We live like a chicken who doesn’t know what’s going on. In the morning it takes its baby chicks out to scratch for food. In the evening, it goes back to sleep in the coop. The next morning it goes out to look for food again. Its owner scatters rice for it to eat every day, but it doesn’t know why its owner is feeding it. The chicken and its owner are thinking in very different ways.
The owner is thinking, “How much does the chicken weigh?” The chicken, though, is engrossed in the food. When the owner picks it up to heft its weight, it thinks the owner is showing affection.
We too don’t know what’s going on: where we come from, how many more years we’ll live, where we’ll go, who will take us there. We don’t know this at all.
The King of Death is like the owner of the chicken. We don’t know when he’ll catch up with us, for we’re engrossed — engrossed in sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas. We have no sense that we’re growing older. We have no sense of enough.
– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.
There was once an old lady who cried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, “Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?” These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry. When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, “Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?” As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow everyday. Whether sunny or rainy, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbors could not console her and jokingly called her “the crying lady.
“One day, she met a monk. He was very curious as to why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, “Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”
The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The master replied, “It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”
The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s instruction. After a while, she did not cry anymore; instead, she was smiling everyday. From that day on she was known as “the smiling lady.”
– Told from scripture by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Fo Guang Shan school.