The abbot replied, “Yes, if you are really determined. Tell me, what have you studied, what have you concentrated on most in your life?”
“Why, nothing really.” he replied. “I suppose the only thing I was really interested in was chess. I spent most of my time at that.”
The abbot then summoned for a monk and a chessboard. The game was set up for them to play against each other. He then sent for a sword and showed it to both of them. “Both of you will play a game of chess and whoever loses, shall have his head cut off with this sword. Since chess is the only thing this young man has ever tried hard at, if he loses, he deserves to lose his head.”
They began to play. With the opening moves, the youth felt nervous as he played for his life. The chessboard became the whole world; he was entirely concentrated on it. At first, he wasn’t doing so well in the game, but then his opponent made an inferior move and he seized his chance to launch a strong attack. He looked covertly at his opponent as his chances of winning looked slimmer. He saw a face of intelligence and sincerity, worn with years of austerity and effort. He thought of his own worthless life, and a wave of compassion came over him. He deliberately made a blunder and then another, ruining his position and leaving himself defenseless.
The abbot suddenly leaned forward and stopped the game. He said, “There is no winner and no loser. There is no head to fall here. Only two things are required,” he said as he turned to the young man, “complete concentration and compassion. You have learned both of these today. You were completely concentrating on the game, but then in that concentration you could feel compassion and sacrificed your life for it. Now you may remain here and pursue our training.”