“Master, what is the greatest value of my life?”
The elder smiled at him, but didn’t give him the answer. Instead he told the young monk to go on a little journey:
“Before I give you the answer, I want you to complete a mission.
Go outside to the garden and find a large stone. Then take the stone down to the market to sell it. If someone asks you for the price of the stone, stay silent, and instead just stretch out 2 fingers in response. If someone offers you money for it, don’t sell the stone! Bring it back to me, and I will tell you the answer to your question.”
The little monk set off early the next morning, and carried the large stone to the market to sell.
The market was crowded that day, and all the people were very curious about the mysterious young monk and his stone. Suddenly a housewife came over and asked:
“How much are you selling that stone for?”
The young monk stretched out two fingers. The housewife said: “2 Dollars?”
The little monk shook his head, and the housewife replied: “So it’s 20 Dollars? Well, ok! I’ve been looking for a good paper weight to use at home.”
The little monk couldn’t help but think to himself:
“My goodness, someone’s willing to fork out 20 Dollars to buy this worthless stone! There are thousands more in the hills where that came from! “
However, the little monk followed his master’s instructions and keeping the stone, cheerfully went back to report his accomplishments:
“Master, you won’t believe it. Today there was a housewife who offered 20 dollars to buy my stone. Now can you tell me, what is the greatest value of my life? “
The elder monk replied:
“Very good! But your mission is not over yet! Tomorrow morning I want you to try it again. This time, take the stone to the museum instead. Come back to me afterwards and I will tell you the answer to your question.
The next morning, in the museum, a group of curious onlookers stood whispering amongst themselves:
“It looks like an ordinary stone, what’s so special about it?”
“There must be some hidden value, or why would the little monk bring it here?”
At this moment, a person sprang out from the crowd, and shouted out to the little monk asking:
“Little monk, how much are you selling this stone for?”
Once again, the little monk didn’t say anything, and just showed him 2 fingers.
The man said: “200 Dollars?”
The little monk shook his head, and the man replied:
“Of course! 2,000 Dollars then. I will carve this stone into a statue and make it a work of art.”
Upon hearing the offer, the little monk was taken aback, in shock.
Almost giddy from excitement, the little monk remembered his master’s instructions, and rushed back to the monastery before anyone could say another word.
“Master! Today someone offered 2,000 dollars for my stone. I don’t believe what’s happening! Now can you tell me what the greatest value of my life is?”
The elder monk laughed and said:
“Not so fast! I have one last task for you. Tomorrow, I want you to try one more time. This time, take the stone down to the art collector’s shop. When you come back, I promise to give you your answer.”
So the next morning of the third day, the little monk brought his stone to the art collector’s store. It seemed the story of the little monk and his mysterious stone had spread throughout the town, as immediately he was surrounded by a group of people.
They murmured excitedly to each other in hushed tones.
“This little monk is shrewd! He must know the true value of this precious rock to bring it here.”
Finally one person asked him: “Little monk, what is the asking price for your wonderful stone specimen?”
As before, the little monk stretched out two of his fingers without replying.
“20,000?” another man asked. Completely stunned, the little monk blurted out a garbled reply before covering his now wide-open mouth in a fluster.
Thinking that he had angered the little monk with a low-ball price, the man immediately corrected himself.
“Oh, no, no… I meant to say 200,000 then! Wait!”
So stunned was the little monk that he picked up the stone and ran all the way back to the monastery, leaving the entire crowd in an uproar.
Panting excitedly, he described his experience at the art collector.
“Master, Master! We’re rich! Someone just offered 200,000 dollars for the stone! Surely, now you can finally tell me what the greatest value of my life is. Please!”
Smiling, the elder monk patted the young monk on the head and gently said:
“My child, you have already discovered the answer to your own question.
The greatest value of your life is just like this stone.
At the market, you are only worth 20 dollars;
And at the museum, you are worth 2,000 dollars;
But if you place yourself at the art collector, you’re worth 200,000 dollars!
So the value of your life is exactly where you place yourself to be.
The decision is yours to make.”