Three Lessons from Buddhist Monks


Megan Liu

A while ago, I had the chance to stay at a temple on Mount Koya. During my stay, I encountered a few stories told by Buddhist monks that are used to teach lessons. These stories, originating from simple everyday experiences and elements from nature, have a lot that we can learn from.


Enchanted by flowers? We recommend our Ikebana experience.

Enchanted by flowers? We recommend our Ikebana experience.

1. Lesson of the lotus flower

Ever wonder why the lotus flower is so heavily used in Buddhist symbolism? It's because there is so much beauty and wisdom behind the humble, soft pink flower.

Consider where a lotus flower is grown. It starts off in a murky, dirty pond without much sunlight to cause it to flourish. Yet somehow, it blossoms. It grows from the dark pond on a single thin stem. The stem, though thin and long, is strong enough to reach for the sky and support the bloom of a beautiful lotus flower. The flower itself emerges radiant from the water. Its upward facing pedals are clean and elegant. Its subdued colours are humble, yet comforting. Somehow the lotus grows into a magnificent flower despite its origins in the dark, dirty pond.

From the lotus, we can learn a lot about resilience and overcoming initial or recurrent obstacles. The lotus flower grows strong and beautiful from the unpleasant conditions from where it originates. You can too. The conditions that surround you do not define you. You, like the lotus, can thrive even amidst unpleasant conditions.


2. Lesson from a thousand candles

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and yet the life of that single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
— Unknown

A flame originating from a single candle can be shared with a hundred, a thousand, even a million other candles. Yet, by sharing its flame, the original candle does not lose anything. It continues to burn bright, while being able to light up a room. Our happiness is like the flame of the candle. Sharing our fire does not diminish it. Sharing our happiness will not diminish our happiness. We will only make others happy as well. With one candle, we can light up a whole room. We too have the capacity to light up a whole room.


Get hands on and make your own candles at our Japanese candle-making experience!


3. Story of the sun, the moon, and the truth

What do the sun, the moon, and the truth have in common? All of them will come out eventually.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth
— Unknown

This is a Buddhist saying that you have likely heard of before. The sun rises every day without fail, and when the sun is gone, the moon takes its place. Just like we cannot escape the sun or the moon, we cannot escape the truth. We need the truth as much as we need the sun and the moon, to guide us in daylight and darkness.


Despite our personal religious affiliations or lack thereof, these nature-inspired Buddhist lessons contain nuggets of wisdom that we can all apply to our current stage in life. Buddhism draws its wisdom from everyday objects and experiences. All three of these lessons on perseverance, happiness, and truth have strongly resonated with me. The more important lesson here, however, is that we can learn something from everyone and everything. If we pay attention to what is around us and really listen, we may start to identify these lessons ourselves.