruction for it would be useless to spend time and effort for such manual works while time waits for no one. The noncommital answer of the master is like a “knot” that adds to the tension in the mind the man and readers as well. Step by step, under skillful direction with lively and dramatic circumstance, you made us burst out of emotion, leaving a strong impression on the lessons of doubt and suspicion as well as the Guru-disciple relationship.

    This fiction took place on a high, isolated mountain but it isn’t different from the real story of us who are disciples and followers of the holy Thanh Tri Yoga Master. The martial arts master asserted with the young man that he would be responsible for training him once he accepted him as his disciple. And so did Guru as you insisted in your sermon “Spiritual Contract” that you would never abandon the disciples but only disciples walk away from you. The only difference between these two stories is that the young man had to pay for his doubt and suspicion by forever losing the relationship with the Guru; while our benevolent Guru still allows us to “re-sign the spiritual contract” with him by practicing: penitence, mantra recitation, Bodhicitta generation… .  For many times we were collapsed by the influence of eight worldly winds (concerns), Guru had patiently given your hand to us. The way of “lifting” us up could be in either ways: compassionate or wrathful but they all indicate your Bodhicitta and vajra wisdom.

    The story is also a valuable lesson on doubt and suspicion which seem slip in our mind for sometimes. Just like that young man, many selfish questions and doubts rose in our mind which could easily drive us away from Guru if we did not timely reflect ourselves. That young man though showed his extreme regret still could not find his Guru again. Likewise, the practitioner will never find joy and tranquility unless he obeys the Guru’s teaching without any doubt. The Padmasambhava taught that: “In any case, the Buddhist practitioner cannot have joy and tranquility if he does against Dharma and the Guru’s teachings” because “The Guru bestows blessings, the Deity bestows achievements (success) and the Dakini bestows means of performance”.

    The lesson of doubt, faith and Guru-disciple relationship reminds us to be more diligent in practicing the Dharma and nurturing Guru devotion so as to avoid that tragedy of the young man.

    Life is full of ups and downs, the path of cultivation sees lots of impediments, still we are going forward confidently cause we know we can take refuge in Song Nguyen Tantra House under the Guru’s protection. Thank you for bestowing on us this precious Dharma lesson.

    May Guru and your consort live long for the sake of all sentient beings.

    May all sentient beings be awake in the state of enlightenment

    Om Ah Hum

  5. Boying Bagz Baguio says:

    Dear Holy Guru,

    I could relate the story of the master and a student in a real life to an individual who is seeking for an enlightenment in life. Many of us thought that life is just a matter of living, having every day as just a chance of breathing, looking for leisure, making each time not be wasted without partying, making fun of everything just not to get a boring one. To sum it up for clear, most took chances of living a life for granted. Yet, when they happened to meet disappointments, they quit easily. They revenge and questions the circumstances. Sadly, they easily quit. Tragically, there are few who committed suicide.

    These kind of individuals, I believed, are living in ignorance. They are missing the essence of the teaching of the master, which is the real importance of having the life in the realm of human. The master, are the experiences in this life. We, are the students. The opponents are the negative views that can easily arise within us when we encounter consequences. If we lack the knowledge of thinking the positive views that lies behind those consequences, we got easily confused. We will be defeated by the enemies. 

    The mountain in the story is the path where we can reach enlightenment. It is the location where we can embrace the Dharma. Just like the students, who keeps on doing the tasks that the master told him to do, we are in need to render our loyalty and perseverance in accepting the Dharma. We need to be persistent without a doubt. That in a single chance that we quit and ask questions about it, we may never know how many times left for us in this world. We might be out of time if we missed learning the real lesson. That in time comes when we realized that we need the lesson, we’re already over.

    Life has been so great when we know we are moving in the right path. Yet more better if we know we are guided with the wisdom of a wonderful guru, an amazing master of sharing wholesome words of wisdom.

    May all beings be in peace and appreciate the essence of their given life.

    My gratitude for the Holy Guru.

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    I am Tantra Maruta, from the Philippines. 


  6. Vivek RS says:
    Dear Guru

    Eye opening story.There are two things which I infered from this story.First one is patience.It is a natural tendency of human beings that they should get results as soon as possible.The truth is that it takes hardwork of hours,months and years to achieve greatness.

    Second one is trust.If he trusted his master things would have been different.Anyway he mastered some techniques which is a positive thing.I wished story had a different ending.

    Let the Guru live long and all the sentinel beings have the peacefulness and calmness attained by Buddha.

  7. Simon Michael says:
    Dear Guru,

    I appreciate you for this wonderful article. what I understand in this article is that in the cause of pursue of good things or spiritual height one needs to be very patient,endurance and tolerance in other to achieve good thing of life without those things, we can’t achieve any good things in our life. Buddha may you give us the spriit of patients, endurance and tolerance to achieve good things from our master guru in to a better spirit life and material on earth.

  8. Carole Watkins says:
    Dear Guru thank you for your wisdom what this article taught me is that when you are going through difficult times we are still learning but we don’t realise it until life provides an opportunity to put those lessons into practice and it’s only on reflection that we realise.
  9. Mật Diệu Hằng says:
    Kính bạch Thầy!

    Con xin phép được dịch comment của bạn đọc Carole Watkins sang tiếng Việt như sau:

    Kính bạch Thầy!

    Con cảm tạ ơn Thầy vì những lời dạy trí tuệ trong bài giúp con hiểu được rằng khi gặp những giai đoạn khó khăn thì chúng con vẫn nên tiếp tục học. Nhưng chúng con thường không nhận thức được giá trị của việc học đến khi có sự cố trong cuộc sống, chúng con có cơ hội ứng dụng những gì đã học vào thực hành và đó là khi chúng con nhận thức được chúng con đã được học những gì.

  10. Ignacio Sanchez Gentile says:

    Dear guru

    Nice story. I really enjoy this teaching about master and this young men. You always need to trust in your master/guru.

    Thank you.

  11. Tantra Sagovana says:
    Dear Guru,

    My name is Tantra Sagovana.

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    In this article you use a narration of a story to explain about appreciation for the teacher, his teachings and teaching methods. We should not doubt or have suspicions about the teacher. Above all we must have strong faith in and devotion to the teacher.

    In Tantric Buddhism scenario this means having Guru devotion as strong as a mountain and to see the Guru in his enlightened capacity as stated in texts like ‘Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion’, ‘Sun of Devotion Stream of Blessings’ and ‘The Guru Drinks Bourbon’.

    May Mat Tinh Phap overcome the difficulties at present and get successful in the future.

    May all sentient beings be healthy and well and be free from suffering.

    May Guru be healthy and live long for the benefit of all beings.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Tantra Sagovana (Ahmed Khan)

  12. Tantra Mashinaga says:
    Dear Guru,

    Thank you for this article. In this article you discuss the importance of the Teacher Disciple relationship. The story suggests that the student should not question the teacher because it disturbs the relationship.

    May guru live a long and happy life

    May all beings be free of suffering and attain happiness

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    Tantra Mashinaga (Mark Hamilton)

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