This is Poppet and Peter, the temple bunnies. I call them Pops and Peetle. As you may be able to tell from the photo, Peetle has cataracts and is practically blind. Pops had one of her back legs amputated last year after an accident.
They don’t let this hold them back. They live outside, in a hutch inside an aviary, so they have their own front lawn. Once a day we let them out into the temple garden so they can have a longer run. Blind Peetle finds his way around just fine, only running into things when he’s badly startled. Three-legged Pops still runs much faster than I can catch her, and when they have a digging project on, she’s like a blur of burrowing as she disappears inside the earth.
They love each other very much. They spend their days together, and when they are feeling extra soppy they will snuggle their heads underneath each other, asking to have their ears licked.
They love each other very much, that is, until I take them an occasional carrot. As soon as I snap it in two they grab their half and peg it to opposite ends of the hutch, guarding it jealously as they eat. If Pops gets distracted by Peetle’s carrot and misses the one I’m offering her, she chases him round and round and round. Carrots are crack cocaine for bunnies. They do NOT want to share.
This is how it is for us too. When we get our own ‘carrots’, we forget that we love each other. We remember after cooking dinner for our friend that we have some special posh chocolates in the top drawer, and we find ourselves offering them a mint instead. Posh chocolates are my carrots, but I also feel carroty when I want things to be done in a particular way, when I feel poor and cling onto my money, when I want to get some work finished, when I’m enjoying talking about myself… What are your carrots?
Pureland Buddhism adds that we will inevitably be driven crazy by carrots until the day we die. That’s okay – Amida accepts our carroty natures, and invites us to take refuge in his arms. Cloaked in his love, we can go back out into the world and try again (and again) to share our carrots.
Pops and Peetle still love each other, even when they are trying to steal each other’s carrots. The love is momentarily eclipsed by the carrot-lust, like the sun behind clouds. This is helpful to remember – especially if we are feeling upset by someone who is trying to steal our carrot. When we say ‘if they really loved me, they wouldn’t…’ – we are often underestimating the power of their carrot. Maybe they’ll find a way of kicking the habit, of building their own earth bank, and maybe they won’t. We may need to let go of waiting for them to change, and focus instead on how we can be okay with them as they are. Whatever we decide, we can know that they do care about us, behind all that compulsion or meanness or selfishness.
Carrots are everywhere. And the sun never stops shining – not for a single second.