22. The Monk Who Tried Too Hard
was the son of a rich businessman. He liked most of all to
listen to lute music and to play the instrument. He had been
raised in wealth and luxury, so his skin was very delicate
and soft. It was even said that hair grew out of the skin
of his soles. The rumour was so strong that Sona was once
brought before King Bimbisara, who wanted to see the unusual
feet he had heard so much about.
lived near the Vultures' Peak Rock in Rajagaha, where the Buddha
stayed during some rainy seasons. One day, Sona went to the
Vultures' Peak Rock to listen to the Buddha's discourse, which
was about the happiness experienced from non-attachment to
worldly desires. As he wanted to experience this happiness,
Sona asked to be ordained as a monk.
becoming a monk, he was taught to be constantly mindful, even
when walking. Sona was very enthusiastic. Every day he walked
to and fro in meditation in the monastery until one day his
feet developed blisters and bled.
after all his efforts Sona did not experience happiness,
only pain and disappointment. Thoughts of craving for
worldly things still came to his mind. "It is no use,"
Sona said to himself. "I have tried so very hard, but
have still not achieved what I wished for. It is better for
me to return to lay life and enjoy the happiness I used to
experience by performing charity."
the Buddha heard about this he went to see Sona. "Sona,"
he said, "I have heard that you are not getting good
results from your practice of mindfulness and want to return
to the lay life. Suppose I explain why you did not get good
results, would you stay on as a monk and try again?"
I would, Lord," replied Sona.
you were a musician and you used to play the lute. Tell me,
Sona, did you produce good music when the lute string was
well tuned, neither too tight nor too loose?"
was able to produce good music, Lord," replied Sona.
"What happened when the strings were too tightly wound
"I could not produce any music, Lord," said Sona.
"What happened when the strings were too slack?"
"I could not produce any music at all, Lord," replied
do you now see why you did not experience the happiness of
renouncing worldly craving? You have been straining too hard
in your meditation. Do it in a relaxed way, but without being
slack. Try it again and you will experience the good result."
Sona understood and stayed on in the monastery as a monk and
soon attained sainthood.