About A Clever Priest and A Shallow Monk

There was once a monk who carried a mirror where ever he went. A priest noticed this behavior one day, and thought to himself, “This monk is so vain and shallow. He shouldn’t concern himself with his external appearance–it is the inside, not the outside that really matters. I’ll teach that monk a lesson today.”

The priest approached the monk and asked, “Why do you always carry that mirror?” Surely, the monk would have to admit his guilt, he thought.

The monk pulled the mirror from his bag, and pointed it at the priest. After a moment of silence, he replied. “I use this in times of trouble. When I look in the mirror, it shows me the source of my problems, and the source of the solution.”


  1. I used exactly this technique today, though the mirror was not one I had taken with me. The external reflection enables internal reflection. It’s very powerful.

  2. I like this comment a lot; I will remember it well. Any ideas on the origin of this story?

  3. I first read this story on Coding Horror. It has been labeled as a Zen story and a Taoist story elsewhere, but it seems more New Agey to me.

  4. Chris – It could be all 3 stories put together? As a history major you often fun into events, people, organizations, etc. that have multiple arcs that come together because of how information was transferred during that particular period of time.

    Now I’m tempted to quote that segment!

  5. This is a good little story for me to remember. Along with the parable, “Who Can Say What Is Good or Bad?” Thanks for this post.

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