One day, after the evening prayers, Master told us a story. He spoke thus:
Many miles from here, there was a forest village, and in that village, many years ago lived a very famous and proud woodcutter. The village occupation was cutting woods hence everyone was really good at it but this man was the champion of champions. He could beat anyone in woodcutting. He was strong as an ox and he could work relentless. And he was vain as a peacock. He challenged other woodcutters to compete with him and ridiculed them when no one would accept the challenge or the very few who would, would face a humiliating defeat. And then one day arrived a rather unassuming, pale faced youth, bearing a woodcutting axe upon his gaunt shoulders. And as luck would have it, he met the proud vain woodcutter as soon as he entered the village seeking some sustenance.
Seeing the newcomer, the village champion asked him to compete with him. The youth agreed but first he wanted some food and water. Which the villagers promptly offered him. Everyone could sense a ridiculous contest in the offing and they wanted to have some merriment at the expense of the newcomer, who had no idea what he had agreed upon. So the villagers piled the youth with as much goodies they could offer, fattening the pig (in a manner of speaking) before the feast. The youth ate calmly and having finished his food, declared that he must rest for the day and the contest would be held next day at dawn. Everyone agreed and that night they held a fiesta, to celebrate the champion’s certain victory next morning.
Even before dawn the villagers gathered around the arena, where lay two identical long thick and terribly toughened gnarl of trees. The two contestants appeared and the crowd gathered around. They looked so incredibly unmatched: the hulk of the champion brandishing his massive axe upon his rippling torso, and the youth with his commonplace axe upon his commonplace physique. The village chieftain explained the rules: they each had to chop their tree into as many pieces they could, making them into a pile and no individual piece of chopped wood could be larger or smaller than an elbow length. Whoever finished first would be the winner.
It was a tough competition, requiring not only strength but finesse and tact. The champion snorted in delight and triumph. The youth remained silent and calm. The village chief signalled and the contest begin.
The champion went to the task like a man possessed. He swung his axe in a giant arc and brought it down with such force that the ground shook and he struck the wood like never before. While the youth chopped too but in a more timid fashion, in a steady pace, his axe barely swinging up and down and then to the utter disbelieve of the onlookers, he rested. While the champion went on relentless. He seemed stronger and more invincible than before. The youth chopped some and then rested. The villagers soon lost interest in the youth and they all focused upon the champion. Never before had they witnessed such savagery nor such strength and agility, they cheered the proud champion, who roared like a beast with every swing of his axe. The wood was tough and sure enough his strength started to deplete, but the pile of his chopped wood kept growing. Unheeded, unheralded, on the other side, the youth went on his task with calm resolve and at every regular interval he rested. No one bothered to see his pile of chopped woods, which was growing too, and a bit quicker than that of the champion.
The contest was nearing its end, the villagers could decipher, since the champion was now rather slow and his pile of chopped woods rather high, with little left to chop. He was sweating and grunting with the effort yet he wouldn’t stop even for a moment from his garrulous task. And then someone, perhaps mistakenly, looked on the other side at the youth, and guess what, lo and behold, the youth was sitting quietly upon his pile of chopped woods, smiling at the crowd since he had no more woods to chop.
The village chief raised his arm to declare that the contest was over. He checked both the piles, measuring the chopped woods and reluctantly declared the youth to be the champion. The proud champion as well as the onlookers couldn’t believe their eyes. How on earth could this happen.
The village chief asked the youth: tell me my son, is it sorcery or god’s intervention that you managed to chop all the woods before our champion could!
‘It is neither, my honourable host,’ the youth said.
‘Then how is it possible, he chopped wood non-stop and you rested often in between?’
‘You all saw that I rested, but none of you noticed what I did while I rested...’
‘And what did you do while you rested?’ The chief asked dumbfounded.
‘I sharpened my axe.’ Master paused.
‘Were you that youth woodcutter?’ I asked the Master.
‘Anybody could be that young woodcutter,’ Master patted my back, ‘as long as you don’t forget to sharpen your axe.’