By Ven. Shih Jingang
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
Little Pebble nodded.
‘Remember,’ said the Master, ‘that you, me, Mummy, Daddy, and all sentient beings have the same essence, called Buddha-nature. Well, that does not die. But other things that are impermanent do die.’
‘Why?’ asked Little Pebble.
The old monk smiled, and said, ‘See, all things born and created eventually die. Our bodies of skin and bone, the things we make, and even thoughts, are constantly changing and eventually die. The body of the dog named Tiger died and went back to the earth to help the trees, insects, animals and us live. So when you walk on the earth, eat a piece of fruit off a tree, see a beautiful flower, know that everything you see and touch is Tiger and all beings, even you. Understand?’
‘Tiger is me,’ said Little Pebble. ‘Tiger is Master, Mummy and Daddy, all things. Tiger did not die.’
‘You say Tiger did not die,’ responded the Master. ‘Can you pat this Tiger, or take him for a walk?’
‘No,’ reacted Little Pebble with a giggle.
The old monk regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘If there is no dog, no name, no “thing” that you can see or touch, what is left?’
‘The Buddha,’ replied Little Pebble.
‘I see your Buddha’s body is long dead,’ said the Master. ‘What is left?’
But Little Pebble could not answer.
The old monk smiled, and said, ‘The Buddha you have heard of was born, lived in a body like yours, and that body grew old and sick, eventually dying. But the Buddha-nature did not die. Why? Because it is unborn, uncreated, and cannot die. You, me, all sentient beings have Buddha-nature. So little one, there is death, and no-death. Do you understand?’
Little Pebble nodded.
‘And where did Tiger go?’ asked the Master.
‘Woof, woof!’ Little Pebble exclaimed, and they both laughed.
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)