Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Monk and the Fox


In China, a thousand years ago, there lived a monk who was known for his helpful and learned ways. He could dictate fortunes; map the star laden sky and converse fluently about any and every topic known to man. Contrary to human nature, the fame he commanded had not made him vain and arrogant- rather, he used his name to serve the message of Buddha, to familiarize as many people as he could find about the divine teachings of his lord. His was a life of peace, prayer and perseverance.

It was in a cold month of January that he ventured on one of his travels. His path cut through the edge of the Himalaya and his feet shivered with the task of walking over hard ice. Two days into this perilous journey, the monk assumed his time was up- that he would breathe his last on that lonely, bitterly cold mountain. Wandering aimlessly and with the life seeping out of him, he came across a hole in the ground. The hole looked small, cozy and promisingly warm. Thankful, the monk crawled into it with great difficulty and spent an uncomfortable night wrestling with thoughts of death and how he had not left a legacy behind him. However, by early dawn the same depression had converted to a cheerful demeanor- he had survived. His lord had rescued him from certain doom and he would spend the reminder of his life talking about this night- this miracle.

At daybreak, with a bright sun and a rejuvenated spirit lighting his way, he slowly crawled out of his shelter. At the very mouth of the hole, a strange sight awaited him. Curled in a fetal position and with ice all over its furry coat was a dead fox. It looked serene as the rays of the morning sun bounced off its emaciated body. The monk was stunned- his euphoria disappearing just as the frost on the trees around him. The realization hit him hard- his survival was at the expense of another life. As he walked away he brooded about his role in this event- how something that might keep him warm could also burn something less fortunate than himself. For years afterwards, the monk would speak of the night when nature chose him over another of her creation. There was nothing amazing about his humanity- life was just a ripple that dances in unison with factors that are beyond our own control. Being aware of this uncertainty and this invisible bond that connects all the creatures, big and small- is being in peace.