Who’s done this to me?

Who’s done this to me? November 9, 2017

Boat by Chris Lawton from UnsplashThis morning, after letting the temple bunnies out of their hutch, I wandered down into the garden.

There were holes gouged into the entire length of our lawn. Deep holes. The turf from each hole had been tossed aside and was dying in the cold air. These holes had been slowly appearing for months, but last night was a disaster – this morning there were more dark holes than there was green grass.

If I thought that someone was sneaking into our garden late at night with the intent of ruining our garden, I would be furious. How dare they! Who’s done this to me? Why? How can I get my revenge?

Instead, I know that the culprit is a black and white scoundrel with fur who is looking for his dinner. Badgers need worms to eat, and our lawn must be a particularly rich feasting ground. I survey the holes, halfheartedly attempting to fill them in with my boot, and gently curse him. “Oh, Badger… you’ve really made a mess this time.” I hope he went away with a full belly.

I am reminded of the traditional Zen/Taoist story of the man who feels furious when a boat appears out of nowhere and collides with his own newly painted boat, despite his warning yells. He feels furious, that is, until he sees that there is nobody in the boat. It is empty.

Our lawn holes weren’t made by a malicious being wanting to make work for us – they are the side-effect of their hunger. Even if there was someone in the boat, maybe they were tired and made a mistake. Maybe they have poor eye-sight. Maybe they had a terrible day, and in that moment they didn’t care about our boat, just that they were desperate to get home. It’s still an empty boat. It’s not personal.

So what if the the other person does set out to cause us harm? What if it is personal? Maybe they’re jealous of our lovely boat and they want to mess it up. Maybe they feel we slighted them at work or treated their sister badly, and they follow us out onto the water. Maybe they just have it in for people with red hair.

Whatever their reasons, we can be sure that it is none of our business. If they feel we have done them a wrong, we should scrupulously examine our own side of the street, and make amends if we have acted unskillfully. We may need to let them know how it was for us, and state our needs. We may need to make sure we’re safe, by setting appropriate boundaries. We may wish to offer the other person help, by offering their hurt or angry parts empathy, or by offering practical help. Once we’ve done these things, we are powerless over the rest. We can hand the karma of the person bashing into our boat back to them, and (if we’re on our way towards being enlightened!) wish them well. We can let them go. We can release ourselves.

We all get trapped in the heat of ‘who’s done this to me?’ many times a day. My husband has left his clothes on the floor again! She should have known how much that would hurt me! They always expect me to change my plans! What an idiot driver, they could have killed me!

When you find yourself getting ready to scream at the person in the boat, see if you can pause and consider that it may be empty. The other person is doing what they’re doing for a complex set of reasons, some of which will be unknown to us and to them. Who knows how much knowledge they have of the impact they’re having? Who knows how difficult it would be for them to make a different choice? Leave them to experience the consequence of their behaviour, and enjoy your lawn full holes. Maybe we could make it into a crazy golf course…

Namo Amida Bu.


Photo by Chris Lawton from Unsplash, with gratitude

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