Simile of the Acrobats

“Once upon a time, monks, a bamboo acrobat, having erected a bamboo pole, addressed his assistant, Frying Pan: ‘Come, my dear Frying Pan. Climb up the bamboo pole and stand on my shoulders.’

“‘As you say, Master,’ Frying Pan answered the bamboo acrobat and, climbing the bamboo pole, stood on his shoulders.

“So then the bamboo acrobat said to his assistant, ‘Now you watch after me, my dear Frying Pan, and I’ll watch after you. Thus, protecting one another, watching after one another, we’ll show off our skill, receive our reward, and come down safely from the bamboo pole.’

“When he had said this, Frying Pan said to him, ‘But that won’t do at all, Master. You watch after yourself, and I’ll watch after myself, and thus with each of us protecting ourselves, watching after ourselves, we’ll show off our skill, receive our reward, and come down safely from the bamboo pole.’

“What Frying Pan, the assistant, said to her Master was the right way in that case.

“Monks, the establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after myself.’ The establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after others.’ When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.

“And how do you watch after others when watching after yourself? Through cultivating [the practice], through developing it, through pursuing it. This is how you watch after others when watching after yourself.
“And how do you watch after yourself when watching after others? Through endurance, through harmlessness, through a mind of goodwill, through sympathy. This is how you watch after yourself when watching after others.

“The establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after myself.’ The establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after others.’ When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.”

– Gautama Buddha

Author: Bite-Size Dhamma

I'm a Buddhist layperson, trying to live well and skilfully with compassion, generosity, and discernment. I work in the field of housing law and homelessness casework. I have a beautiful kind wife, a very cute dog, and two loveable but surly cats.

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