Three Young Monks Were Sent to a Brothel…

(A Zen fable for today, taken from the book Zen Fables for Today)

To a brothel the controversial Zen master took three students, paid the madam, and announced to the startled youths,
“I will see you tomorrow after the third bell in the Zendo [meeting hall].”

Next morning after the class assembled, the master quizzed the three monks one by one with the question,
“What lesson did you take from this experience?”

“Unlike certain others I learned that I can rise above desires of the flesh. I made the woman sleep on the floor,” announced the first.

“I consciously resolved to have intercourse but for only one reason,” said the second, “to prove that I could treat this woman not as an object, not as something separate from myself, but as an integral part of my person. In all truth I tried repeatedly and was unable to achieve that elevated state of mind – five-and-a-half times.”

The third young monk began, “My objective was to know a woman truly by being one with her, hiding nothing – not even my heart.

We talked and made love and talked and made love until we could do neither anymore and we went to sleep like nested spoons. I discovered how lonely I have been and must now reconsider my commitment to a celibate life and this monastery.”

“What lesson should we have taken?” the class asked in unison.

“No lesson,” said the master with a shrug. “Other than what you teach yourselves. No teacher other than experience.”


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