A beautiful photo of a monastery on Unsplash

The Right Question

A few weeks ago I read an amazing book called “A Monastery Within: Tales From The Buddist Path”. It is a collection of short Buddhist teaching stories, which inspired me to reflect on so many important questions, values, and wisdoms. One story especially resonated with me, and I want to share it with you.

(A shortened version summartized by me).

It’s a story of a young man, who had the determination to become a monk. He came to the monastery and asked for permission to join. But to do so, he needed to have an interview with the Abbess first.

When the Abbess met the young man she asked him why he wanted to become a monk and be engaged in the Buddhist Path.

“I want to know who I am,” was his honest answer.

“Who I am? It is the wrong question!” said the Abbess. “Go away and come back with a real question!”

The young man left the monastery. The next day he returned with a better question, he thought.

“I want to discover the truth,” he said to the Abbess.

“That is not the right question!” the Abbess replied.

The young man left the monastery disappointed and spent the next few days thinking about the right question.

The question he came up with was not good enough this time too, as the Abbess said. Discouraged and upset, the young man began wondering around the country searching, meeting with the wisest people he could find and asking them what the right question might be.

From time to time he returned to the monastery with the new questions, but each time the Abbess sent him out to go look for the right question.

Searching for the question became the main pursuit for the young man. But as the months and years passed by, he returned to the monastery less and less often. After some years, the Abbess accidentally met the man when traveling, and he appeared to be unusually at peace. She asked him why he stopped coming to the monastery with questions.

“The quest has become powerful for me,” he answered. “Everywhere I go and in everything I do, I keep asking ‘what is the question’. It fills my days and nights. It keps me very present and interested. I now care less about the answers than with discovering the question each situation calls forth.”

I think it is a wonderful story. It reminds me how often we are obsessed with finding the right answers in life.

Everyone wants answers. We believe they will show us how to live and will tell us how to be happy. Answers let us fix things.

And what is more important and meaningful is searching for the questions. Asking questions means exploring. It helps to cultivate an open mind. The process of arousing questions is where the real growth occurs.

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” — Decouvertes

‘Look for the questions each situation calls for’ is the best advice I got this year from books. ❤️




We are the stories we tell to ourselves.

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Aleksandra Smelianska

Aleksandra Smelianska

We are the stories we tell to ourselves.

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