a young monk was making a pilgrimage to see the buddha.
along the way, he met a man who was meditating, hoping to reach enlightenment. he was sitting in the lotus position, in the hot sun, far from shade or water, on top of an ants nest. when the monk greeted him the man said “when you see the buddha ask him how long before i will find enlightenment.” the monk promised to do so, and continued on his way.
some time later he found another man, also hoping for enlightenment. he was dancing around, laughing and singing, hopping and leaping. he danced along after the monk and said “can you ask the buddha a question for me? can you ask him how long before i will be enlightened.” the monk promised.
after his audience with the buddha, the monk returned a different way, and so he met the man on the ants nest first. “what did the buddha tell you?” he asked. the monk pointed at a scrawny little shrub nearby, and said “for each leaf on this bush, one more lifetime of meditation until you are enlightened.” the man was crushed by this news, and went back to his meditation angry and disappointed.
when he came across the dancing man, he pointed at a huge fig tree growing beside the river, and told him, “i have spoken with the buddha, and he says that as many thousand leaves as there are on the largest fig tree, that is how many lifetimes you must pray before you will be enlightened.”
“is that all???”, said the dancing man, “yippeee!” and he started dancing even more wildly.
and at that moment, he was enlightened.