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Simplifying Buddhism

January 4, 2017

I came across this fun story which attempts to explain Buddhism with a simple parable.

 

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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? 

 

 

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Comments

28 Comments
Well, I probably wouldn't worry about the fact that I am allergic to strawberries!
By: The Broad on January 4, 2017
The story makes a great point, but it is a bit extreme, not sure I could give a dang about a strawberry.
By: cranky on January 4, 2017
A Buddhist friend just recently shared this story with me and I loved it then as I do now. Unfortunately, I'm not the hugest fan of simple strawberries (I prefer them IN things), but I hope I'd eat it just the same. Like you, I'm trying learn to be more in the present. Not easy for me. And, like you, having just lost my mother has my mind returning to the past all too often right now. "Any moment, big or small, is a moment, after all. Seize the moment, skies may fall any moment."
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 4, 2017
I love this story and could definitely benefit from its wisdom. I'm usually a present moment person, but lately I've spent a lot of time fretting over things out of my control.
By: The Bug on January 4, 2017
Much like the life of a pet dog. They live in the moment. Something I try to emulate everyday... in my quest to manage chronic pain. I wish you well on your journey, Steve.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 4, 2017
Living in the moment makes things a lot simpler. Think I would be opting for the swift death of the rocks though.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on January 4, 2017
I've heard variations of that story. I think I'd be too worried about the rocks to taste the strawberry. It's good to live in the moment, but sooner or later you have to deal with those sharp rocks.
By: PT Dilloway on January 4, 2017
Great story!
By: Catalyst on January 4, 2017
super story. I need to do the same. Just live in the moment
By: Oma Linda on January 4, 2017
That's a wonderful story Stephen. Way, way back I read Baba Ram Dass's Be Here Now, as I was studying and grazing in religions, beliefs, faiths, spirituality designs and philosophy. It was all good. There is a modern practice called Mindfulness which is much like a Zen discipline and a kind of new iteration of what Alpert (Ram Dass) presented. Again, it's all good.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 4, 2017
I would try to remember all of those MacGyver episodes the husband made me watch.
By: Hey Monkey Butt on January 4, 2017
wonderful story- I can totally relate how you feel because I tend to fret over small stuff!. now if it were me- I'd eat the strawberry and make friends with the tiger who could save me....
By: Kathe W. on January 4, 2017
We should all live in the present, but easier said than done (and I worry far more about the future than the past) Though I can make arguments for both endings, I'd probably just see which happens first.
By: Kelly on January 4, 2017
This moment is all i have, so i'll take it!
By: messymimi on January 4, 2017
Carpe diem!!
By: fishducky on January 4, 2017
I've never heard that parable. Many of the Buddhist quotes are on the money. They really make me think. I too would like to spend more time in the NOW.
By: Rick Watson on January 4, 2017
Not sure if I could enjoy that strawberry...
By: Pixel Peeper on January 4, 2017
To be honest with you, I try to balance the three, past present and future.
By: red Kline on January 4, 2017
That makes me think of a country song by Clay Walker, with the lyrics, "I just want to live until I die."
By: Val on January 4, 2017
A great philosophical piece Stephen, the story and your comments. Like the monk I would eat the strawberry, but only as a starter, not being a very good monk I would then think about Tiger as the main course.
By: John Gibson on January 5, 2017
I rarely make plans farther in advance of a few days because things change. Well, we do make some long range plans like for vacations but not just ordinary living. and whatever plans I make are never solid but fluid, willing to change. I guess I tend to live in the moment. though when I was younger I did spend a lot of time agonizing over things that could not be changed.
By: Ellen Abbott on January 5, 2017
I like it! I probably would be wishing I had a needle and thread with me, to sew up my robes into a parachute so I could get away from the tiger and float past the sharp rocks.
By: Tom Sightings on January 5, 2017
Yep... enjoy the berry!
By: Uncle Skip on January 5, 2017
I very much agree with this state of mind. It is hard to maintain, but I am trying.
By: Tabor on January 5, 2017
Being a glass half full sort, I'd shove the tiger as he crawled towards me. Surely he would not have good footing on a root. He would fall stunned to the rocks below. I would then drop on top of his body for a soft landing. Pretty sure I'd make a lousy Buddhist. I'm just not wild about strawberries:))
By: Arkansas Patti on January 5, 2017
That is a great story and we do all need to live in the moment. Even Jesus taught this (consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field).
By: Sage on January 6, 2017
Me, too, Steve. We need to have a long lunch and talk about how we plan to become focused on the the strawberries of hte present, not hte fears of the future.
By: Jo Barney on January 6, 2017
Love the story. I am always "trying" to take in the beauty around me and be grateful for it. It's not easy but it's the simple things that we need to focus on.
By: Bee BB Bee on January 10, 2017

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