Let me begin from the beginning, with a story from the life of Buddha, the Buddha, who was once known as prince Siddhartha before he renounced the material world.
Siddhartha and his cousin Devadutta planned to spend a day in the woods, resting under shady trees, playing in the pond and getting pampered by attendants and maids. A royal entourage was arranged for their comfort and safety. Devadutta also carried his bow and arrow even though they had agreed to not hunt.
While they lay near a natural pool, a swan landed nearby. Seeing golden opportunity, Devadutta immediately strung his bow and aimed at the bird. Siddhartha tried to stop him but he was adamant. A few moments passed and upon hearing the commotion the swan took flight. Devadutta was a good archer (unfortunately) and he let loose his arrow that found its target. Seeing the bird fall, Siddhartha leapt to it in quick strides.
Miraculously, the swan was still alive. But, it was going limp as life was fleeing out of the poor bird. Its eyes were closing, its wound was bloody. Gently, the prince pulled out the arrow and squeezed cool juice of some leaves on the wound to stop it from bleeding. He called one of the physicians in the entourage and applied medicinal herbs on the swan with his tender hands.
The frightened bird began to feel at ease as it slightly fluttered its wings. It was in much pain to fly away though. It lay there resting in Siddhartha’s delicate hands. Devadutta didn’t take it too kindly and felt robbed of his game.
“Give it to me!” he said to Siddhartha. “I shot it.”
“No way, Devadutta,” the prince replied. “I saved it.”
“That’s ridiculous,” he yelled. “It’s my bird, I brought it down with my arrows.”
“Had you killed it, it would have been yours,” Siddhartha said snuggling the swan, “But, since it’s alive, it belongs to me.”
When the argument couldn’t be settled, they consulted one of the king’s ministers who was a member of the royal escort and accompanied them presently. He suggested that a hermit lived in the woods nearby who was in a better position to give a verdict on the current matter. As was the custom, they took offerings of fruits and flowers, bowed before the sage and presented their case.
“There is no confusion,” the sage concluded. “A life belongs to the one who tries to save it. It cannot belong to the one who hurts it.”
“Therefore,” he added, “the swan belongs to Siddhartha.”
It’s a simple story, but then again wisdom lives in simplicity. In fact, it only lives in simplicity. Wise people are simple people. Personally, I find that the ultimate wisdom required to lead a beautiful life, a fulfilling and meaningful life is shining majestically like a crowned jewel in our story. Here, in one sentence:
Life belongs to those who love it.
You protect what you love, you naturally try to save what you love. If you hurt life, it stops belonging to you, it ceases to be your life. If given the choice, who do you think the swan would like to be with — Devadutta or Siddhartha? The bird would always be happier with Siddhartha, it would want to live with him because the prince tried to protect him.
Similarly, your life has a life of its own. If you love it, value it, protect it, it would want to be with you. It will become yours. But, if you are going to hurt it, it will fly away from you, far, far away. Be kind, be gentle like the prince in our story and the swan of life will come alive in your hands.
As you are hurt when the other person doesn’t appreciate your efforts, life is hurt too when you keep on resisting rather than appreciating what it’s doing for you.
Life is frightened and hurt, when you shoot arrows of jealousy, complaints and selfishness. Every time that happens, it distances itself from you. And, when your own life moves away from you, no one or nothing in the world can make you happy then. Not for long anyway. By life, I’m not talking about the physical breath, but the essence of life that is, a sense of peace and bliss. No point in mistreating or neglecting your life, because nothing hurts like neglect.
An overseas visitor met with a Zen monk who offered him tea. The handle of the tiny cup, paper thin, broke as soon as the visitor grabbed it.
“Why do you make your cups so delicate?” he asked the monk a little frustrated and embarrassed.
“It’s not that the cups are delicate,” the monk replied while sipping his tea. “You don’t know how to handle it.”
It’s all about how you handle life as opposed to how your life ought to be. Life is what it is. If you deal with it compassionately, gratefully, delicately, you will discover that it’s every bit beautiful, that it belongs to you wholeheartedly.
Learn to love life for what it is, for every bird sings a different song. Learn to listen to it and appreciate it. It’s funny but true that when you start adjusting around what life has planned for you, life starts to move according to you. If you keep hurting it and battling with it, life will ignore you completely and start to distance itself from you. As I said earlier, you feed life, love it, protect it and it’ll belong to you. It will move at your command then.
The answer to the question, “Why are you hurting me, Life?” begins with the question, “Why are you hurting life?”.
Don’t hurt what you want to keep. If you want to keep, that is.