Saturday, April 10, 2010
Once upon a time an expectant mother became widowed. With no family nearby and no money she didn't know how she would be able to support the coming baby. So she went to a fortune teller who told her the best recourse was, that if the infant was a boy to place him immediately in a monastery, if a girl, to send her to the nunnery.
Well...there was neither close by and she was too gravid to travel. So when the time came, and the infant boy was born, she took him to a monk living as a recluse in a cave a few miles away. She handed him the baby, told him 'you're the father.'
The monk simply said, 'of course.' He took the child and raised him as his son.
You know how it goes. Word gets out about the monk with the baby. And gossip spreads faster than the H1N1 virus. Pretty soon everyone was talking bad about the monk, how he had broken his vows of celibacy, how his teacher should reprimand him, his order should disavow him. Some even had the audacity to scold him to his face.
The monk, however, took this all in stride. He continued to care for the boy as his own, never raising his voice or becoming outraged and bitter about the gossip that flew from valley to mountaintop about him.
About three years of this goes by. The monk, now ostracized by both his order and the nearby populace, continued quietly to follow the path to enlightenment. He continued to care for the boy, never once losing his temper or trying to correct other people's misconceptions.
The mother, at this time, met and married a wealthy gentleman. She told him about the baby she was forced to give up. And since he was glad to adopt her son, and she was financially able to care for the boy at last, she returned to the monk's cave, and demanded the child back. The monk, without batting an eye, gave the boy back to his mother.
There are a great many things we can learn from this story (which btw, isn't mine, it's an old story. You can find a version of it in Words of my Perfect Teacher)
The one thing that strikes me about this story is the easy way this lone monk was able to accept the circumstances without trying to justify, or to reason, or blame, or to try and explain to those who did not, nor desire to understand. A lesser being would have turned the mother away, abandoned the child, and spent his time trying to save his reputation. A lesser being might have taken the child but would have been cruel to it. This solitary monk did none of these things. He accepted the situation with dignity and grace, and did his best to raise the child as lovingly and as compassionately as he could, despite the hardship. And when the time came to give the boy up, he did so, lovingly and gently.
This isn't the easiest of tasks. And we, as lesser beings have all fallen prey to sudden malicious gossip, misunderstandings and mistaken perception and judgmentalism. And its frustrating, because it’s natural to want to try and explain ourselves, to show that things and situations are not as they seem. Just like in the movie Ode to Billy Joe, (1976) when Bobby Lee’s brother tells her, ‘we know you were pregnant, there’s no use denying it,’ even though she was not, nobody would believe her. And so, just, as the monk must have wisely known that even though you try to clarify misunderstandings, people rarely believe you, or don’t want to listen. Their minds have already been made up about you, and trying to make them see things differently is like slamming your head into a concrete bunker. It’ll give you a concussion and annoy the bunker.
Take last week for example. Someone whom I loved dearly made a false and ugly accusation. She didn’t want to hear my side, all she cared about was her perceptions of myself, judged me inadequate and raged at me for having the audacity to be, not only human, but an impoverished one at that.
And at this point I had three choices to make.
1. To throw as much rage and vitriol back at the angry person, which would be tantamount to checking your gas tank with a lit match.
2. To hunt this person down, grab her by her shirt collar and force her to hear the truth, which wouldn’t have worked, she had already judged me at the altar of condemnation and would simply eviscerate me again.
3. Or to be like the monk in the cave. To accept the person as they are, sad, enraged and all, love them, have compassion for them and then to let go of my own anger. Which I did….several times…and simply do what needed to be done. And what needed to be done at the time was to meditate. Which I did…Several times…
Sure, I could have gotten equally pissy, could have become vicious and bitter and resentful. But at the end of the day, the only thing I would have grown from that garden of weedy emotions was high blood pressure and a new ulcer to add to my collection.
So I spent the time instead working on my own rage, my own bitterness, my own vitriol. And then, let it go.
Was the person in question correct in her accusations? No, but then again, it doesn’t really matter much, does it? Just like the gossip and vitriol that spread about the monk whose only desire was to love an abandoned child and let him go when the time was right, nobody knows the truth but you, and that’s all that really matters.
My teacher’s video’s can be found here:
Image was borrowed from copyright reserved to owner.