A Parable by Liu An
Retold by Michael Hofius

Versión en Español

Ted is a fellow spiritual seeker. We had been writing to each other about the three spiritual principles of Honesty, Openmindedness, and Willingness.

On Wed, 30 Jul 1997, Ted wrote:

A comment I shared recently with friends related how important openmindedness has become for me. It was something I always prided myself on having, only now I'm learning that what I thought was an open mind, was in reality a closed, self-centered mind. One more principal that I personally would like to add to the before-mentioned three is Acceptance.

Acceptance of my life, Life in all its good and bad, so intimitely intermixed.

Here is my response to Ted:

In Western thought we get caught up a lot in judging everything. Calvinism and all its Fundamentalist descendants have made a fine science out of judging.

In Buddhist, Zen, and Taoist thought, this is wasted energy, since you will have both sides of any duality all the time. Liu An wrote this story (my memory / paraphrase):

Once, a farmer's work horse ran away. His neighbors were quite sympathetic saying, "How awful for you." He replied, "We'll see." His son went to find the horse and came back triumphantly leading the somewhat agitated steed. The neighbors joyfully exclaimed, "What joy; your horse has been found!" The farmer calmly said, We'll see."

The farmer's son took it upon himself to break and train the temperamental horse. A few days passed. One morning, the son was thrown from the horse and broke his leg. It required setting and binding and he could not work on his father's farm in his condition. The neighbors sadly pronounced, "How unfortunate for you: you will not have your son's help around the farm for several weeks. What a catastrophe!" The farmer replied, "We'll see." But one neighbor retorted, "How can you be so flippant about your son's predicament? I know for a fact that you will have to work late into the night to get all the chores done without his help. You may be in denial, but you DO have a serious problem!" The farmer quietly said, "We'll see."

The following day, the emperor's guard arrived. They came because the Emperor decided it was time for military conscription. All elligible men would be drafted to go fight in the Emperor's latest border war. Because of his broken leg, the farmer's son was not carried off by the army. Because the horse was too unsettled, it was not conscripted. And because he had no horse or son to help him feed the rest of his family, the farmer too was left to tend to his farm.

What Man sees as Good or Bad is simply The Way. It is easier to not judge, but, like water, flow around the occurences of Life.

And you're right... acceptance is the key. Acceptance is the quality which allows us to be serene enough to choose to flow instead of judging and reacting to our judgment, thereby disturbing the flow. It must be a practice... and learning to not think but to be through the circumstances of Life IS Acceptance and it is the Act of Flowing.

Pax et Luminas, Mike.

Back to Mike's Spiritual Stories Page

Michael Hofius
624 Moore Street, Bristol, VA 24201