The Pursuit of Happiness (according to Japanese folklore)

Every once in a while we come across stories that can be life changing.  While reading the book “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff, I was introduced to just such a tale.

The Stone Cutter (Ancient Japanese Folklore)

This is the story of the stone cutter. All day long he worked hard, cutting the stones and making them into shapes which were requested by his customers. He lived a modest life.  His hands were calloused and his clothes were dirty.


One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.


To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. He admired the official’s power and wished he could be a high official.


Then he became a high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”


Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. Believing the clouds were stronger than the sun’s rays, he wished he could become a cloud.


Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”


Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering mountain. Immediately, he wished to become a mountain, stronger than the wind.


When he became the mountain, he felt more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the faint sound of a hammer pounding a chisel, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the mountain?” he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him a lone stone cutter.



In pursuit of what we believe is happiness – success, fame, wealth, power – we fail to see the goodness in what we currently have.

Contentment and happiness can be found anywhere, at any time, in the absence of their pursuit.


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