Let the Arrow Fly

This little tale is about life, and how we look in all the wrong places for our contentment.

A poor man and his wife lived in a small hut. Their one joy in life was giving food to a monk who would stop by their little hut every morning on his alms round. They got to know this monk very well over many years, and when he told them that it was time for him to move on, they were very sad. Seeing their sadness, the monk said, “I see your sadness, and I know that you do not have much. So I will help you, I will tell you where a great treasure lies.”

The monk continued, “Tomorrow morning I must leave you, and after I leave, I want you to stand at you doorway with your bow and arrow, facing the rising sun. And when that sun rises in the east, I want you to aim your arrow at that rising sun and let the arrow fly. And where it lands you will find a great treasure.”

So the next morning after the monk left, the poor man stood at his little doorway, and when that sun rose, he pulled back on the bow and shot the arrow toward the rising sun. He then ran after the arrow (followed by his wife who was carrying the shovel), and when they found where the arrow landed they began to dig. They dug and dug, but they found no treasure – all they found was trouble!

The arrow landed in the field of a rich man, and when the rich man caught them digging, he said, “You can’t dig in my field. I’ll have you arrested!”

And the poor man said, “But it was that monk! He told me that if I shot an arrow toward the rising sun, where it landed I would find a great treasure.”

“Hmmm,” thought the rich man, “I know these monks. And they don’t lie.”

“Tell you what,” said the rich man, “I will shoot the arrow tomorrow morning from the doorway of my mansion, which is much greater than your little hut, and when we find the treasure, we’ll split 50 – 50. How’s that?”

So the next morning the rich man, the poor man (and his wife holding the shovel) all stood at the rich man’s door way. And when that sun arose, the rich man pulled back on the bow and shot the arrow toward the rising sun. All three then ran after the arrow and when they found where the arrow landed they all began to dig. They dug and dug, but there was no treasure – only more trouble.

The arrow landed in the field of a general, and when the general caught them digging, he said, “You can’t dig here, this is military property. I’ll have you imprisoned!”

And the rich man said ” But it was this poor man, he told me that if I shot an arrow toward the rising sun, where it landed I would find a great treasure.” And the poor man said, “But it was that monk! He told me that if I shot an arrow toward the rising sun, where it landed I would find a great treasure.”

“Hmmm,” thought the general, “I know these monks. And they don’t lie.”

“Tell you what, said the general, I will shoot the arrow tomorrow morning from the doorway of my barracks, and I am a professional, I really know how to shoot an arrow, and when we find the treasure, we’ll split a third, a third, a third. How’s that?”

So the next morning, the general, the rich man, the poor man (and all the general’s soldiers holding shovels – they really knew how to dig) all stood at the general’s doorway. And when that sun arose, the general pulled back mightily on the bow and shot the arrow a long way toward the rising sun. And when they all ran after the arrow and found where the arrow landed, they all began to dig. They dug and dug, but there was no treasure – only more trouble, this time serious trouble, the arrow landed in the king’s garden.

When the king’s guards caught them digging, they rounded them up and brought them before the king. This was trouble, digging in the king’s garden was a very serious offense.

The king said, “How dare you dig in my garden? This is a capital offense. What have you to say for yourself?” The general said, “But it was this rich man. He told me that if I shot an arrow toward the rising sun, where it landed I would find a great treasure.”

And the rich man said, “But it was this poor man, he told me that if I shot an arrow toward the rising sun, where it landed I would find a great treasure.”

And the poor man said, “But it was that monk! He told me that if I shot an arrow toward the rising sun, where it landed I would find a great treasure.”

“Hmmm,” thought the king, “I know these monks. And they don’t lie.”

So the king ordered his guards to round up the monk, and when they found him, they dragged him before the king.

“Why did you lie to the poor man and say that he would find a treasure where the arrow landed,” asked the king.

“But I didn’t lie,” said the monk, “they didn’t follow my instructions. Tomorrow morning I will accompany you, my king, to your doorway of the castle. There I want you to stand with your bow and arrow facing the rising sun. And when that sun rises in the east, I want you to aim your arrow at that rising sun and let the arrow fly. And where it lands you will find a great treasure, greater than you can ever imagine. But you must follow my instructions.”

So the king agreed, but warned them all that if there was no treasure, they would all end up in the king’s dungeons, from which nobody ever returned!

So the next morning, the king, the general, the rich man, the poor man, and the monk, all gathered at the king’s doorway.

And when that sun arose, the king pulled back on the royal bow, and just as he was to shoot the arrow toward the rising sun, the monk said, “STOP! You are not following my instructions. I said, ‘let the arrow fly,’ not ‘shoot the arrow.'”

And with that, the king let go of the arrow and let it fly by itself, and it dropped between his feet, right where he was standing.

And when they dug, they found an immense treasure, just as the monk promised.

(The moral of the story is that the true treasure always lies right where we standing. All we have to do is look within.) – Compliments of Ajahn Brahm, abbot of Buddhist Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth Australia.