The reed and the olive tree were arguing over their steadfastness, strength and ease. The olive taunted the reed for his powerlessness and pliancy in the face of all the winds. The reed kept quiet and didn’t say a word. Then, not long after this, the wind blew violently. The reed, shaken and bent, escaped easily from it, but the olive tree, resisting the wind, was snapped by its force.
The story shows that people who yield to circumstances and to superior power have the advantage over their stronger rivals.
A Ploughman’s sons were always quarrelling. He scolded them to no avail- his words did nothing to change their ways. So he decided to teach them a practical lesson. He asked them to bring him a load of firewood. As soon as they had done this he gave a bundle to each and told them to break it all up for him. But, in spite of all their efforts, they were unable to do so. The ploughman therefore undid the bundles and handed each of his sons a stick at a time. These they broke without any trouble. “So!” said the father. “you too, my children, if you stay bound together, can be invincible to your enemies. But if you are divided you will be easy to defeat.”
How many times have a group of people forced their opinion on a minority? If you believe in something strongly, in life, at work, or anything else at all, surround yourself with people who have the same beliefs. This way you will be like the bundle of twigs and will not be easily broken. Stand alone and it will be a different story.
Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to america said; ‘My heart burns like fire, but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.’ He made the following rules, which he practiced every day of his life:
- In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.
- Retire at a regular hour.
- Partake of food at regular intervals.
- Eat with moderation, and never to the point of satisfaction.
- Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone.
- When alone maintain the same attitude you have when receiving guests.
- Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.
- When an opportunity arises, do not let it pass by.
- Always think twice before acting.
- Do not regret the past, look to the future.
- Have the fearless attitude of a hero, and the loving heart of a child.
- Upon retiring, sleep like you had entered your last sleep.
- Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly, like you had cast away a pair of old shoes.
To incorporate any of these into ones daily life would improve it. But don’t take my word for it!
This quote comes from a book; ‘Characters’ By Jean de la Bruyere. 1645-1696
The warrior and the statesman, like the skilful gambler, do not make their luck but prepare for it, attract it, and seem almost to determine their luck. Not only are they, unlike the fool and the coward, adept at making use of opportunities when these occur; they know furthermore how to take advantage, by means of precautions and wise measures, of such an opportunity, or of several at once. If one thing happens, they win; if another, they are still the winners; the same circumstances often makes them win in a variety of ways. These prudent men may be praised for their good fortune as well as their good management, and rewarded for their luck as well as for their merits.
This quote comes from the book, ‘Secrets of a Samurai’ by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, 1973. This is a fragment of the book, which is a fragment of a teaching. The school of the Samurai:
“The book of changes (I Ching) is often considered the Oriental apotheosis of adaptation, of flexibility. In this book the recurring theme is one of observing life and blending with its flow in order to survive and develop. In effect, the theme of this work is that everything in existence can be a source of conflict, of danger, and, ultimately, of violence if opposed from the wrong angle or in the wrong manner- that is, if confronted directly at the point of its maximum strength, since this approach renders the encounter potentially devastating. By the same token, any and every occurrence can be dealt with by approaching it from the right angle and in the proper manner- that is, at its source, before it can develop full power, or from the sides (the vulnerable ‘flanks of a tiger’).”
The monkey, having danced in an assembly of the animals and earned their approval, was elected by them to be king. The fox was jealous. So, seeing a piece of meat one day in a snare, he lead the monkey to it, saying that he had found a treasure. But rather than take it for himself, he had kept guard over it, as its possession was surely a prerogative of royalty. The fox then urged him to take it.
The monkey approached it, taking no care, and was caught in the trap. When he accused the fox of luring him into a trap, the fox replied: “Monkey, you want to reign over all the animals, but look what a fool you are!”
It is thus that those who throw themselves into an enterprise without sufficient thought not only fail, but even become a laughing stock.
Fables, Aesop, Sixth Century B.C
A wild boar was sharpening his tusks on a tree trunk one day. A fox asked him why he did this when there was neither huntsman nor danger threatening him. “I do so for a good reason,” he replied. “For if I am suddenly surprised by danger I wouldn’t have the time to sharpen my tusks. But now I will find them ready to do their duty.”
This fable shows that it is no good waiting until a danger comes to be ready.
Certain goals will take longer to reach than others. This is relative to the size of the hill or mountain one would like to climb. It is important to keep this in mind while pursuing your goals, small ones require less time, big ones more.
In reality, beginning the minute you are born, time is the only thing you have. When you arrive in the world you are naked and fragile and its up to your parents to look after you until you reach responsible age. But once you become an adult it is over to you.
People can take away your possessions, but short of murder, no one can take away your time unless YOU let them. Even in prison your time is your own, if you use it for your own purposes.
I find it useful to try as much as possible to have this in mind. To use the time I have responsibly and know I gave all I could. Time lost can never be regained so don’t waste even a minute!
“During the journey we commonly forget its goal. Almost every profession is chosen and commenced as a means to an end but continued as an end in itself. Forgetting our objectives is the most frequent of all acts of stupidity.”
Friedrich Nietzche 1844-1900
Nasrudin arrived at a village far from his own home, and found that his reputation as a great teacher had preceded him.
The Villagers assembled and their spokesman said:
‘Teach us your wisdom, great Nasrudin.’
‘Very well,’ said the Mulla, ‘but first of all let me suggest something useful to you. Would you like that unsightly hill opposite the village removed, so that you might enjoy the cool breezes which it now interrupts?’
The villagers were delighted at the proposal.
‘Now,’ said Nasrudin, ‘bring me a rope long enough to encircle the hill, with some left over.’
After months of weaving the villagers produced the rope.
‘Just put the rope around the hill, lift it up and put it on my back, so that I can take it away,’ said Nasrudin.
‘This is ridiculous,’ said the villagers, ‘how can we lift a hill?’
‘How can I carry it away unless you do?’ asked Nasrudin.
‘It is the same problem when you ask me to teach you my wisdom.’