A friend in need

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A friend in need

Postby manas » Sat Nov 05, 2011 5:18 am

I like to go to the local cemetery for walking meditation. It is relatively quiet, hardly anyone comes there, and the paths are straight and plentiful. There are even a few trees and rose bushes...and the human residents are very quiet indeed.

Anyway, I had finally succeeded in just being with the sensations associated with walking, standing, turning etc, and was actually quite enjoying it for a change, when right in front of me I saw a quite small, common garden earthworm. It was travelling across the footpath to the other side. Even on the mildly sunny day it might have made it across without drying out, but what the worm did not realize was that on the other side of the footpath was a line of ants. I've seen what ants can do to such hapless creatures, so I bent down and gently scooped up the worm, and searched for a suitable place to relocate it to. Ants seemed to be everywhere, this was no easy task...finally I found a mostly ant-free zone, and dug a bit into the ground, placing the earthworm into the loose, damp soil, and wishing it luck. As I stood up, I reflected on how incredibly difficult and dangerous just day-to-day life is for most animals. Even birds and mammals, when wild, have to keep looking out for predators, and life can end most pitifully when they least expect it. It's like a battleground for most animals, every day of their life.

I then reflected on the Buddha's words in the mata sutta:

At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find... A being who has not been your father... your brother... your sister... your son... your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find..."

I wondered...going by the Blessed One's words, I had most likely been related at some time, however long ago, however many Aeons ago even, to that little creature I had just aided. Who knows...and reflecting like that, I felt happy that I could be of service to it now, in it's time of need. What is definitely true is that somehow or other, our respective kammas had brought us together that day at the cemetery. And it had helped me, too - I had gained another lesson on the inherent dangers of Samsara, this long and dusty road.

Finally, the rest of the mata sutta:

..."Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

:namaste:
Last edited by manas on Sat Nov 05, 2011 5:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A friend in need

Postby cooran » Sat Nov 05, 2011 5:23 am

Thank you, manasikara - much merit to you for your kind act!

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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: A friend in need

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 05, 2011 5:37 am

Saddhu, Manasikara, Sadhu!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: A friend in need

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Nov 05, 2011 6:38 am

Don't you just hate it when your lunch doesn't arrive on time?
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Re: A friend in need

Postby Fede » Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:01 am

:jumping: Oh Bhante......!

If it's any consolation, I do this with snails, crawling over the pavement (sidewalk).

And I'm reminded of the little boy scurrying along the shoreline, hurling stranded starfish back into the ocean, when a passer-by stopped and saw what he was doing....
"You can't help them all!" he admonished, looking at the overwhelming number, lining the beach.
"well," retorted the little boy, watching a starfish fly back towards the depths, "I helped that one!"
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: A friend in need

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Nov 05, 2011 8:12 am

My lunch arrived early today — :)

I expect that most of you have seen it, but if you haven't, Battle at Kruger is an excellent reflection on the sufferings of the animal realms.
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Re: A friend in need

Postby Vepacitta » Sat Nov 05, 2011 2:34 pm

I rescued an earthworm from drying out on a sidewalk once ...good on you Manasikara .... earthworms nourish mother earth!

Our animal companions - cats, dogs - many times I have found kinder and more compassionate than fellow human beings - they're people with fur and fangs ...

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Re: A friend in need

Postby manas » Sat Nov 05, 2011 6:44 pm

Yes, the point of my post was certainly not any kind of notion that what I did was a particularly 'great' thing, or that it would help save that little creature from eventual death etc. The point was the idea that we are all interrelated in some way, as pointed out in the mata sutta. I think it's a very common thing for Buddhists of all varieties to do these kind of acts sometimes, without any pretence that it is going to make much of a difference on a cosmic scale. My point was that it made a kind of difference in my heart, that's all. Reminded me ot the Teachings. In fact, due to it being quite a small thing, just an anecdote of sorts, I thought I could safely post in the 'Dhammic Stories' section without anyone misunderstanding the intent of it.

I must say that Bhante's little quip about the ants missing out on lunch kind of takes a perspective that is foreign to what I was intending. But, I should have realized by now that the bhikkhu sangha's job isn't to make us feel comfortable, but rather to try to wake us up. So I will try to reflect on that, too. But as I said, the actual point was about interconnection and karuna, but from the specific perspective of two beings - myself and the earthworm...a kind of 'musing' of sorts about how strange coincidences could (possibly) take place in the samsaric journey...I do hope someone is getting what I mean by this.

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Re: A friend in need

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:50 pm

Moving the earth-worm to safety is obviously a compassionate act, but I wonder if it removes its suffering? Then it might increase suffering for the ants who have to search longer to find their food. It seems like a hopeless task to alleviate the suffering in the human realm by external means, let alone the suffering in the animal realms. One can, of course, throw the individual star fish back into the ocean to stop it dying on the beach, but it will still die in the ocean soon enough.
Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."
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Re: A friend in need

Postby cooran » Sat Nov 05, 2011 8:13 pm

Very true Bhante. Thank you for expanding on this side of the issue.

To act on kusala (wholesome) mental states is an admirable act and ought to have some consideration first. But - apart from this - if, before acting we considered every possible ramification of every small action, with all the possibilities, however slight, it could be that we would be frozen and never act.

We can only do what we can only do. :smile:

with metta and respect,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: A friend in need

Postby manas » Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:47 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Moving the earth-worm to safety is obviously a compassionate act, but I wonder if it removes its suffering? Then it might increase suffering for the ants who have to search longer to find their food. It seems like a hopeless task to alleviate the suffering in the human realm by external means, let alone the suffering in the animal realms. One can, of course, throw the individual star fish back into the ocean to stop it dying on the beach, but it will still die in the ocean soon enough.
Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."
Bhante, I understand that I interfered in a natural process. By saving the earthworm from an imminent danger, I may have unintentionally deprived an ant colony of some food that was coming their way. I wonder if I could (very respectfully) ask whether we do not actually interfere in the kamma (or should I be saying kamma-vipaka?) of other beings every time we have an interaction with them? I mean, it might be someone's kamma-vipaka to get run over by a bus, but I quickly yell at them and pull them out of the way. I interfered, but then, that's just what I was supposed to do in that situation. Regarding the earthworm - yes, I am aware that it is a different situation. A human being is capable of advancing on the Path, while an earthworm is just blindly wandering at present. But I respectfully clarify again, that the OP was more about my own citta in that moment. I just could not leave the poor thing to die a painful death. I am quite aware that my action is futile in a cosmic sense. But I hope you can see what I am getting at here. :anjali:

Anyway, as (I think?) you are pointing out in ending your post by quoting the last part of the sutta, ultimately Samsara is a sad state of affairs, and the only solution is to be born a human being or higher, and to practice the Path to the ending of all stress (Please correct me if I have misunderstood here!).

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Re: A friend in need

Postby Vepacitta » Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:28 am

Yes, Mana, saving the little earthworm did make the heart feel good.

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Re: A friend in need

Postby pilgrim » Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:21 am

I am reminded by the moral dilemma story where one could stand by and let a runaway train run over a group of people or push a fat guy onto the tracks to stop it. I guess one's perspective depends whether one identifies with the worm or the ants ( or the group on the tracks vs the fat guy)
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Re: A friend in need

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:01 am

Greetings,

SN 47.19: Sedaka Sutta wrote:Looking after oneself, one looks after others.
Looking after others, one looks after oneself.

And how does one look after others by looking after oneself?
By practicing (mindfulness), by developing (it), by doing (it) a lot.
And how does one look after oneself by looking after others?
By patience, by non-harming, by loving kindness, by caring (for others).
(Thus) looking after oneself, one looks after others;
and looking after others, one looks after oneself.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: A friend in need

Postby sattva » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:18 am

thank you for your story
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Re: A friend in need

Postby santa100 » Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:52 pm

"Don't you just hate it when your lunch doesn't arrive on time?"

Thank you Bhante for raising an interesting problem. And sadhu for Manasikara for the compassionate act. Next time you do it, after moving the worm to a safe place, don't forget to bring along some food (pieces of candy, slices of bread, apples or bananas, etc..) and give them to the ants. That way, the worm would be saved and the ants would have a huge food source enough to last at least a couple days. Problem solved! But at the end, what Bhanta said was quite true. There's no external solution that could act as a complete final solution to the inherent suffering nature of samsara. That's why the Buddha had to leave his mansion and loved ones behind. He could easily stayed and become the best king, the best son, the best husband, the best whatever...but that obviously wouldn't be good enough. Tons of people wouldn't get enlightened and none of us here would've had the wonderful opportunity to taste the sweetness of His great Teaching!!
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