The Six Monks

The Six Monks April 29, 2019

Six monks meditate daily along the side of a river. One day, one of the monks notices a baby floating down the river. He immediately leaps in to save the baby. They are all alarmed that a baby should be floating down the river at all. The first monk stays by the bank, in case any more babies come floating by. The second monk goes upstream to see why this is happening and discovers that the local orphanage is in ruins and has been closed, and so the castoff babies are being thrown in the river. He reports this to the others and returns to rebuild and reopen the orphanage. The third monk goes further upstream and decides to run for mayor in order to be in a position to keep the orphanage open. The fourth monk is stunned that throwing babies in the river would be even considered as a response to any form of trouble. And he goes even further upstream to become a teacher, so that throwing babies in the river will never be a choice again. The fifth monk says, “I admire you all but I can’t swim, and I’m not strong enough to build, and I’m not skilled enough to lead, or smart enough to teach. But I am good at tending to relationship, and so I will coordinate all your efforts, so that we all work as one.” And the sixth monk says, “And I will stay right here and care for the babies we pull out of the river.”


A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, discuss which of the six monks you are most like.

This parable about the perennial aspects of activism was originally imagined and told by my dear friend Tom Callanan. Tom is a wise teacher of resilience. Please see The excerpt is from my book in progress, Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Volume 2.


*Photo credit: Quang Nguyen Vinh

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