The two bad bricks

When we moved to Sepentine to build the temple there we had no money so I had to learn to build. 

I had to learn how to lay bricks. It may look easy but it’s so hard to get everything level. But, as most people would be, I was a perfectionist. I had to make sure each brick was perfectly level before I went onto the next one. 

Sometimes a corner was high. You’d knock that corner down and another corner would go up. You’d knock that down and it would go out of line. You’d knock it back in line again, thinking it was finished, and then notice one of the corners was high again. You kept trying until you get it. 

When I finished that wall, like anybody else, I stood back to admire it. It was only then that I noticed that two bricks were crooked. All the other bricks were straight and two were crooked. 

I tried to scrape the mortar out to re-set the bricks but you couldn’t scrape it out. I asked if we could afford to knock it down because those two bad bricks ruined the whole thing. But we couldn’t; I was stuck with it. We were too poor to do anything with it. 

For three months, every time I went past that wall I saw my mistakes and I felt so sad. Every time there was a visitor I would volunteer to take them around so I could take them somewhere else so they didn’t see my mistakes. 

Then one day someone else was with me and they saw that wall and they said, “That’s a beautiful wall.”

I couldn’t believe what I heard because for three months I had been suffering so much over the wall and they said it was beautiful. 

My first reaction was to ask them, “Are you blind? Did you leave your glasses in the car? Can you not not see those two bad bricks?”

What they said next changed much of the way I look at life and stopped some inherent depression in myself. 

They said, “Yes I can see the two bad bricks, but I can see the 998 good bricks as well.”

– Ajahn Brahm, Theravada Tradition.

The Worm and the Heavenly Being

There were once two monks who lived together in a monastery for many years; they were great friends. Then they died within a few months of one another.

One of them got reborn in the heaven realms, the other monk got reborn as a worm in a dung pile.

The one up in the heaven realms was having a wonderful time, enjoying all the heavenly pleasures. But he started thinking about his friend, “I wonder where my old mate has gone?” So he scanned all of the heaven realms, but could not find a trace of his friend. Then he scanned the realm of human beings, but he could not see any trace of his friend there, so he looked in the realm of animals and then of insects. Finally he found him, reborn as a worm in a dung pile…

“Wow!”, he thought, “I am going to help my friend. I am going to go down there to that dung pile and take him up to the heavenly realm so he too can enjoy the heavenly pleasures and bliss of living in these wonderful realms.”

So he went down to the dung pile and called his mate. And the little worm wriggled out and said, “Who are you?”.

“I am your friend. We used to be monks together in a past life, and I have come up to take you to the heaven realms where life is wonderful and blissful.” But the worm said, “Go away, get lost!”

“But I am your friend, and I live in the heaven realms,” and he described the heaven realms to him. But the worm said, “No thank you, I am quite happy here in my dung pile. Please go away.”

Then the heavenly being thought, “Well if I could only just grab hold of him and take him up to the heaven realms, he could see for himself.” So he grabbed hold of the worm and started tugging at him; and the harder he tugged, the harder that worm clung to his pile of dung.

– Unknown origin, told by Ajahn Brahm, Theravada.