This Buddhist tale is a reflection on the simplest truths that are in turn the most difficult to accept, since that means radically changing the bases on which we sustain our own ideal of existence.
A Buddhist tale with great truths that are difficult to digest
They say that once a famous Chinese poet decided to study the wisdom of Buddha. To do so, he traveled a long way to find a great Zen master and when he got the chance, he asked:
- What is the most important teaching of the Buddha?
- Do not hurt anyone and do good – replied the teacher.
- How absurd! exclaimed the poet. – I have traveled thousands of kilometers to find you because you are considered a very wise teacher, and that is the answer you give me? Even a three year old could say that!
- A three-year-old may be able to say it, but it is difficult to put it into practice, even for a wise old man like me, said the teacher smiling.
One of the most interesting things about Eastern philosophy, like Buddhism and Taoism, is its simplicity. These ways of understanding and being in the world are not trying to link us to an endless list of moral standards, many of which only serve to make us feel guilty, but offer us a much easier way to find mental balance. However, some of the ideas they promote are very difficult to accept, especially for Western minds. Here are some Buddha sayings for inspiration.
1. You are not what you say, you are what you do
We believe that our beliefs and values define us as people. In a sense, this is so, but this statement is not entirely true. We are not better people simply because we believe in something or have accepted certain values as our standards of behavior. What transforms us into who we are are our actions. Words and thoughts without action are still good intentions, nothing more.
In fact, the world is full of well-meaning people who at decisive moments do not act in accordance with the values and beliefs that they are proclaiming from the rooftops. This parable encourages us not to make the mistake of thinking that we are better simply because we have more “pure” ideals or good intentions. We must ensure that these values and ideas have a practical outlet. We must ensure that there is congruence between what we think, feel and do. We are not only good people because of what we think or feel, but because of what we do.
2. Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you
In Taoism there are no ten commandments or complicated laws that determine what is good and what is not. There is only one rule: do not hurt others , refrain from causing harm, suffering and pain.
We must behave towards others in the same way that we would like them to behave towards us. It is a very simple rule because before any moral dilemma we should ask ourselves: would we like someone to behave like this with us or with the people we love?
The problem with this rule is that it implies that the responsibility for our actions is totally ours and it terrifies those who prefer that it be a religion, a state or a society that decides what is right or wrong because in this way they have an excuse to escape from your conscience. It is always easier to blame others instead of taking responsibility for the mistakes we made.
Of course, this seemingly simple rule also has another important implication, as it is imperative that we can love ourselves first. If we fall into self-destructive habits, we will end up doing only harm to others. To accept and practice this truth, you will need to do great work within yourself, something that many people are unwilling to do.
3. Maturity is not adding, but learning to subtract
Society has been preoccupied with creating false needs . So it keeps us busy and stressed as we try to get whatever gives us the security or well-being we desire. In fact, life is much simpler , and once our basic needs are met, we don’t need much more to be happy.
We mistakenly think that life consists of adding more and more. Add people even if they don’t bring us anything. Add other things even if we don’t need them. Add more aspirations even if they are nothing more than mirages. Add more social roles even if we can’t play them well or feel comfortable with them. We believe that adding is synonymous with success and happiness, when in reality it is just an expression of fear, dissatisfaction and chaos. Accepting that we do not need to add, but learn to subtract, is difficult because it implies a radical change in the way we understand life. But the result is extremely liberating.
The Zen master of history invites us, in some way, to free ourselves from this need to add and complicate everything to embrace simplicity . He teaches us that sometimes the great truths are the simplest and that to find balance it is sometimes necessary to go back to the origins and eliminate all the superfluous layers that we have built around them.