A few days ago, I received an email from Dennis King asking me to be part of a project called Three Monks. Three Monks is a multilingual language translation project wherein the organizers try to collect a version or translation of the Three Monks joke in different languages around the world. To date, they already have versions of the joke in Tagalog, Cebuano, Kapampangan, Tagbanwa, and Cuyunon.
Here is a twentieth century version of this joke by Krishnamurti.
“There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?’”
I was hesitant to take on this project because I really didn’t get the joke. I was about to translate it word for word but I also found that difficult to do. I decided to ask Dennis King to explain the joke to me. He did send me a very thorough explanation of the joke but I still couldn’t get it. After reading the joke over and over again, I decided to just forget about the whole thing.
After a few days though, I read the joke again and guess what? This time, I got it.
Here is my Chabacano de Zamboanga translation/ version of the Three Monks joke.
El Tres Man Hermano
Ta queda ya bien mucho el gente na ciudad de Zamboanga. Hinde mas pacifico y silencio el lugar como antes.
Tres man hermano ya decidi queda ya lang na monte donde no hay gente.
Despues de siete años, uno de ila ya habla, "dao tiene man perro ta ladra". Ya queda irritao el mga otro pero ya calla lang sila. Siete años ya tamen el ya pasa. Habla el otro, "ay, baka culebra lang aquel." Ya queda impeschao el ika tres hermano pero hinde lang le yan cuento. Despues de siete años otra vez, habla el ika tres hermano, "Ay chipla! Sale ya lang yo aqui, bien alboroto gayod!
Here is a rough translation of the Chabacano version I did in English.
The Three Brothers
The people are becoming too many in the city of Zamboanga. The place is not anymore peaceful and quiet like it used to be.
Tree brothers decided to just live in the mountains where there are no people.
After seven years, one of them said, "I think I heard a dog bark". The others became irritated but they just stayed quiet. Seven years passed again. The other one said, "maybe it was just a snake". The third brother got annoyed but decides not to say anything. After another seven years again, the third brother said, " Oh my gosh, I am leaving this place because there is just too much noise."
In the end, I did understand the joke. Did I find it funny though? Hardly. I guess it’s something cultural. I remember reading those jokes from Reader’s Digest which I did find a bit funny but not really laugh out loud funny.
Three Monks Chabacano Version
Three Monks in Different Languages
History of the Three Monks Joke