Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How to Live Alone?

There was a monk whose name was Thera. His friends probably gave him the name Thera, which means "the elder."

That monk liked to live on his own. He always went off on the alms round on his own. He liked to do walking meditation on his own. He like to eat on his own, he liked to wash his clothes on his own. He really liked to do everything on his own. He seemed to like to avoid his friends in the practice as much as possible.

All the monks had heard the Buddha praising the better way to live alone, but the way the Buddha used the meaning of "living alone," he meant not to be imprisoned by the past, not to be pulled away by the future, and not to be carried away by what was happening in the present.

The Buddha did not mean that living alone means to distance yourself and separate yourself from your friends in the practice.

Nevertheless, this monk liked to do things on his own, eating on his own, going to the town on his own, and avoiding other people.

The other monks knew that he liked to do things alone, but they felt that there was something not quite right about this way of life. They felt that he wasn’t really practicing according to the spirit of the Buddha’s teachings.

So the other monks went to the Buddha and they said, "Lord Buddha, one of our fellow practitioners called Thera, the elder, likes to do everything on his own: walking meditation, eating meditation, working on his own, and we don’t know if living like that that is really truly living alone."

And Buddha said, "Where is that monk? Ask him to come here and have a cup of tea with us."

So the monks went and invited Thera to join them, and the Buddha said, "I hear you like to live alone. How do you live on your own? Please tell me."

And Thera said, "Lord Buddha, I sit in meditation alone, I eat on my own, I wash my clothes on my own, I go into the village for alms on my own."

And the Buddha said, "Oh, that is true, then you really do live alone. But maybe the way you live alone is not the best way to live alone, there is a better way to live alone."

And then the Buddha recited a gatha: "If you live without being imprisoned by the past, not being pulled away by the future, not being carried away by the forms and images of the present moment, living each moment of your life deeply, that is the true way of living alone."

When Thera heard this he knew that he had been living alone just as an outer form, and there was a deeper way to live alone.

Extracted from: The Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quack! Quack! That's a Chicken!

A newly married couple went for a walk together in a wood, one fine summer's evening after dinner.

They were having such a wonderful time being together until they heard a sound in the distance: 'Quack! Quack!'

'Listen,' said the wife, 'That must be a chicken.'

'No, no. That was a duck,' said the husband.

'No, I'm sure that was a chicken,' she said.

'Impossible. Chickens go "Cock-a-doodle-doo", ducks go "Quack! Quack!" That's a duck, darling,' he said, with the first sign of irritation.

'Quack! Quack!' it went again.

'See! It's a duck,' he said.

'No dear. That's a chicken. I'm positive,' she asserted, digging in her heels.

'Listen wife! That ... is ... a ... duck. D-U-C-K, duck! Got it?' he said angrily.

'But it's a chicken,' she protested.

'It's a blooming duck, you, you ...'

And it went 'Quack! Quack!' again before he said something he oughtn't.

The wife was almost in tears. 'But it's a chicken.'

The husband saw the tears welling up in his wife's eyes and, at last, remembered why he had married her. His face softened and he said gently, 'Sorry, darling. I think you must be right. That is a chicken.'

'Thank you, darling,' she said and she squeezed his hand.

'Quack! Quack!' came the sound through the woods, as they continued their walk together in love.

The point of the story that the husband finally awakened to was, who cares whether it is a chicken or a duck? What was much more important was their harmony together, that they could enjoy their walk on such a fine summer's evening.

How many marriages are broken over unimportant matters? How many divorces cite 'chicken or duck' stuff.

When we understand this story, we will remember our priorities. The marriage is more important than being right about whether it is a chicken or a duck. Anyway, how many times have we been absolutely, certainly and positively convinced we are right, only to find out we were wrong later?

Who knows? That could have been a genetically modified chicken made to sound like a duck!

Extracted from: Opening the Door of Your Heart, by Venerable Ajahn Brahm