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There are no shortcuts to spiritual cultivation; one must always be mindful.

Dharma Master Cheng Yen

There was once a renowned swordsman in Japan who hoped to see his son follow in his footsteps, and thus, the father introduced his son to a friend under whom he could study the art of swordsmanship.

The son traveled a long way to see this renowned teacher. The teacher saw that he had great potential, but he made a point to say, “You want to learn the way of the sword, but it is not so easy!”

The young man heard this and anxiously asked, “Is the way of the sword really that difficult? How much time will it take for me to master the essence?”

The teacher said, “You must devote your entire life to it!”

Hearing this, the young man said nervously, “My father hopes for me to become a successful swordsman sooner than that. How can I spend my whole life studying here?”

The teacher replied, “How about ten years?” The young man still thought that this was too long and asked if he could finish sooner.

The teacher surprised him by saying, “Then it will take you thirty years!”

The young man said, “As long as I can become a master swordsman quickly, I’m willing to do whatever you tell me to do!”

The teacher replied, “Without patience, success is hard to come by! Those who learn the way of the sword need to be especially patient. I think you might have to spend seventy years studying!”

Hearing that, the young man realized that counting the years was useless, so he strengthened his resolve and said, “Since I am here, I must finish my studies before I return. No matter how long my teacher asks me to study, I will do it!”

From then on, his teacher asked him to collect firewood, fetch water, cook rice, sweep the floors, and other daily chores. After three years, he still had not learned anything about swordsmanship. One day, the young man was feeling very sad because he had not seen his parents for so long and had learned nothing. Suddenly, his teacher hit him from behind with a wooden sword. His teacher knocked him off his feet, dazing him. Day after day, his teacher did the same thing; he would suddenly appear to attack him, catching him unaware. Thus, every day, the student began to heighten his awareness and mindfully prepared to face these attacks that could happen at any moment.

Finally, one day, his teacher appeared and told him solemnly, “You have mastered all the basic skills. Take this wooden sword and observe me.” From that day onward, he practiced swordsmanship with his teacher every day.

In a few months, he had thoroughly mastered his craft, and he became one of Japan’s most famous swordsmen. From this, we learn that we need to be patient in order to learn any skill. Throughout the course of our daily lives, we must cultivate patience, faith, and mindfulness in all things.

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