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The lump of wood

federicafederica seeker of the clear blue skyIts better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
edited October 2005 in Buddhism Today
I'm constantly reading how we can make efforts to develop kindness and compassion for those who persecute or oppress us... or even, to use less grandiose terms, for those who just hack us off and irritate the c**p out of us.... how we should try to see them as our teacher, how wise it is to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"... and I know I'm not the only one to have the occasional difficulty in putting this into practise, so I just thought I'd share a little story with you, which struck me as being quite nice.

A Carpenter was working in his workshop one afternoon when his son came in from school and threw his satchel down in anger and disgust.
"I HATE those boys at school!" He cried. "They constantly tease me and pick on me and make my life a misery!" he slumped onto the low stool next to his father's workbench.
His father stopped his work, and asked his son,
"What have they been doing? have they hit you? Do they bully you and hurt you?"
"No," replied the boy. "They just seem to go out of their way to wind me up! I don't go looking for trouble, father, honestly! But they really, really irritate me!"
"Don't let them!" answered his father simply. But both knew it wasn't as easy as all that.....
"I'll tell you what," said the carpenter, eventually breaking the silence after a few moments. "Go and have the courtesy of telling your mother you're home. Do your homework, then come back in here. there's something I want you to do for me."

A while later, the boy returned to find his father placing a piece of wood onto the workbench. It was a regular, oblong piece of pine, and he was turning it this way and that to check for flaws.
"It seems a pretty good piece of wood.... here!" he said, tossing it to his son. "You've been dying for ages to make something with me. How about turning a nice fruitbowl for your mother as a gift?"
The boy was delighted, and listened carefully to his father's instructions as to how to use the lathe and chisels, how to shape and form the wood, and fashion it into the desired shape; how to finish and smooth the bowl and produce a beautiful and useful object.
Gradually over the next few days, the bowl took shape, and under his father's guidance, the boy produced an elegant and beautifully simple bowl.
"Now how did you do that?" asked his father, admiring the bowl. The boy was puzzled by the question.
"I mean, how did you start? What did you do? What tools did you use?" elaborated the carpenter.
The boy began to describe the process of using the sharp, well-kept and potentially lethal tools at his disposal....
"But what about the wax polish, and the soft cloth?" enquired the man further.
"Well, "replied the boy, still a little puzzled "they came last of course...."
"And there you have it!" Exclaimed the father.
The boy was finally convinced his father had lost his marbles, but the man continued....

"Every human being is a wonderfully useful piece of wood. Some are flawed, others aren't too bad. But every piece has its use. But in order to shape and develop this wonderful finished article - the person at their fullest and most wonderful potential - you need sharp, cutting, abrassive and powerful tools. You need to be a bit ruthless to expose the beautiful item at the end. This is what these boys are to you..." he explained, picking up a chisel, and pointing also to the lathe, the sandpaper and the other tools on his workbench.
"They are the sharp, biting, cutting abrassive tools that can make you what you are capable of being. We need these kind of things in our lives to help bring out the potential - the best - in us. The fine wax polish and the soft cloths are your friends and family. Those who love you, nurture you, protect and nourish you. But what really makes the man, is what is exposed by the influences that shape him."

Next time you see an ornately carved and beautifully fashioned piece of wood, think of the work that went into creating it. Next time you see a block of raw, untreated, rough piece of wood, try to see the potential within. Then look at every human being in this way....
And next time you see yourself in a mirror, observe the masterpiece before you, and delight in just how much has gone to make the beautifully crafted human being you see before you.

I did embelish the story rather, but I delight in storytelling, and I thought I'd just give you something to do....!!

Comments

  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran
    edited October 2005
    "Every human being is a wonderfully useful piece of wood. Some are flawed, others aren't too bad. But every piece has its use. But in order to shape and develop this wonderful finished article - the person at their fullest and most wonderful potential - you need sharp, cutting, abrassive and powerful tools. You need to be a bit ruthless to expose the beautiful item at the end.


    Hmmm...

    I get this post from Fede inquiring if I had read her lump of wood.

    Well.... that was a precious story that many, many serial killers will probably enjoy.

    Last time I checked, human beings weren't pieces of wood that other, oddly enough, "non-wood" people will take sharp, cutting, abraisive power tools to.

    I found this very, very disturbing. Especially from a moderator.

    Nick - RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!!!

    Fede, please stay in France.

    -bf
  • edited October 2005
    Fredrica, excellent parable, buddhafoot, hahahahaha. Although I tend to think of people as flowers in my garden, me being a dandelion of course and i even have a few stinkweeds in my garden, but i love em all. Oh by the way, I am the rough hewn amongst my friends, no care or concern for their feelings, i'm too busy telling them the truth. 2 of my buddhist friends once told me i must become more gentle, i asked why, its my job to beat them up and your job to put the bandaids on. We all have a purpose in life, and someone has to do the dirty work. we are so politically correct, so busy walking on eggs not to hurt others that we forget, often they need to hear the truth.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 2005
    Oh by the way, I am the rough hewn amongst my friends, no care or concern for their feelings, i'm too busy telling them the truth. 2 of my buddhist friends once told me i must become more gentle, i asked why, its my job to beat them up and your job to put the bandaids on. We all have a purpose in life, and someone has to do the dirty work. we are so politically correct, so busy walking on eggs not to hurt others that we forget, often they need to hear the truth.

    I think the Buddha mentioned something in his Eightfold path about 'Right Speech'....
    And a famous Chinese Proverb states roughly that, even the Emperor's most Powerful and Swiftest Mounted Warriors are not fast enough to retrieve the Word once Spoken....
    To not show 'care or concern' for people's feelings is just as 'Mind-less' as saying nothing at all....

    'Right Speech' is not only about what you say, it 's also about HOW you say it. 'The Pen is mightier than the Sword' refers to the power of the written and spoken word (speeches are written first, usually....) and the devastating-- or inspiring - impact they can have. A well-meant phrase can have the complete opposite desired effect, if delivered in the wrong manner...... This is therefore where Right Intention also comes in.
    One must be mindful to practise 'Right Speech'... Even the Buddha stated that one has to couch terms in ways the relevant listener would both understand and accept. :)
  • edited October 2005
    Fredrica, I appreciate your instruction, however, we all have our own paths and walk them in the way best for ourselves and others. The greatest compassion is to take others suffering upon ourselves. This is what I do best. Every thought, word and action creates karma. If a person performs a negative in any of these states, he/she in fact adds negative karma to his/her life. This being the case, if I respond in a way that takes that karma from them, instant retribution, than that's one less negative in their lives. I do not tell them I do this, I just do it and change that karma with the power that I have to do so. Hence, I am a dragonslayer.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 2005
    Fredrica,


    It's FEDERICA.....
    This being the case, if I respond in a way that takes that karma from them, instant retribution, than that's one less negative in their lives. I do not tell them I do this, I just do it and change that karma with the power that I have to do so. Hence, I am a dragonslayer
    .

    "Hatred cannot be conquered by hatred; hatred can only be conquered by love."

    What you are doing is feeding their Negativity and perpetuating their bad humour. By retaliating and delivering 'instant retribution' you're not taking away their bad Karma, you're adding to it, because it just makes them more mad/resentful/angry/bitter/hate-ful.
    We have all surely lived moments of ping-pong anger, insults and aggression. back and forth it goes, people scoring points off each other and resenting it for days (weeks? Months? years?) afterwards.... BF posted a thread about a truly vitriolic encounter he had with a woman driver in a car-park. He showed remarkable control in the face of such rage and madness. For my own point of view, I feel his method has more to commend than turning round and giving as good as you get...
    That's not Dragonslaying.... That's tit-for-tat.
    If you ever bothered to ask any of these people whether they actually feel better after your dragonslaying, given that you apparently see fit to keep them in the dark, my bet is they'd say no, actually, they feel quite the opposite.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited October 2005
    Dragons are imaginary and, I fear, the idea that negative cancels out another negative is just as fictitious.

    The Awakened said:
    "They abused me, they beat me, they defeated me, they robbed me", the hatred of those who do not harbour such thoughts is appeased.
    Hatreds never cease by hatred in this world; by love alone they cease. This is an ancient law.
    Dhammapada I,6 &7

    In the quasi-Sufi model that is called the Enneagram, we perceive how often people, coming to realise their self-defeating actions, take the opposite path: the active become passive, the fearful become aggressive, and so on. Only when they realise that this is yet another grasping after the same delusion can they let go and find a new way. In Buddhism, we speak about a Middle Way, a way of no extremes.

    I find your suggestion that we can take someone else's karma by being nasty to them a very peculiar one, Tracey, and can find no evidence of it in the world.
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran
    edited October 2005
    Simon and FREDerica,

    I think, in all fairness, that if Tracy has found something that works for her - it shouldn't be discounted.

    While I don't understand the whole process being described by Tracy - she believes that it has some beneficial reaction to those involved with her.

    -bf
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited October 2005
    You touch on an important point, BF.

    To Tracey and other followers of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, of all the Awakened Shakyamuni's teachings, it is the Lotus Sutra which has come to predominate. Beyond that, as I understand it (and I have only just finished reading Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism by Richard Causton, so I may be wrong here) the 'Buddha' about whom they speak is not Gautama but Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282) who revealed what they call the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

    It is not for me to accept or deny the title of Awakened to anyone so I cannot comment on the attribution to Nichiren Daishonin. I simply note that we need to take care about whom we are speaking because, to many Buddhists, it is the Shakyamuni who revealed the Dharma and all other writers are commentators and completers. Nichiren Shoshu, however, appears to depart from this view and takes a new line of its own.

    At the heart of this teaching is the notion of release from karma and I acknowledge the generosity of Tracey's intention. What I question is what really occurs. From the description of her action (" if I respond in a way that takes that karma from them, instant retribution, than that's one less negative in their lives.") it would suggest the belief that person A. can take responsibility for person B's life. It is akin to doing something to someone "for their own good", without permission and manipulatively. The effect on both ends of this transaction are not necessarily benign.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 2005
    My question would now be:

    Who takes Tracy's 'bad karma' away after HER (retaliatory) outburst?
  • edited October 2005
    Good question, Fred.

    Sorry...I couldn't resist.....
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited October 2005
    federica wrote:
    My question would now be:

    Who takes Tracy's 'bad karma' away after HER (retaliatory) outburst?

    As I understand it, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohozon (a cloth scroll inscribed with Chinese and Sanskrit characters), supported by morning and evening recitation of two chapters of the Lotus Sutra, is believed by Nichiren Buddhists to release karma.

    Again, as I understand it, Tracey is saying that she accepts 'bad' karma because she has the means to dissolve it. This seems to be to be a laudable belief - I continue to think, however, that the means are not justified by the end in which she has faith. Feels to me too much like the old "taking someone else's sins on yourself" so beloved of some Christians.

    In some ways, this reflects the Mahayana tradition of the boddhisatva, the penultimate stage in Nichiren's "Ten Worlds", but, despite the use of the same word, I find the two concepts very different.
  • edited October 2005
    Simon, I do. Chanting nam myoho renge kyo allows me to instantly change my karma, it being the highest possible postitive cause one can make.
  • edited October 2005
    oops that was for fredrica, not simon.

    Fredrica, perhaps it is similar to taking on someones sins, although i think it is different in that these'sins' dont lodge into my life as i have the power to change them instantly.

    The ideal situation, of course, would be to encourage the person to chant for themselves. But in this particular type of situation, I may never see that person again; so how best can i serve him/her?

    The bodhisattva spends so much time trying to help others to reach enlightenment, tht usually he never gets there himself. In my case, i use these situations to propel me constantly into enlightenment, while at the same time helping others to do so by lessening their karmic retribution. I'm not saying this makes me special in anyway. I chant, I develop clarity on a subject and I try to manifest it with my life.

    I don't know a whole lot about anything. And i'm no more intelligent than the next person. I can never make you or anyone else understand why I do what i do. All I know is that I must do what is for me to do. It is why i am here.
  • edited October 2005
    I find the concept of " I am what I am..." disturbing. Not only because of its musical connotations, but also because it seems diametrically opposed to the idea of new influences and suggestions.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited October 2005
    Spike wrote:
    I find the concept of " I am what I am..." disturbing. Not only because of its musical connotations, but also because it seems diametrically opposed to the idea of new influences and suggestions.

    The "Big Fruit Song" as we used to call I yam what I yam is IMHO a counsel of despair! I have been known to sing it (with a whole dancefloor) just as I sometimes intone Je ne regette rien! I don't believe either of them!

    If I hadn't believed that people can change, I would never have spent 35 years as a counsellor - and I would have topped myself too if I couldn't improve or make some amends for my mistakes. And a life without regrets must have been very boring indeed. In fact, of course, Mme Piaf must have had more than a few regrets from a life lives to the full.

    What is more, nothing remains the same. All is continually in flux. One thing changes into another. A baby becomes an adult. The adult becomes a corpse. The corpse becomes fertiliser. Then t'worms'll come n eat up thee. Then t'ducks'll come n eat up worms.Then we'll come n eat up ducks. Then we shall all have eaten thee (Old Yorkshire song, abridged).

    Finally, of course, "I" is the ultimate delusion in all of this!
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 2005
    Thank you Simon, I was getting quite carried away by your eloquent and fluent exposition on change and transformation - and now I can't get 'On Ilkla Moor baht hat!' out of my mind!
  • edited October 2005
    But even if we change, I think the statement I am what I am is still relevant in that moment, NO? And with each change, we still are what we are in the moment.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 2005
    Who is this 'I' That is? What is this 'Am' that you are?
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