“THERE IS AN OLD BUDDHIST STORY that describes in much the same way as the story above how we might respond to life-or-death crises.
A man was being chased by a tiger in the jungle. Tigers can run much faster than a man, and they eat men too. The tiger was hungry; the man was in trouble.
With the tiger almost upon him, the man saw a well by the side of the path. In desperation, he leaped in. As soon as he had committed himself to the leap, he saw what a big mistake he had made. The well was dry and, at its bottom, he could see the coils of a big black snake.
Instinctively, his arm reached for the side of the well, where his hand found the root of a tree. The root checked his fall. When he had gathered his senses, he looked down to see the black snake raise its head to full height and try to strike him on his feet; but his feet were a fraction too high. He looked up to see the tiger leaning into the well trying to paw him from above, but his hand holding the root was a fraction too low. As he contemplated his dire predicament, he saw two mice, one white and one black, emerge from a small hole and begin chewing on the root.
As the tiger was attempting to paw at the man, its hindquarters were rubbing against a small tree, making it shake. On a branch of that tree, overhanging the well, was a beehive. Honey began to drop into the well. The man put out his tongue and caught some.
“Mmmm! That tastes good,” he said to himself and smiled.
This story, as it is traditionally told, ends there. That is why it is so true to life. Life, like those long-running TV soaps, doesn’t have a neat ending. Life is forever in the process of completion.
Moreover, often in our lives, it is as if we are caught between a hungry tiger and a big black snake, between death and something worse, with day and night (the two mice) chewing away at our precarious grip on life. Even in such dire situations, there is always some honey dripping from somewhere. If we are wise, we will put out our tongue and enjoy some of that honey. Why not? When there’s nothing to do, then do nothing, and enjoy some of life’s honey.
“As I said, the story traditionally ends there. However, in order to make a point, I usually tell my audience the true ending. This is what happened next.
As the man was enjoying the honey, the mice were chewing the root thinner and thinner, the big black snake was stretching closer and closer to the man’s feet, and the tiger was leaning so its paw was almost reaching the man’s hand. Then the tiger leaned too far. It tumbled into the well, missing the man, crushing the snake to death, and dying itself in the fall.
…well, it could happen! And something unexpected usually does happen. That’s our life. So why waste the moments of honey, even in the most desperate of troubles. The future is uncertain. We never can be sure of what’s coming next”
Excerpt From: Brahm, Ajahn. “Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?”
Point to Ponder
This is one of my favorite stories that show that there are joys which we can enjoy even though we are faced with challenges in life. The challenges are compounded as we grow older(white and black mouse) and never seem to end, but that should not stop us from enjoying the small joys of our life.
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