A novice came to the scribe Qi asking: “Pardon my imprudence, but a question troubles my mind. Can I speak privately to you?”

The old scribe replied: “Speak your mind, young one, I am here to help. But my position enclines me to sharing: if your question has any use to anybody else in the temple, I should write about it for future generations. So why must that be private?”

“Well,” said the novice, visibly uncomfortable, “it’s about the masters.”

“They are known to be harsh,” conceded Qi, “but fair. No correction has been admonished where there needn’t be.”

“Then which master’s discipline do you believe has had the most lasting impact on the Temple?”

Qi pondered.

“My fallible memory needs a refreshing from my trustful archives. Come to me tomorrow.”

The novice bowed and went out.

— — —

The following day, the novice came by. From his unassured steps it could be guessed that he wondered if he was about to find the masters in the scribe’s study, and have a cryptic lesson be taught to his body rather than his mind.

He found no such thing, but the scribe was a pity to see: “Ah, young friend! I’m sorry I had to stay up all night and have not found a satisfying answer yet. Please come next week.”

The novice bowed and went out.

— — —

The next week, the novice came to find Qi. He was surprised to see the scribe waiting for him, four big piles of books, sheets and scrolls on his crowded desk.

The old scribe waved at each of them as if inviting to read each of them to prove each of his points, or to justify the amount of sleep lost to the task.

“Master Kaimu is most renowned for his discipline. No error is brought to him without receiving proper treatment. Though some monks hid errors from him for fear of seeing their carreer or life ended prematurely, I believe many errors have been avoided in fearing his most definitive lessons.”

“Master Banzen is most famed for seeking perfection. He is relentlessly sought after, and sets up time for knowledge sharing. Though some believe it a weakness when he seems sad and resigned, I believe his hard work and corrections brought enlightenment to many monks.”

“Master Bawan is most known for his lessons. He always find metaphors that stick to the head, sometimes litterally. Though some would think it’s a weakness when comparing to the others, I believe his most memorable corrections bring long-term value to our Temple.”

“Master Suku is most revered for her judgement. Her corrections spread to more than just one person, and she corrects even the masters. Though some thinks the time she sets aside for novices might be wasted, I believe ensuring both teaching, and continuously spreading the lessons is a great service for generations at the Temple.”

— — —

The novice pondered Qi’s stories. “So you’re saying I should go with master Suku? It’s a shame she left for a long trip.”

Qi swiftly threw a huge book with metal corners to the novice. Taken aback by this reaction, he did not make a move and the heavy tome hit him hard in the stomach, temporarily depriving him of his breath.

“What I’m saying,” replied Qi, “is that each of these methods works more on different people, at different times. They complement each other, and each one reinforces the others by providing comparison of the others’ strengths and weaknesses.”