Monday Truclusions – The Wisdom Of The Fifth Monk

Monday Truclusions - Ashwin Karthik Caricature

Welcome everyone to a new edition of Monday Truclusions. Today, when you are reading this write-up, I will be in Ahmedabad attending an inclusion retreat. Before I tell you more about the retreat, I want to narrate a story for you – the tale of the ‘fifth monk’.

The Floating Baby

The story goes like this – there were four young monks who settled down by a river to meditate. Their aim was to attain self-realization and liberation. With great focus and concentration, they meditated for years.

One fine day, they saw a basket floating down the river from the city. The monks were intrigued and one of them picked up the basket to see what was inside it. To his surprise, he found a baby in the basket. He consulted the other three monks, and they collectively decided to take responsibility for the baby.

Every day for the next couple of weeks, a new basket containing a baby came their way. The monks started getting anxious. The responsibility of caring for the babies was on their shoulders and they were not able to focus completely on their meditation. Their inner compassion did not allow them to neglect their responsibilities to the babies. But they felt that they were not doing justice to their daily practice.

Looking For Solutions

Finally, the monks decided that one of them would stay back with the babies and rest would go to the city to find out why the babies were being sent down the river. After a couple of months, one of the three monks returned to the river bank. He told the first monk that he had solved the mystery of the floating babies. The problem was that there was a population explosion in the city and the parents of the babies were not equipped to take care of them. So, he set up an orphanage in the city to care for the children.

In the next few months, the other two monks were happy that no babies were spotted floating down the river. They thought the problem had been solved, but after a few months passed, they saw a new basket coming towards them. The monks realised that the problem still existed and they had no other option but to shoulder the responsibility of another baby.

The situation continued for awhile with a new baby coming every day. After some time, the third monk, who had gone to the city as well, came back and happily told his fellow monks that he had worked with the local authorities to set up family planning policies.

The three monks at the river banks were once again at peace. There were no babies to be seen! They assumed that the problem was solved. However, the floating babies began to appear again, and the three monks were in a fix once more.

Finally, the last monk who had gone to the city returned to the river banks and merrily informed his fellow monks that he had worked alongside the local political party and set up a new government. They would fund the needy and solve the problem for good. Thrilled, the four monks returned to their holy practices. Unfortunately, fairly soon a new basket made them realise that the same problem had returned to haunt them again.

The Birth Of The Fifth Monk

The monks lost sleep over the situation for quite some time as all their efforts to resolve the issue had been in vain. They realised that the population issue was the result of many other complex issues, and until now, they were just treating the symptoms and not the roots of the issues. They called together the leaders of the community. The monks discussed the issue with these leaders and the collective wisdom that came out of these talks came to be known as the ‘fifth monk’. This knowledge can be used to resolve complex issues by treating the cause, not the symptoms.

The retreat that I have been at for the last 3 days focuses on creating and nurturing the fifth monk. I will tell you more about the fifth monk in coming weeks. Until then, here is some food for thought. Think of humans as trees in a forest, and this is what each tree would say:


You think I’m just green

But I have so many colours unseen

You think I am rooted I and I don’t walk

You do not know, I too talk

I am in all of you

With you, I too grew.

We all are trees.

To share love, we never seize.

We all have so much to offer.

Just believe in life, love and laughter.

Liked reading this? Then you might also like to read Monday Truclusions – The Importance Of Adapting To Change.

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Ashwin Karthik is the first quadriplegic cerebral palsy student to bag an engineering degree in India. In spite of having his share of misfortune that affected all his limbs since birth, Ashwin is blessed with a positive attitude and an undying spirit in life. He is a very talented poet and loves tackling impossible challenges. Ashwin has 3 role models in life- his mother, Sachin Tendulkar, and Stephen Hawkings. Currently, he works in ANZ as a Business Analyst, strives to bring awareness for an inclusive society, and wants to achieve at least a fraction of what Sachin has done for the spirit of his countrymen!