Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sir, You Are Not My Daddy!

There is a story that is well-known in my country about a young couple who suffered deeply because of pride.

The husband had to go off to war, and he left his pregnant wife behind. Three years later, when he was released from the army, his wife came to the village gate to welcome him, and she brought along their little boy.

When the young couple saw each other, they could not hold back the tears of joy. They were thankful to their ancestors for protecting them, and the young man asked his wife to go to the marketplace to buy some fruit, flowers, and other offerings to place on the ancestors' altar.

While she was shopping, the young father asked his son to call him Daddy, but the little boy refused.

"Sir, you are not my daddy! My daddy used to come every night, and my mother would talk to him and cry. When mother sat down, daddy also sat down. When mother lay down, my daddy lay down."

Hearing these words, the young father's heart turned to stone.

When his wife returned, he could not even look at her. The young man offered fruit, flowers, and incense to the ancestors, made prostrations, and then rolled up the bowing mat and did not allow her to do the same. He believed that she was not worthy to present herself in front of the ancestors. Then he walked out of the house and spent his days drinking and walking about the village.

His wife could not understand why he was acting like that. Finally, after three days, she could bear it no longer, and she jumped into the river and drowned herself.

The evening after the funeral, when the young father lit the kerosene lamp, his little boy shouted,

"There is my daddy!" He pointed to his father's shadow projected on the wall and said,

"My daddy used to come every night just like that, and my mother would talk to him and cry a lot. When my mother sat down, he sat down. When my mother lay, he lay down."

"Darling, you have been away for too long. How can I raise our child alone?" she cried to to her shadow. One night the child asked her who and where his father was. She pointed to her shadow on the wall and said "This is your father." She missed him so much.

Suddenly the young father understood, but it was too late. If he had gone to his wife and asked,

"Darling, I suffer so much. Our little boy said a man used to come every night and you would talk to him and cry with him, and every time you sat down, he also sat down. Who is that person?",

she could have had an opportunity to explain and avert the tragedy. But he did not because of the pride in him.

The lady behaved the same. She was deeply hurt because of her husband's behaviour, but she did not ask for his help. She should have practised the fourth mantra,

"Darling, I suffer so much. Please help. I do not understand why you will not look at me or talk with me. Why didn't you allow me to prostrate before the ancestors? Have I done anything wrong?"

If she had done that, her husband could have told her what the little boy said. But she did not, because she, too, was caught in pride.

Extract from: Teachings on Love, by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh