Hello, everyone. Welcome to “Korean Folktales.” In this weekly feature, we introduce you to traditional Korean folk stories. I’m Jinny Na. Today, I’ll tell you an amusing story about Buddhist monks who boast their own temples.
A long time ago, four Buddhist monks from different temples happened to meet. They engaged in a casual conversation, touching on various topics. At one point, one Buddhist priest began to brag about his temple. He said that the room in his temple was so large that it was impossible for the guests to know each other even though they stayed there for months. In an apparent move to impress the other monks more deeply, he went on to say that if one wished to go to the end of the temple, the person had to ride a mule and even stay several nights at different inns.
The other three monks were amazed at the unbelievable size of the temple. Then, the second monk said “I think my temple is larger than the one you just described. In the kitchen at my temple, there is a huge cooking pot. I’m sure you all prepare for red bean porridge every winter solstice. On the winter solstice last year, like in previous years, we boiled red bean porridge in the cooking pot. The pot was so big that the cook had to ride on a boat and stir the porridge with a large paddle in the middle of the pot. Then all of a sudden, a strong wind blew into the pot and left both the cook and the boat missing. Unfortunately, they still remain unaccounted for.”
The other monks sighed after hearing the miserable story. Judging from the size of the kitchen that had such a large cooking pot, it was clear that the temple was incredibly enormous. And then as if on cue, the third monk began to talk about his temple. “You must see the outhouse in the back of my temple. The toilet shed is so deep that when you flush water in the morning, it hits the bottom of the shed in the evening with a thunderous echo. I bet my temple is as large as the other two temples.”
Now, it was time for the fourth and last monk to join the competitive conversation. “Well, your temples all sound great. When it comes to size, I assure you that my temple is no smaller than yours. So many monks visit my temple every day, coming in and out all the time. That’s why we made a steel gate in front of our temple. But, every morning, the threshold is worn out during the previous day by the monks’ robes, so we have to sweep up the steel dust from around the doorsill. The dust fills several bags.”
So, whose temple do you think is the biggest? Well there isn’t any way to know for sure and this is also the case when people boast about their lifestyle or experiences. In general, Buddhist monks are considered to have developed higher levels of morality and integrity. By making a joke about monks, who are considered the most noble and modest of all, this tale satirically shows humans’ desire to feel superior to another person.
That’s it for today’s “Korean Folktales.” I hope you enjoyed the story. Tune in again next time for another interesting Korean folk story. Thank you for listening. I’m Jinny Na. Goodbye, everyone.