Monks & Combs

There lived a father and his 3 sons in a village. The father was terminally ill. He calls his 3 sons to his bed side and says:

Dear sons, I have now at best 4-6 weeks on this planet. But before I die, I want to hand over our family’s comb factory. Unlike the typical father who may have split the factory 3 ways, I want to give you all a challenge. Whoever wins the challenge gets the factory.

The challenge is to sell the maximum number of combs to the buddhist monks who live in the monastery up the hill near our village. You all have exactly 3 weeks to get this challenge done.

At the end of the 3 weeks, the sons assemble back at the father’s side. The father asks one by one how much they sold:

The first son goes first and says ” I managed to sell 2 combs.  It was a difficult task, but I convinced 2 monks that they could use the combs to scratch their backs. “

The second son goes next and says “I  managed to sell 5 combs. I noticed that the devotees come up the hill and their hair gets dishevelled due to the winds. I convinced the monks to put a mirror and 5 combs next to it so that devotees can comb their hair before they see the God”.

The third son goes next and says “Dad, I managed to sell our comb factory’s entire production for the next 5 years. I spent my first 2 weeks just observing what was going on in the monastery. Then I went to the Head of the Monastery and told him – Sir, so many devotees come to your monastery to see the God and also donate money. But you don’t give them anything in return. I have an idea. Why not you give every devotee a comb. We will also emblazon one of Buddha’s teachings onto the rim of the comb. That way the devotee will remember the teachings as well as remember the monastery. The Head Monk was very pleased and after a thorough inspection of our factory, has signed a 5 year agreement”.

Goes without saying that the youngest son got the factory.

Source of this story – it is a Zen story and there are many variations of this story in existence. For example, this one.






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