A samurai warrior slew his master in a fit of rage. He repented immediately but the deed was done and he knew that if he was caught he would be put to death. He fled.
His wanderings took him to a remote village that was separated from the rest of the world by a mountain. The path across the mountain was narrow and treacherous and many villagers had lost their lives while traversing it. The murderer decided to atone for his sin by single-handedly cutting a road through the mountain to end the isolation of the village.
He worked from dawn to dusk and in four years had penetrated halfway into the mountain. One morning when he was hard at work in the tunnel, a young man called out to him to come out. He was the son of the man who had been murdered. He wanted revenge.
“I deserve to die,” said the former samurai. “Slay me by all means but wait until I’ve completed this tunnel.”
The young man agreed to wait. He watched fascinated as day after day the samurai laboured at a seemingly impossible task. The rocks he was digging through were so massive that at the end of a day’s work they seemed not to have been touched at all. The young man began to develop a grudging respect for his enemy’s tenacity and determination. Eventually he found himself helping the man—digging side by side with him and carrying out the rubble.
Years passed and then one day the two men broke through to the other side. The mountain had been conquered at last and the centuries-old isolation of the village had been ended.
“Now I am ready to die,” said the samurai, kneeling before the young man. “Cleave my head in two.”
The youth raised his sword with a cry, the blood rushing to his head. At last his father’s death would be avenged. But he found he could not bring himself to do it. Slowly he lowered his sword.
“You’re a murderer,” he said. “But I’ve learnt much from you in these last few years. How can I harm my teacher?”
And he sheathed his sword and walked away.