Chapter 3

The Monk and the Steambot

The steambot stood holding the broom and staring blankly at the carpet of red leaves. Light mist blew over the mossy roof of the monastery. Drops and trickles ran down the metal face and body panels of the steambot. As it stood there, it let out occasional puffs of steam from behind its ears. Mist and steam mixed together in the gray light of the cloudy morning.

A monk walking on the leafy path stopped and greeted the steambot. “Good morning,” he said.

The steambot let a slow sigh of steam escape, still staring at the thick layer of red leaves that covered the path around the meditation hall. 

The monk asked, “How are you?”

The steambot replied, “Broken.”

The monk nodded, acknowledging the response. He said, “Is there something that I can help you with?”

The steambot sighed another long puff of steam. “Maybe,” it sighed. “I don’t know.” It bent its torso from side to side. “Could you look at my left side? It feels wrong.”

The monk knelt down and opened the latches to the steambot’s left body panel. The panel swung open with a squeak. The monk looked inside. “Lift your left arm,” the monk said. The steambot lifted its arm. “Bend forward and backward,” the monk said. The steambot bent forward and backward. The monk said, “This all seems to be fine.” He closed the body panel and stood up.

The steambot asked, “Are you sure? I feel broken.”

The monk asked, “Broken how?”

The steambot shifted its weight from one foot to the other. “I have bad thoughts.” It looked over the roof of the monastery, then continued, “but I don’t want to say what they are.”

The monk nodded. “Sometimes I have thoughts that make me uncomfortable.”

The steambot looked at the monk and then looked away. It asked, “You have bad thoughts?”

The monk thought for a moment. He tilted his head from side to side and said, “Yes. I have bad thoughts.” He smiled.

The steambot let out a huge puff of steam. “What?” The steambot tilted its head and looked down the path between the trees. It said, “But I was trying to be like you. I thought that you only have good thoughts and I thought that I was failing to only have good thoughts like you.”

The monk nodded. He said, “Well, I suppose you now know that you are doing a better job of being like me than you thought. I have bad thoughts all the time.”

The steambot slowly vented a small cloud. It said, “But… you… seem so good.”

The monk said, “I try to do good things. I try to say good things.” He looked at a small puddle. He said, “I think of lots of things that I do not say. I also think of lots of things that I do not do.”

The steambot made a frustrated grinding sound. It asked, “You are not really good? You are just pretending?”

The monk smiled. “I apologize if I gave the impression that I was only having good thoughts.”

The steambot said, “But you at least try to stop yourself from having bad thoughts.”

The monk said, “I usually just allow myself to have thoughts of any kind. Trying to stop myself from thinking about something would just be another thought on top of the first thought. It would be like wearing a hat on my hat.”

The steambot made another deep grinding sound and released a puff of steam. It said, “I think I am wearing at least five hats.” The steambot asked, “But if you don’t try to stop yourself from thinking bad thoughts, then what stops you from doing and saying bad things?”

The monk looked down the leaf covered path. He said, “I do judge my thoughts. Sometimes I judge my thoughts as true or not true. Sometimes I judge my thoughts as angry or hasty or incomplete.”

The steambot asked, “Sometimes you judge your thoughts as things that you do or do not want to say?”

The monk nodded. “Yes. And sometimes I judge my thoughts as things I do or do not want to do.”

The steambot said, “But you said that you have bad thoughts.”

The monk smiled. “I have thoughts that would be bad if I did them or said them.”

The steambot made a grinding noise. It asked, “How do you know if a thought would be bad to do or say?”

The monk said, “I guess I don’t know for sure if something would be bad or not. I just try to make my best guess. Sometimes I want to do something hasty or angry but I try to remember that those choices do not usually work well with other things that I want. Then I just try to breathe and take my time before making a decision so I can choose something that does work well.”

The steambot tilted its head. It said, “You just try to breathe? Like when you meditate?”

The monk nodded. “When I meditate I have many thoughts. I use my meditation time to acknowledge my thoughts and then let them go.”

The steambot asked, “Do you have bad thoughts when you meditate?”

The monk said, “Well… Probably most of my thoughts when I meditate are bad thoughts.”

The steambot let out a deep grinding noise and a cloud. “What?” It tilted its head back and forth. “I thought your mind was blank when you meditate. Or at least I thought that you were only thinking good thoughts.”

The monk smiled. “No.” He shrugged and said, “I have lots of bad thoughts when I meditate. It takes lots of thinking to find good and useful thoughts. Most of my thoughts are just things that I think while I am finding my way towards something good. Sometimes it takes me a long time to get to good things like peace, joy, and forgiveness.”

The steambot said, “Maybe I am also trying to find my way to something good.”

The monk said, “I have faith that you can do a good job.”

The steambot said, “I am having one thought right now.”

The monk raised one eyebrow and asked, “And what might that be?”

The steambot began sweeping the leaves off of the path. It looked at the monk and said, “I think that I have more work to do on these leaves.”