|Volume 7 no 2|
It's A Blissful Life - Encounters of Buddhism in life by Jen Chen Buddhism practitioners
Wherever we look, we can see the Buddha-dharma in operation. It may be a group of athletes running a race or a harmless looking growing tree, but if we pay a little more attention to them it is possible to draw useful lessons from them. Often, the events of our environment do not catch our attention because of a missing link - the lack of awareness that the forces behind these events apply to us in our own lives as well.
Drawing on this awareness the first encounter links precepts and creating positive conditions between a running race and the changing winds of fortune of a businessman. The second links eradicating undesirable habits and self-serving temperament between straightening a young tree growing crooked and the punishment meted on a young boy.
It is a blissful life having the awareness and making Buddhism applicable to our lives.
|The race isn't over until it is over|
If we could liken
life to a race, in the sense that it has a beginning and an end, and that
in between, the positions of the participants are not fixed, then it is
certainly quite a long and dynamic one. If one is the leader of the pack,
well and good; but it may be too soon to rejoice while the race is still
on. It is early days yet. If one is among the stragglers, he ought to
seize and make good the opportunities that come along the way. If you
have seen athletes running a race, perhaps you would better appreciate
what I mean. The leader of the pack may not finish the race as the winner
and the straggler may not be the last to cross the line.
|Straightening a crooked tree|
On the first day of school after the mid-year break, the discipline master hauled me up to the front of the class for beating up a classmate on the last day of the previous school term. I had chosen the last day of the term to pick a fight with him thinking that all would be forgotten when school resumed. I was wrong!
The discipline master, Mr Hon, came into the classroom and explained why he was here. My name was called. I knew he meant business, for he came with a cane in his hand. I was overwhelmed by fear and at the same time felt embarrassed about the prospects of being caned in front of the class.
He didn't simply whip my buttocks but instead gave us a lecture on what is meant by good behaviour. As he went on I began to sense that he was a reasonable man. My fear and embarrassment gradually dissipated.
Turning to me, Mr Hon ordered me to apologise to the boy, which I did. Then, he said,
"You are a small tree growing crooked. I have to straighten you now or it will be impossible when you become a big tree."
As he spoke, he pointed to the big rain tree outside the classroom. I saw his point and I think everyone else did too.
He continued, "You have to be punished so that you will remember to behave yourself. But I am also going to give you a chance. I am going to use my left hand and give you five strokes on your buttocks. The next time ."
I didn't hear the rest of what he said. It was not important for I knew that he had let me off the hook. As it turned out, the caning wasn't painful at all, but his words "You are a small tree growing crooked" continue to ring in my ears all these years.
Mr Hon taught me a few things. The first is about giving those who have erred a second chance. The second is to administer a measure of punishment, if need be, that is enough to leave a lasting memory but not quite a lasting pain. The third is not to lose the temper when meting out a punishment. Not once did Mr Hon raise his voice when he came into the class that morning. Last but not least, and the most important of all, nip the problem in the bud - straighten a crooked tree while it is still young.
Now, as a practitioner of Buddhism and having seen the ills of undesirable habits and self-serving temperament and experience the arduous task of dismantling them, I can testify that, indeed, bending a small tree is so much easier! Better still, nip them in the bud before they even take root to become small trees.