By Ven. Shih Jingang
One day, while Little Pebble and his Master were walking through a garden, the old teacher stopped to look at a white rose in full bloom. He motioned for his young disciple to join him, and they both sat down near where the flower was growing.
‘Little Pebble,’ said the Master, ‘when you look at this object, tell me what you think about it.’
‘The flower is pretty,’ stated the boy. ‘I like it.’
‘’’Flower,” you say. “Pretty, like it,” you say,’ replied the Master, looking to see how his young disciple reacted. Then he added, ‘Mind creates names like flower, and thoughts of like and dislike, pretty and ugly. This mind is small and closed, but if you can see beyond it to the nature of mind, then all is vast like space, completely open to all things. In this state of awareness, there is neither a flower nor a non-flower. Understand?’
But the young disciple did not quite understand, so his Master continued, ‘Little one, come here each day, and observe this flower. It will be your teacher. Watch it closely, then show me what its teaching is. OK?’
Little Pebble did exactly as he was told and returned each day to closely observe the flower in the garden. As time passed by, the white petals of the rose slowly began to change colour and shape as it decayed and eventually died.
During this process, something was also changing within Little Pebble as he witnessed the natural cycle of decay and death, which helped him to appreciate the short-lived fragility of the flower. At first he perceived the flower as beautiful, and its death as ugly. Then he saw the fragility of the flower as ugly, and great beauty in its death. Finally he realised that every stage in the life cycle of the flower was neither beautiful nor ugly. This awareness extended to
seeing the flower, himself, and all other beings in a constant state of change: birth, the fullness of life, decay, death and rebirth. He saw the natural world around and within himself, as if for the first time, interconnected and interdependent in countless ways.
When the young disciple eventually returned to his Master, the old monk could tell that something had changed in him. ‘Oh!’ exclaimed the Master, ‘I see that the flower is a great teacher,’ and he bowed respectfully in the direction of the garden.
Little Pebble followed his example.
~Extract from the book, A Sparrow Splashing, by Shih Jingang. Published by Ginninderra Press.
Ven Nguyen Tang & Ven Shil Jingang at Duc Son Buddhist Center, Bothwell, Tasmania (24/5/2021)