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Buddhism Made Simple

January 10, 2014

Since Mrs. C. and I will soon be traveling to several Buddhist countries, I’ve been doing research to become familiar with the tenets of this religion. I came across this story which attempts to explain Buddhism with a simple parable.




A young Buddhist monk walks through a forest, so deep in meditation that he doesn’t notice he’s being stalked by a large man-eating tiger. When he becomes aware of the beast he hurries away and a chase begins. In his haste, the monk doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going and runs off a cliff. As he falls his robes catch on the exposed root of a tree protruding from the cliff. Instead of plunging to his death the monk hangs suspended in the air.


He looks down and sees sharp rocks projecting upward. His robes begin to tear and it’s only a matter of time until he falls and is impaled on the rocks. Looking upward, he notices the tiger climbing down the exposed root, baring its fangs in anticipation of a meal.


With certain death both above and below him, the monk must decide on his best course of action, limited though his choices may be. As he ponders his dilemma he notices a hollow in the cliff. Growing in that hollow is a strawberry plant, on which hangs one perfect strawberry. The monk plucks the strawberry, pops it into his mouth and proclaims, “Delicious…”


This might sound like an odd way for a story to end but I find it appealing because the past (in this case how the monk came to be in this predicament) is over. The future, in spite of our planning and aspirations, is an uncertain promise at best. All the monk has is the here and now, and his challenge is to utilize the moment in the best way possible. He can’t prevent his robes from tearing, which will send him plunging to his death. And he can’t prevent the tiger from reaching and devouring him. He decides that his best option is to embrace the present; he savors the strawberry.


I’d like to be more like the monk in this story. I fret too much over mistakes I can’t change, and I spend too much time planning for a future that probably won’t come. My goal is to focus more on the present because it’s the only thing I can be sure of. I have a long way to go toward achieving this goal.


If you were this monk, what would you do? 









I heard that story a while back on an episode of "King of the Hill." Buddhism is one of the few religions I'd consider taking up.
By: PT Dilloway on January 10, 2014
I love reading about Buddhism, although there are huge differences between the types practiced in different countries. Mahayana, Tibetan, and Zen have little in common, really. Alas, I am one big ball of sweaty, uncontrolled emotion and I think I'll hang onto that for a while longer. Life is pain and so am I...
By: Katy Anders on January 10, 2014
You mean besides kiss my sweet ass goodbye? I have no idea. Actually, eating the strawberry was pretty good thinking.
By: Scott Cody Park on January 10, 2014
I like this story. As for me I'd have the strawberry for starters and then the Tiger better look to his stripes as the main course..... :)
By: John on January 10, 2014
a great tale. i am like you - fretting both forward and backward with my life.
By: TexWisGirl on January 10, 2014
I don't think I'd even notice the strawberry. I'm a fretter for the future. Always have been. It's truly a waste of energy but difficult to just stop.
By: Hilary on January 10, 2014
Not sure how i'd react, but i hope i've been learning to stay in the present enough to see the strawberry.
By: mimi on January 10, 2014
The only action I'm sure I'd make is to utter the phrase, "Oh, shit!!"
By: fishducky on January 10, 2014
yep- this is great! Don't dwell on the past! Cheers and bon voage
By: Kathe W. on January 10, 2014
What I wouldn't be doing is eating that darn strawberry. I would be crying and screaming, begging to God to save me, trying to figure out how a bra could be fashioned into an attachment to the I fell to my death, I would still be thinking of "what I should of done" like maybe paid attention to where I was walking.
By: Cheryl P. on January 10, 2014
Not leave the monastery. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 10, 2014
Can't say I have ever thought about what I would do if I were a monk!! I would stick with what I do today and pray like there's no tomorrow!
By: Leslie Moon on January 10, 2014
I would tunnel into that cliff like the dickens, a foothold to balance myself, and wrap my strong monk-y arm around the root while disrobing to use my garment as a blindfold for the tiger. If the tiger became disoriented without his sight, and plunged onto the rocks, so be it. Does Buddha help those who help themselves?
By: Val on January 10, 2014
Enjoying the moment with a strawberry is good for that moment. In the next however I might have wondered if the tiger could have been distracted by such a delicious berry. I think I might also have yelled, to either notify someone of my peril, to scare off the big cat or to express the absurdity of life in that moment.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 10, 2014
A balance is needed for past , present and future.
By: red on January 10, 2014
I love this story - it does highlight how much we worry about the future. "Worry is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere." Not sure what I would do in the monk's situation, but what I'd like to say is this: I would whip out my camera and take a picture of the tiger. Can you imagine what a great photo it would make???
By: Pixel Peeper on January 10, 2014
I'm afraid I'm no Buddhist. I'd call 911 on my cellphone.
By: tom sightings on January 11, 2014
The good news? He's allergic to strawberries but he figures, "Who cares?" Incidentally, I would have ripped my robes and fallen. I'm thinking death from impalement would be a lot quicker than being eaten. But, I'd wait until the tiger got to me. Then, I'd grab him and take him with me.
By: Al Penwasser on January 11, 2014
Well, I do love my strawberries. A great parable, Stephen. Enjoy your upcoming journey!
By: Kerry on January 11, 2014
What a dilemma to be in. I'd be too panicked to do anything. I reckon I'd end up falling to my death without even having a last meal of a sweet tasting strawberry. And I'd put up a good fight with Mr Tiger if he got to me first.
By: Rum Punch Drunk on January 12, 2014
Yep, the key message is live for the moment, and be mindful of what is happening around you right now. As you say, we all tend to spend too much time ruminating about our past or worrying about the future. Enjoy your trip.
By: Bryan Jones on January 12, 2014
It is so interesting how the same basic message keeps converging to me from all different places - this idea of what we do with our time, and how important it is that we consider it. Very cool. As far as what I would have done, strawberry be hanged (literally), I would have grabbed a hold of that little hollow and started searching for hand and footholds to climb my way down. Not sure what that says about me, but that is what I'd do.
By: Carrie on January 12, 2014
I'd disrobe, and exit the hollow. This would frighten the tiger and he would lose his footing and plunge to its death. Then I'd use the rope and root to climb back up.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 13, 2014
By: 1 on January 30, 2014
By: -1\' on January 30, 2014
By: 1 on January 30, 2014
By: 1 on January 30, 2014
today i need to look for strawberries, i think
By: lime on February 3, 2014
By: -1\' on February 5, 2014
By: 1 on February 5, 2014

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