A Man Whose Head Was Hit by a Pear
A long time ago, there was a bald-headed fool. Another fool came along and, just for the fun of it, struck the first fool on the head with a pear. After several more blows, the poor fool’s head was entirely covered with bruises. He had allowed himself to receive the blows in silence and did not even consider running away. When the beating was over, a man who had witnessed the episode said, “Why don’t you run away and avoid being hit instead of taking the blows and getting hurt?” The fool answered, “I stayed because that man is ignorant. He boasts constantly and tries to prove how strong he is in any way he can. He saw that I was bald, but he was stupid enough to mistake my head for a stone. That’s why he struck it with a pear.”

The other man answered. “How could you call him stupid? You’re the ignorant one. Only a fool would take such a beating and not even consider running away!”

A monk who has no faith and can neither keep the precepts nor cultivate learning is like the fool who took this beating but could speak only of the stupidity of others. While he maintains the outward forms of practice, and therefore receives some benefit, ultimately he spends his life without understanding even the simplest of things. Such a monk really is a fool.

© Kazuaki Tanahashi
© Kazuaki Tanahashi

The Thirsty Man
Long ago, there was a man who was known to be foolish beyond belief. One day, although it was particularly hot, he decided to go wandering. Of course, the more he wandered, the more he felt the effects of the heat and the thirstier he became. Finally, he was so parched that he imagined a mirage in the distance, and, mistaking it for water, he began to run toward it.

All day long, the man chased the mirage until his tongue was practically hanging out of his mouth in thirst. However, as luck would have it, the man had run so far that he found himself standing on the banks of the Indus River. Though his throat was burning, he stood at the river’s edge, dying of thirst, without taking a single drink.

Another man, who was sitting near him on the riverbank, said, “Friend, you have run to the river and are clearly in need of water. Now that you have reached it, why don’t you take a drink? The foolish man replied, “I’ll be okay, but if you like, please take a drink for yourself. I want one, but this amount of water is far too much for me. There’s no way in the world I could finish it all.”

This fool is like the person who misunderstands the basic teachings and truths of the Way. He thinks he will never be able to maintain all of the precepts, and so he refuses to receive a single one. Because of this, he will never attain true understanding but is doomed to wander forever in the cycle of birth and death. Don’t be such a fool.

From A Flock of Fools, © 2004 by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt. Reprinted with permission of Grove Press.

 

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