Jun 11, 2023
Martin Goodson

Two Temple Boys Meet at a Crossroads

Stories from the Tradition

Two temple boys try to outmatch each other’s skill in Zen.



One day a temple boy was sent on an errand to the marketplace. 

It was a sunny day and as he did not often manage to get out of the grounds of the busy temple where he lived and worked, he relished his time of freedom to enjoy the country lanes he would take to get to town. 

As he approached a crossroads, he saw from another direction another temple boy from another temple also approaching. Feeling an instant camaraderie with this boy who must be enjoying a similar sense of small freedom he shouted out to him: 

“Hey there! Where are you off to today?” 

Instantly the temple boy looked up at him and responded: 

‘Wherever my feet may take me.” And with that he walked past the first boy leaving him lost for words. 

“Well, well”, thought the first temple boy. “I wasn’t expecting that, he quite caught me off guard! H’mm? What I should have said was, ‘And if you have no feet?’ That would have stumped him for sure. Must remember that in future”. 

The boy fulfilled his errand and returned to the temple. 

The next day another errand was given to him and once more he set off on his journey to town. Once more he arrived at the crossroads and being unable to resist looking up the other road could not believe his luck. There coming towards him was the same temple boy from yesterday.

“Right”, he thought, “This is my opportunity.” He once more shouted out: “And where are you going today my friend?” 

The second boy again answered without missing a beat: “Wherever the wind blows me.” 

This  again was not the answer the first temple boy was expecting and he was again rendered momentarily speechless. The second temple boy passed him and continued along his way. 

“Of course, what I should have said was, ‘And if there is no wind?’, I really should not have expected the same response as yesterday. I will need to be more prepared next time” 

The following day, yet another opportunity arose for the young temple boy to go to town. Incredible as it may seem, as he approached the crossroads, he again spied his sparring partner, the other temple boy, approaching the crossroads. 

“And what about today, where are you going?” His mind was whirring with the possible combinations and crafting skilful replies to all of them. 

The second boy looked up, smiled with a twinkle in his eye and replied: “Why, I am off to the market!”

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