An elder monk gives a younger monk a quick lesson in following the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law. HSK 4-5.
Some language stuff
This post isn’t intermediate due to length – this fable is quite short. But it does contain some Buddhist vocab that must be fully understood in order to understand the story, so let’s take a look:
和尚 hé shang – Monk
化缘 huà yuán – In some Buddhist traditions, monks are not allowed to have money, and they are also not allowed directly ask for anything from anyone except water – that includes food. If you’ve ever been to Thailand or another Buddhist country, you’ll know that the way that Buddhist monks get food is they take an alms bowl, and every morning, they walk down the street and the local lay people come out of their homes and donate food to the monks. The translation of 化缘 means “to beg for alms”, but this is not begging for money, it is a daily ritual of walking around collecting food and anything else the locals choose to give.
出家 chū jiā – This word looks like it means “to go out of the house”, but it actually specifically means “to [leave one’s family to] become a monk” or “to take the holy robes”. My interpretation is that it does not mean to physically leave one’s home, but actually to step out of one’s family in order to dedicate oneself to the dharma, and if you have a basic grounding in Chinese culture, you’ll understand why a male child removing themselves from the family would be such a big deal.
六根清净 liù gēn qīng zhèng – When Buddhist monks are ordained, they take many vows. The vows are a little different depending on which order you join, but in some orders, one of those vows is to eliminate desires of the “eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind” – part of which entails no sexual relations with or touching women. Sexual chastity is what is being referred to in this story.
犯戒 fàn jiè – To violate religious commandments.