There was once a cultivator who practiced patience. He hung a sign above his door reading, “My nature is like ashes, meaning that he didn’t have the tiniest spark of anger and never lost his temper.
The old cultivator worked very vigorously at his practice day and night, to the point that his personality became incomparably soft and gentle. At that point, a Bodhisattva came to give him a test.
The Bodhisattva came to his door and asked, “What do these words here say?” “Nature like ashes!” he replied. The Bodhisattva came back a little later and asked again, “What does the sign say? I can’t remember.” He answered: “Nature like ashes.” The Bodhisattva kept coming back and asking the same question several hundred times. Finally, his asking brought out the fire in the cultivator. The cultivator furiously shouted at him, “Nature like ashes! Nature like ashes! You’re really a pain in the neck, coming here to disturb my practice. Just what is your intention?” “Ah,” said the Bodhisattva, “so there’s still some fire in the ashes!” Saying that, he rose up into the air. Do you know who this Bodhisattva was? It was Guanshiyin Bodhisattva coming to test him. After more than ten years of cultivating a nature like ashes, he still had fire and so he flunked the Bodhisattva’s test.
Before he left, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva said, “You need to cultivate some more! I’ll be back in twenty years!”