Poking a Red Ants’ Nest

Sensuality is like taking a stick and using it to poke a big red ants’ nest. The more we poke it, the more the red ants come falling on us, onto our face, into our eyes, stinging our ears and eyes. But we don’t see the drawbacks of what we’re doing. It’s all good as far as we can see. Understand that if you don’t see the drawbacks of these things you’ll never work your way free of them.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Two more days to Mount Wu-T’ai

Long ago, in T’ang China, there was an old monk going on a pilgrimage to Mount Wu-t’ai, the abode of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Aged and weak, he was treading the long dusty road alone, seeking alms along the way. After many long months, one morning he gazed upward and saw the majestic mountain in the distance. By the roadside, there was an old β€œwoman working the field. “Please tell me,” he asked, “how much longer I must proceed before reaching Mount Wu-t’ai?” The woman just looked at him, uttered a guttural sound and returned to her hoeing. He repeated the question a second and third time, but still there was no answer.

Thinking that the woman must be deaf, he decided to push on. After he had taken a few dozen steps, he heard the woman call out to him, “Two more days, it will take you two more days.” Somewhat annoyed, the monk responded, “I thought you were deaf. Why didn’t you answer my question earlier?” The woman replied, “You asked the question while you were standing put, Master. I had to see how fast your pace was, how determined your walk!”

A cultivator is in the same position as the old monk in this story. As he practices the Dharma, seeking to help himself and others, he sometimes wonders why no one comes to his assistance. However, others may simply be trying to assess him, to gauge his strength and determination. This process can take five years, twenty years, or even a lifetime. Therefore, seekers of the Way, do not be discouraged, but forge ahead!

– Unknown.

Roots

We’re like a tree with roots, a base, and a trunk. Every leaf, every branch, depends on the roots to absorb nutrients from the soil and send them up to nourish the tree.

Our body, plus our words and deeds, our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and feeling, are like the branches, leaves, and trunk. The mind is like the roots absorbing nutrients and sending them up the trunk to the leaves and branches so that they flower and bear fruit.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Salt

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.

– Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Tradition.

Harpooned

“Once, monks, a large family of turtles had lived for a long time in a certain freshwater lake. Then one turtle said to another, ‘My dear turtle, don’t go to that area.’ But the turtle went to that area, and because of that a hunter lanced him with a harpoon. So he went back to the first turtle. The first turtle saw him coming from afar, and on seeing him said to him, ‘I hope, dear turtle, that you didn’t go to that area.’

“‘I went to that area, dear turtle.’

“‘Then I hope you haven’t been wounded or hurt.’

“‘I haven’t been wounded or hurt, but there’s this cord that keeps dragging around behind me.’

“‘Yes, dear turtle, you’re wounded, you’re hurt. It was because of that cord that your father and grandfather fell into misfortune and disaster. Now go, dear turtle. You are no longer one of us.’

– Gautama Buddha.

Fluttering Mind

When we sit in a quiet forest when there’s no wind, the leaves are still. When the wind blows, the leaves flutter.

The mind is the same sort of thing as leaves. When it makes contact with an object, it vibrates in line with its nature. The less you know of the Dhamma, the more the mind vibrates. When it feels pleasure, it dies with the pleasure. When it feels pain, it dies with the pain. It keeps flowing on in this way.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.