Zen Story: The Golden Wake

“The boat is coming to take me home because I have failed in my studies here at the monastery,” said the boy to his teacher.

“What can I say to my family?”

“Say that you did your best and that is as much as anyone can do,” answered the teacher.

“But I wanted to be a famous monk and teach others.”

“You can.”

“How?” asked the sad boy.

“Live from your heart. I will show you. Do you see that boat making its way across the lake with the sun setting behind it?”


“Do you see its wake spreading across the lake? See how the boat looks like the apex of a golden triangle as the wake fans out from its bow.”

“Sort of.”

“Squint,” said the teacher.

“That boat is you as you leave the monastery. The lake is your life. The wake is the effect that you will have on the world. Each ripple triggers another ripple, which triggers another. By constantly striving to live as wise and loving of a life as you can, you can teach the path of love to everyone you meet simply by being yourself; a few of these people will pass on your good example to others. Thus the expanding golden wake of good works begets other good works. Most important, notice how each ripple catches the sun and bounces its light back to heaven…”

“Would you come home with me and explain all of this to my father?” asked the boy.

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