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Regret and Hope ~ The Lost Apprentice

Updated on October 21, 2016
Docmo profile image

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.

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The Arrival

The scent of peach blossoms mingles with the gentle breeze as it plays among the bright green leaves. Shafts of sunlight dance through the branches as the apprentice arrives at the master's garden. His eyes crinkle at the beauty around him but a lone furrow worries his forehead. He rubs his freshly shaven scalp as he walks on the path decorated with leaves and petals. It is his first day.

The master sits in the stone seat near the stream, watching. His face a weathered relief map where a thousand thoughts have ploughed their lines. The face is impassive, but the eyes that shine through the wrinkles are as piercing as the sunlight shafts.

The apprentice is young, yet his posture is hunched over with the burden of what he has left behind. Even when empty, he seems to carry his shoulders like a merchant carrying his laden wares on a bamboo stick. He walks up to the master.

The master smiles as the apprentice bows low. There is a pot of tea and two cups on a wooden tray. The apprentice lifts his head and speaks. 'Thank you for having me here, oh venerable Rōshi, My heart is full with joy."

The Master waves the apprentice to sit down beside him and lifts the pot of tea and pours it into the cup. The apprentice watches reverently as the stream of tea first flows, fills and then gradually overflows from the cup spilling over into the tray.

The Master is smiling at the apprentice and the latter hesitates for a moment. Has the old man not realised the cup was full? Do I say something? would he be offended?

The apprentice clears his throat and says hesitantly, "Rōshi, er... the cup is full"

The Master's eyes glint. "That it is, Oshō , That it is."


The apprentice is tasked with filling pottery with pebbles across the garden. He quietly set about his work in the morning after prayers. The sky was a clear blue with wispy clouds floating by like a steady procession of ceremonial boats. The apprentice drifts through the haze of morning light like a feather and thinks about his family. His house. His mother's cooking. His girl. His hands hesitate over the pot as he rolls the pebble tenderly in his fingers, meditating on what once was.

The master appears from behind the overgrown trellis leaning on his stick. He tents his palms over the stick and rests his chin, watching the apprentice dream.

He walks over to a pot already full of pebbles.

He taps loudly on the rim with his stick. The apprentice snaps from his dream back into the garden. He bows deep as the Master gazes down at him.

"Is this full, young Oshō?"

"Yes, my kind Rōshi. I filled it just a moment ago."

"Is this full?" the master repeats.

The apprentice frowns. The old furrow on his smooth forehead reappears. "Yes, Oh Rōshi. I did it myself. As you can see the pebbles are up to the brim, I couldn't fit another one."

The master leaned over to the ground and cups a handful of fine sand. He pours it into the mouth of the pot.

"It appears it wasn't full after all" . The Master smiles as the sand disappeared into the nooks and crannies within the pot.

The Girl

The apprentice sees the girl looking up at the cherry blossom tree outside the rock wall of the Master's garden. He rubs his scalp as if to chase away thoughts. He tries to recall that morning's prayer, but his brain refuses to cooperate. He pretends to look at the bubbling stream that flows among the black pebbles while from the corner of the eye he adores the bright, flowery Kimono, the dark hair in a bunch and the curious eyes.

His heart flows like the stream around the pebbles - rebellious and reverberant.

The Master comes down the path- he had the habit of appearing silently out of nowhere despite his slow gait and the clack clack of the walking stick. He smiles at the apprentice and goes to the pot now full of pebbles and sand. He strikes his stick on the rim.


The apprentice blushes. " I think so, oh Rōshi. You made sure it was."

"Did I?"

The Master grabs an empty cup from the bench and leans over onto the stream. He pours the sparkling water into the pot and watches it disappear in between the sand and the pebbles.

"It appears not." He grins, showing old, crooked teeth that nevertheless sparkle in joy.

Gathering Storm

The apprentice sits to meditate on the garden bench. His inner thoughts ripple through his face. There is no peace on his demeanour. He scrunches his eyes shut, attempting to close things out.

The Master watches. Kind, considerate, free. He sings a strange song:

The roof does not help

If it rains and pours inside

Embrace the water.

Regret and Hope

The apprentice rubs his tear stained eyes.

"Has Buddha abandoned me, Oh Rōshi?"

He kneels before the Master. The sky is cloudy with a distant rumble announcing an imminent storm.

"No my child."

"Why could I not stay?"

"Why should you stay?"

"I came to become like you, a sensei"

"You still can."

"I gave up everything for Buddha"

"Buddha doesn't need anything." The Master smiles."It is better to think of Buddha when you are following your destiny than to think of your lost destiny while following Buddha"

"Am I not good enough?"

"No my child, It is I and this garden and Buddha himself not good enough for you. The girl is still pretending to watch the blossoms. Go talk to her."


The Master watches as little eddies twirl on the surface of the stream. Leaves dance on the pebble path, unhindered, unburdened.

The apprentice is walking outside the wall, approaching the girl. The shoulders are square, strong, unbowed.

The Master plucks a hollow reed from the water and pushes one end into the flower pot full of pebble, sand and water.

He blows into the pot and listens to the air bubble through the slushy mixture of earth. The Earth that gives life to all.

"There's still room"

The Master's eyes shine through the garden as the clouds part and sun starts to shine again. The storm is only a distant memory.


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    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      @Audrey: I am really glad you like this. I wanted to convey the serene lessons of Zen that I so admire. I am glad I was abel to somewhat.

      @Shanders: Thank you very much. I am pleased this was something you enjoyed. what more can a writer ask for?

      @KrisL: Thank you.. I started writing this with no clear end in sight and I was glad when the 'ending found me' rather than the other way around! Appreciate your visit and comment.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      Ruchira: Thank you for your appreciation.

      Dotti: Much appreciated. The journey IS Life, bumps bruises and all. I find every meandering diversion is all part of my path.

    • KrisL profile image


      7 years ago from S. Florida

      Beautifully done, Docmo . . . words, pictures, and music worked together to create a wonderful experience. The ending went in an unexpected direction, one I liked very much.

    • Shanders profile image

      Shannon Anders 

      7 years ago from Port Huron, Michigan

      Such an incredibly beautiful tale, loved every word. Thank you for sharing with all of us. You are clearly very talented, can't wait to read more from you!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      7 years ago from California

      I love this on so many levels--the philosophical, the existential, the sense of beauty --masterfully done

    • profile image

      Dotti (djuri-stetrser) 

      7 years ago

      Docmo, this is so elegant and full of wisdom.

      With every good intent, I keep finding myself wandering off the Middle Path, banging my head against the sturdy walls of illusion, and after enough 'bruises' there, I dust myself off and get back on the path to try again. Buddhism has so much for's all there under our noses, but 'Right, Right Right is easier in concept than practice for me!

    • Ruchira profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Wow...this was utmost beautiful and the music in the background helped me soothe out all my regrets my life.

      Great piece of work, Doc.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thank you ytsenoh, appreciate your visit and the kind comment. I am glad I could provide some calm on a sunday evening. do come again.

    • ytsenoh profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      This was absolutely beautiful and meaningful. Docmo, you are truly gifted with the benefits of being human and the behavior of language. Indeed, keep writing. Embracing a lesson or a message through storytelling is such a delight. Thanks very much for a good source of calm and peace on a Sunday evening.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      @Mary- I am always grateful for your warm appreciation and wonderful comments. I am glad this story meets the mark it set out to confer... thank you so much. I am glad you'll be joining us soon.

      @Dana- thank you, my dear.

      @btrbell- thanks for the visit and wonderful comments. I'm glad you could join us this month.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      @Ishwaryaa- thank you so much for visiting and your wonderful comments.

      @Cyndi10: Thank you so much for your visit and your enjoyment of this little offering.

      @Silent Reed- I am pleased to express my perspective through the Zen parable and even more pleased find a fellow zen enthusiast. I haven't heard of the Bobo Roshi before.. but I do feel much enlightened !

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      7 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Very beautiful! I'm not sure how I missed it but I am very glad I found it now! Thank you!

    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 

      7 years ago from Ohio

      lovely writing. beautiful images.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      You have certainly mastered this subject Mohan. So many truths, so much thought on the part of the poor apprentice learning from a true Master. we live with them or put them in the pot and cover them up as we search for the hope of the future? You are a Master storyteller and your choice of music is a superb complement!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, and interesting.

    • SilentReed profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines

      Superb story telling! This was an enjoyable read. It's gentle style and pacing, like a meditative interlude in a Zen garden. Zen teachers would sometimes ask a disciple to leave the temple if they felt the pupil was not making any progress, in the hope that a sudden change of environment may force a breakthrough the mental block of the student. That is not to say that the youth won't acquire enlightenment with the girl. Love works in mysterious ways.:)

      I recall a story about a Zen master who after enduring the rigors and discipline of temple life for more than ten years, gave up and left without achieving enlightenment. A celibate for many years, he found himself in the red light district on his very first day outside the monastery. At the instant he entered the woman, he achieve satori. He become known as Bobo roshi (copulation master).

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Very well done! The music is a wonderful touch to the lesson. It is a lesson we can all benefit from. So glad you shared it with us. Voted up.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      7 years ago from Chennai, India

      What a beautiful story with stunning imagery! Your style of writing is inimitable and your perspective is amazing. Way to go!

      Thanks for SHARING. Beautiful & Awesome. Voted up & Shared

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      Appreciate your visit, Kathi. I have been away from hubs over winter with a busy work schedule and it is always a pleasure to come back and meet familiar faces.. thank you so much.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks Nikki, I'll wait till I am older ( littler and cuter) to lend my services to humanity. Market needs must be met. Glad you enjoyed the story.

    • Fossillady profile image


      7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Your writing is so beautiful Docmo . . . I enjoyed this little journey listening to the music with the rhythm of the pouring rain while absorbing your lovely message! Thank you, Kathi

    • Nikkij504gurl profile image

      Beautiful Garbage 

      7 years ago from Louisiana

      i love those cute little old wise asian men lol Wish I had one to learn from sometimes. They can teach you in such interesting ways all you need to know about life. That there is always room to grow and learn. They have such a great perspective on life. Good story, Docmo.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      @Amy - how nice to hear from you. Yes, a recent brief sojourn in far east got me thinking about the vagaries of regret and hope. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

      @Ruby- always a pleasure, always exploring. I am thrilled ot receive such compliments, as always.

      @drbj - thank you so much, dear drbj. You know I trust you and your pen immensely. Much appreciated.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      What a very meaningful parable this is, Docmo, and so well illustrated. You, my friend, are most definitely the Master. Trust me.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Aha, This is so beautiful. The music lifted me to a higher level. A wonderful lesson taught by a master of your creation and he appeared so real. Thank you Doc. Your writing is brilliant and unsurpassed...

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Ah, the journey...yes there's always room for more. Powerful yet peaceful together represent the people who make the most profound difference in the world. They are the people that capture the admiration of the world for the good they do; the ones we never forget. The retreat sounds like an unforgettable, transformative experience, Docmo. Your story is extraordinary.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      @ Xstatic- thank you. You're right about the timelessness. this is something I could've heard variations of. In my childhood- using stories to reflect on ethics, morals and aspects of life is as old as humanity itself. Thanks.

      @Marisa- thank you for your visit and warm comments. Much appreciated. I felt the sound really augments the mood.

      @Mhatter99- appreciate your visit and comment.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      @mckbirdbks- - thanks for getting the zen from this zone, appreciate the visit and comment.

      @Mar- you make me happy with your wonderful compliments. I always love the way you complement your hubs with music too... Thanks for your appreciation.

      @ Martie- tjoklits you really do pick out my favourite bits of this story ... That Buddha phrase was the first thing that came to my mind when I thought of Regret and Hope. Thank you.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing your perspective and opportunity for reflection via this wonderful imagery.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Perspectives and lessons are two of my favorite things. Very well done and a pleasure to read and see. Gorgeous pictures too. Thank you for sharing your wonderful interpretation and for including the beautiful sounds of the rain and flute.

      Thoroughly enjoyed it, MissOlive/Marisa

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      7 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      An absolutely beautiful story which sounds so timeless that it could have been told a thousand years ago, or told a thousand years hence.

      Finding that destiny, a life with purpose is the most important thing in this life.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      What a very thought-provoking story. How can we regret what was/is when there is always room for hope?

      One of the best statements I've ever read: "It is better to think of Buddha when you are following your destiny than to think of your lost destiny while following Buddha"

      Bravo, Docmo!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      7 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Written by the master.

      This music is a must to center the reader's mind...your journey was a retreat, resultant in clarity and wisdom.

      Your perspective is awesome, Mohan, like you.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      7 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Docmo - very zen. A little ying, a little yang. Classic in its elegance.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thank you so much livingsta- I'm glad you enjoyed this. appreciate the sharing and votes.

    • livingsta profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Beautifully written Docmo. Very interesting. I like the way you have added this piece of music which flows with the story. Thank you. Voted up and sharing!

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thank you, my dear Sha. I am glad it was worth the wait. My journey there and back brought forth some tranquility. thought it was worth sharing.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Well, my dear Doc, this was certainly worth the wait! What a beautiful perspective and soothing music to accompany the moral.

      I hope all is well with you. You have been very much missed my friend!


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