Let me share with you some anecdotes from `Zen Questions’ that will certainly give us some valuable insights on the art of coping with the troubles in life.
One interesting fable tells us that a poor farmer was returning from his fields when he found a wild horse near his house. He managed to throw a rope around its neck and brought it home. His neighbors congratulated him on his good luck. Th e farmer responded with only one word, `Maybe.’ The next day, his son tried to ride the horse but he fell off and broke his leg. “How unlucky!” cried his neighbors. But the farmer responded with one word- `Maybe’. A week later, some soldiers came to the village and forced all the healthy young men to join the army. But they did not pick the farmer’s son who was suffering from a broken leg. “Aren’t you lucky?” said the neighbors again. But the farmer responded with the same word- `Maybe’.
Robert Allen, the author of Zen Questions, shares his interesting insight based on the above story, “Our circumstances are what they are. To wish them otherwise is to fall into the trap of duality. If you think yourself lucky, then you are merely preparing the ground for being unlucky. If you feel you are happy now, then you must be at some stage unhappy. Why now take things as they come? Eat your meal, then wash your plate. That’s Zen.”
Once upon a time, a young girl became pregnant but she would not revealed the identity of the father. Finally, after much questioning and under pressure from her parents, the girl named Hakuin, a well-known Zen master, as the man responsible for her pregnancy. Filled as anger, her parents went to accuse Hakuin and demand that he look after the new born baby. Hakuin’s response was, “Is that so?” and then took the baby from them. Of course, there was a huge scandal and Hakuin completely lost his good reputation. But he did not care about that. For a year, he looked after the child. He fed it, changed its diapers, played with it, and in all respects treated it just as though it was his own. Eventually, the girl could not bear her guilt any longer and she admitted that the real father of her child was somebody else. The parents, cringing with embarrassment, went to Hakuin to offer their profound apologies. Then they explained what had happened and asked for the child back. “Is that so?” asked Hakuin, as he handed the child back to the grandparents.
Robert Allen shares another insight with us. Zen makes a point of nonattachment which is different from detachment. To cling to things, people, reputation, possessions, and opinions is the surest way to suffering. You cannot grasp those things and, sooner or later, they will be ripped from you. You may ask, “Why didn’t Hakuin defend his reputation and maintain his innocence?” Or, “Didn’t he love the baby after he had looked after it for a year?” The point is that he did what he had to do. In the midst of such toxic circumstances, Hakuin believed that compassion was his best response. Someone had to look after the baby; so he did it without any fuss. But he didn’t get entangled with `love’ which is often perceived as a kind of possessiveness. So when it was time to hand the baby back to the rightful owners, he was able to give it up without any fuss.
In the coming year, may the Good Lord bless you with the awareness of his unconditional love and the spirit of non-attachment as well as detachment. Just let go of your desire to cling onto your tarnished reputation damaged by gossips, or tangible possessions that are lost or the disappearing love and friendships in the midst of your adversity. Just as the French proverb says, `All things will pass away.’ Only God’s love matters for the nourishment of your soul and your life. If God still loves you deeply, you and He are in the majority! This is the eternal truth.