Nin the Beggar

Nin, resolving to do more good in the world, set off in search of wrongs to right, eventually falling in with a group of beggar monks. They’d taken a vow of poverty: no property, no wealth, no possessions but a simple beggar’s bowl.

Every morning they gathered at a popular watering hole where they gave lessons and preached the dogma in exchange for food. Enamoured by the simple nobility of their lives, Nin took their vow and joined their ranks.

Nin proved to be a popular beggar, thanks to his outgoing nature and royal upbringing. His voice carried far. He would sit on a rock and the animals would gather and he would list the causes of suffering, the various means of cultivating the mind, the laws of the cycle, and so forth. Afterwards there’d be a brief discussion, the creatures that frequented the waterhole would ask him questions, and he would answer their quandaries as best he could.

Things were good, for a while. Nin felt he was spreading wisdom and making progress towards his goal. And he was well-rewarded for his efforts: everyday the animals of the watering hole piled food in his bowl, fruits and vegetables, flowers and greens.

This continued on for some time, and Nin was content, maybe even happy. He made many friends, had great debates and deepened his understanding of the dharma.

But, one morning, as he prepared for the day’s sermon, Nin happened to catch his reflection in the water. He was astonished to find that he’d grown fat.

For a beast like Nin, who had once subsisted on mere crumbs for an entire week just to better empathize with the downtrodden, this was intolerable, and hypocritical to the very dogma he preached.

While he had no material possessions, Nin realized that he in no way could call himself—or any of his fellow monks—impoverished. They lived comfortable lives. They were not holy beings, they were frauds!

Nin confronted his begging brothers. He cursed them for their hypocrisy, spat insults, and made rude gestures. And he vowed to never again conflate a preacher with the message he preached.