Tesshin was traveling this week and asked to group to select a topic in Zen or Buddhist practice to discuss. In these times of rapid change and stress, the following passage seemed most appropriate…
Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
So what message is this passage conveying?
Basically, the farmer is practicing non-judgment and understands that the true nature of life – namely that you can’t judge any event as an “end” in a way. Our life is not a movie. There is not a single plot which always has a happy ending.
There’s always tomorrow. And whether the day was good or bad, there are a million effects which can arise from one event. Good and bad are interconnected. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. If things are going well, they aren’t. If it seems like it’s the end of the world, it’s not. Things can change in an instant, at all times. And they will at some point or another.
This doesn’t mean that we cannot be happy. On the contrary, it means that we need to realize the truth of being “non-judgmental” and live a life of awareness in order to find peace and happiness.