Just a Fly in My Tea

“On this particular afternoon a fly fell into my tea. This was, of course, a minor occurrence. After a year in India I considered myself to be unperturbed by insects — by ants in the sugar bin, spiders in the cupboard, and even scorpions in my shoes in the morning. Still, as I lifted my cup, I must have registered, by my facial expression, or a small grunt, the presence of the fly. Choegyal Rinpoche, the eighteen-year-old tulku leaned forward in sympathy and consternation.

“What is the matter?”

“Oh, nothing,” I said. “It’s nothing — just a fly in my tea.” I laughed lightly to convey my acceptance and composure. I did not want him to suppose that mere insects were a problem for me; after all, I was a seaseoned India-wallah, relatively free of Western phobias and attachments to modern sanitation.

Choegyal crooned softly, in apparent commiseration with my plight, “Oh, oh, a fly in the tea.”

“It’s no problem,” I reiterated, smiling at him reassuringly. But he continued to focus great concern on my cup. Rising from his chair, he leaned over and inserted his finger into my tea. With great care he lifted out the offending fly — and then exited from the room. The conversation at the table resumed. I was eager to secure Khamtul Rinpoche’s agreement on plans to secure the high-altitude wool he desired for the carpet production.

When Choegyal Rinpoche reentered the cottage he was beaming. “He is going to be all right,” he told me quietly. He explained how he had placed the fly on the leaf of a branch of a bush by the door, where his wings could dry. And the fly was still alive, because he began fanning his wings, and we cold confidently expect him to take flight soon…

That is what I remember of that afternoon — not the agreements we reached or plans we devised, but Choegyal’s report that the fly would live. And I recall, too, the laughter in my heart. I could not, truth to tell, share Choegyal’s dimensions of compassion, but the pleasure in his face revealed how much I was missing by not extending my self-concern to all beings, even to flies. Yet the very notion that it was possible gave me boundless delight.”

~ Told by Joanna Macy

The Old Man and the Scorpion

One morning, after he had finished his meditation, the old man opened his eyes and saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the scorpion was washed closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand.

A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.

At that moment, a passerby saw the old man stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, stupid old man, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”

The old man turned his head. Looking into the stranger’s eyes he said calmly, “My friend, just because it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change my nature to save.”

~ Orginally from: http://www.buddhistinformation.com/

The Power of Keeping the Precepts

Formerly, in Kubhana state (Kashmir), there was nearby a monastery a poisonous dragon which frequently played havoc in the region.

In the monastery five hundred arhats gathered together but failed to drive away the dragon with their collective power of Dhyana-samadhi. Later, a monk came to the monastery where he did not enter into Dhyana-samadhi; he merely said to the poisonous dragon: ‘Will the wise and virtuous one leave this place and go to some distant one.’ Thereupon, the poisonous dragon fled to a distant place.

When asked by the arhats what miraculous power he had used to drive away the dragon, the monk replied: ‘I did not use the power of Dhyana-samadhi; I am only very careful about keeping the rules of discipline and I observe a minor one with the same care as a major one.’

So, we can see that the collective power of five hundred arhats’ Dhyana–samadhi cannot compare with a monk’s strict observance of the rules of discipline.

The Human Condition / Stop the Train

The story is told of a man who, being late for a trip, arrived at a railroad station and jumped onto the first available train. Extenuated, he dozed off for a while and then upon waking up, saw the train rumbling along at full speed toward an unknown destination.

He began querying everyone, complaining aloud and finally crying and shouting. He demanded that the train stop to let him off. The more excited he became, the more the other passengers, eerily silent and sowncast, seemed puzzled by his behavior.

Finally a kind old man told him, “don’t you know, this train has only one destination, the ocean depths from which no one ever returns.” Once we are born, our final destination is death — the deep ocean. Why fret and fuss? All we can do is to use our time on earth to develop the Bodhi-mind, seeking Enlightenment for ourselves and others.

~ From “Thus Have I Heard”, edited by Minh Thanh and P.D. Leigh

Yajnadatta, the Mad Man

“The Shurangama Sutra relates the story of Yajnadatta, the mad man of Shravasti, who one day looked in the mirror and noticed that the person reflected in it had a head.

At that point, he lost his reason and said, ‘How come that person has a head and I don’t? Where has my head gone?’

He then ran wildly through the streets asking everyone he met, ‘Have you seen my head? Where has it gone?’

He accosted everyone he met, yet no one knew what he was doing. ‘He already has a head,’ they said. ‘What’s he looking for another one for?’

There are a lot of people just like poor Yajnadatta.”

~ Told by Master Hsuan Hua
~ From “Thus Have I Heard”, edited by Minh Thanh and P.D. Leigh

Goddess of Wealth and Goddess of Poverty

Once a beautiful and well-dressed woman visited a house. The master of the house asked her who she was; and she replied that she was the goddess of wealth. The master of the house was delighted and so greeted her with open arms. Soon after another woman appeared who was ugly looking and poorly dressed. The master asked who she was and the woman replied that she was the goddess of poverty.

The master was frightened and tried to drive her out of the house, but the woman refused to depart, saying, ‘The goddess of wealth is my sister. There is an agreement between us that we are never to live apart; if you chase me out, she is to go with me.’ Sure enough, as soon as the ugly woman went out, the other woman disppeared.

Birth goes with death. Fortune goes with misfortune. Bad things follow good things. Everyone should realize this. Foolish people dread misfortune and strive after good fortune, but those who seek Enlightenment must transcend both of them and be free of worldly attachment.

Miraculous Power

In Buddhism, it is recognized that supernatural or miraculous power is possible and can be attained through training. However, Buddha Sakyamuni discouraged all display of miraculous power as the proof of of spiritual attainment. The following story illustrates the Buddha’s attitude towards miraculous powers.

One day the Buddha was waiting by the river bank for a boat to ferry him across the river. An ascetic passed by and proudly showed off his miraculous power, crossing the river back and forth by treading over the water.

The Buddha smiled and asked him, “How long did you train to attain such power?”

“It took me thirty years!”, said the ascetic.

The Buddha replied, “Thirty years? Well, I can cross the river using the boat for only one penny!”

If a wicked man can become a pure religious man, this according to Buddhism, is a practical miracle.

I Am Awake

When the Buddha start to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being.

They asked him, “Are you a god?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you a reincarnation of god?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you a wizard, then?”


“Well, are you a man?”


“So what are you?” they asked, being very perplexed.

“I am awake.”

Buddha means “The Awakened One”. How to awaken is all he taught.

Samsara and Nirvana

A Zen master urged his students to practice diligently in order to transcend the world of birth and death.

A student asked him, “Sir, please tell us how to transcend the world of birth and death.”

He said, “You have to look for the world of no birth and no death.”

The student asked, “But where can we find the world of no birth and no death?”

“You look for it right in the world of birth and death.”


“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”
~ Rumi

“The Buddha Dharma is in the world,
Awakening is not apart from the world.
If you seek enlightenment apart from the world,
It is like seeking rabbit horns.”
~ Hui Neng

A Lesson from Ryokan

There was a Japanese Zen Master called Ryokan. One day, Ryokan heard his family complain that his nephew was wasting money on prostitutes. Ryokan went to visit his nephew, whom he had not seen for many years.

His nephew invited him to stay one night. All night long ryokan sat in meditation. As he was preparing to leave the next morning, he asked his nephew, “I must be getting old, my hand shakes so. Will you help me tie the string of my straw sandal?”

The nephew helped him.

Ryokan replied, “Thank you. a man gets older and feebler day by day. Take good care of yourself.”

Then Ryokan left, without mentioning a word about prostitutes or the complaints of the family. But from that day on, his nephew truly reformed, and stopped spending money on prostitutes and stopped dissipating his life.

Worse than a clown

There was a young monk in China who was a very serious practitioner of the Dharma.

Once, this monk came across something he did not understand, so he went to ask the master. When the master heard the question, he started laughing loudly. The master then stood up and walked away, still laughing.

The young monk was very disturbed by the master’s reaction. For the next 3 days, he could not eat, sleep nor think properly. At the end of 3 days, he went back to the master and told the master how disturbed he had felt.

When the master heard this, he said, “Monk, do you know what your problem is? Your problem is that YOU ARE WORSE THAN A CLOWN!”

The monk was shocked to hear that, “Venerable Sir, how can you say such a thing?! How can I be worse than a clown?”

The master explained, “A clown enjoys seeing people laugh at him. You? You feel disturbed because another person laughed at you. Tell me, are you not worse than a clown?”

When the monk heard this, he began to laugh. He was enlightened.

Nobody Told Me Anything

A disciple asked his Dharma Master: “How can I calm my mind?”

The master said, “I am too busy to talk to you right now. Why not consult your First Dharma Brother?”

He did as he was told and asked the same question.

The First Dharma Brother said, “I have a headache. I can’t talk now. Why not talk to Second Dharma Brother?”

But the Second Dharma Brother said, “I have a stomach ache, why don’t you just go and talk to our Dharma Master?”

So he went back to his master and complained, “Nobody told me anything. Nobody gave me any answers.”

But the master said to him reprovingly, “You really are a stupid fool. Everybody has been giving you the answer.”

Because of this, the disciple reached enlightenment.

~ Told by Master Sheng-Yen

A Pile of Dry Shit

One day a famous government officer met a highly respected elderly master. Being conceited, he wanted to prove that he was the superior person.

As their conversation drew on, he asked the master, “Old monk, do you know what I think of you and the things you said?”

The master replied, “I don’t care what you think of me. You are entitled to have your own opinion.”

The officer snorted, “Well, I will tell you what I think anyway. In my eyes, you are just like a pile of dry shit!”

The master simply smiled and stayed quiet.

Seeing that his insult had fallen into deaf ears, he asked curiously, “And what do you think of me?”

The master said, “In my eyes, you are just like the Buddha.”

Hearing this remark, the officer left happily and bragged to his wife about the incident.

His wife said to him, “You conceited fool! When a person has a heart like a pile of dry shit, he sees everyone in that light. The elderly master has a heart like that of the Buddha, and that is why in his eyes, everyone, including you, is like the Buddha!”

Fate Is in Your Own Hands

Once upon a time, there was a general who was leading his army into battle against an enemy ten times the size of his own.

Along the way to the battle field, the troops stopped by a small temple to pray for victory.

The general held up a coin and told his troops, “I am going to implore the gods to help us crush our enemy. If this coin lands with the heads on top, we’ll win. If it’s tails, we’ll lose. Our fate is in the hands of the gods. Let’s pray wholeheartedly.”

After a short prayer, the general tossed the coin. It landed with the heads on top. The troops were overjoyed and went into the battle with high siprit.

Just as predicted, the smaller army won the battle.

The soldiers were exalted, “It’s good to have the gods on our side! No one can change what they have determined.”

“Really?” The general show them the coin–both sides of it were heads.

Because I’m Here

An old monk was sweeping the yard in a monastery under the scorching sun.

Another monk passed by and asked him, “How old are you?”

The old monk replied, “I’m seventy-seven.”

“You are so old! Why are you still working so hard here?”

“Well, because I’m here.”

“But why are you working under the scorching sun?”

“Because the sun is there.”

=> Act without worrying about the results, and strive for excellence without dwelling on it. If we put all of our hearts into what we do without complaining, we can become one with the “Way.”