How the tiger got his stripes

So the other day I was hankering for a wisdom story that included elephants. After surfing around the web a bit, I came across this story at Buddhapadipa.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Once upon a time, in a jungle just around the corner, there lived a furious tiger; he was very proud of himself because he was never defeated. One day he went hunting for food and saw the elephant. He thought, “I am going to eat this elephant”, and he went straight to the elephant. The elephant knew that danger was near, but it was too late to escape, so he calmed down and prepared for the danger. When the tiger approached him, he said, “Hi, tiger where are you going?” The tiger said directly, “I am coming to eat you”. The elephant thought for a while and replied, “Hold on a second, friend, you cannot eat me. Don’t you know I belong to a human being, I am a slave to him”. The tiger said, “I don’t believe you. You are so much bigger than the human. Who dares to do that, in this area, except myself”. “Friend, you would not believe it, friends of mine were chained and forced to work. You have to believe me”, the elephant insisted. The tiger wondered why the humans were so powerful, even though they had no sabre tooth, no claws, only two hands and two legs, so he questioned the elephant more, “What really does make humans so powerful?”

The elephant said, “Yes, right, they don’t have sabre teeth and claws, but they have wisdom”. When the tiger heard of wisdom, which he had never known before, he asked the elephant, furiously, “What does the wisdom of the human look like? If I see wisdom, I will eat it”. The elephant tried to explain that the wisdom was in the human, but the tiger still had no idea. So the elephant said, “You have to go and see for yourself, so that you can understand”. The tiger commanded the elephant to find some human for him. The elephant could not deny him, so they went together. At a certain point, they saw a man walking in the forest with a trap. The tiger said to the elephant, “I am going to eat him”, and then started to attack him, but because of his doubt, he halted and thought, “Why is it so easy to catch him. It is totally different from what the elephant said”. Then he asked the man, “Where is your wisdom?”

When the man heard that, he said, “Hold on Tiger, don’t eat me, I’ll show you my wisdom”. The tiger released him and asked, “Where is it, show me, before you are eaten by me”. “Ok, I am going to show you, but, you know, my wisdom is very frightening to all the animals. I am not sure that when I show you, you will dare to stay to see it or not”. The tiger said with pride that he had never been frightened or defeated, “What can I do so that I can see your wisdom?” The man offered a suggestion, “It is easy. You just let me tie you to the tree and then I’ll show you”. “That is fine, let’s do it then and show me”, the tiger said. And then the man tied the tiger to the tree, firmly, and grabbed the whip and hit the tiger, saying, “This is my wisdom, fool tiger”. The tiger cried, and tried to escape, but he could not. He was hit and his body was striped in the places where the whip hit him (it is a belief, until now, that this is why a tiger is striped). At the same time, the elephant witnessed all the event that had happened, so he laughed at the tiger who was proud of himself and despised the others. Because of human wisdom, he not only survived, but also the man did. He laughed so much that his eyes became very small (this is why the elephant has such small eyes, until now.) When the tiger escaped from the tree, he went for help. But no animals helped him, because he had once bullied them, or killed their friends, or a member of their family. Soon he could not stand the pain, and died.

The moral of this story is: don’t despise others and think that no one can beat us, don’t live a careless life.

On not doing everything, but for sure doing some thing

The other day I was cleaning out some files and came across a page with this quote from Thomas Merton.  It so reminded me of why I fell in love with his writing, I thought I would share it with you all.  I hope it give you pause to think for a moment or two the way it did (and still does) for me.

The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, it its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, by Thomas Merton (Doubleday & Company. Garden City, NY, 1968, p. 86

A woman starts to get on a bus

All too often we see something – or part of something – and are so very certain that we know what we saw and what it all means.  The other day I found this story at “Mirth and Motivation” and it kind of made me think . . .

So, the story goes that in a midsized town in the middle of a state a lady started to get on a bus. She looked at the bus driver, didn’t say a word and gestured to his by sticking her thumb on her nose and waving her fingers at the driver.  The driver acknowledged the lady, turned to her and used both hands in the same type of gesture and waved all his fingers at her.

The woman then held her right arm out at the driver and chopped at it a few times with her left hand. Then the driver put his left hand on his right bicep and jerked his right arm up in a fist at her.

The woman then cupped both of her hands under her breasts and lifted gently. In response the driver placed both of his hands at his crotch and gently lifted up.

Then the woman frowned, ran a finger up between her derriere, and got off the bus.

Another woman sitting in the front row of the bus watched the whole exchange in stunned silence.  Finally she said to the driver, “That was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen on a public bus! What the hell were you doing?”

The driver glowered at her and said, “Listen lady, that woman was a deaf-mute. She asked me if the bus went to 5th Street. I said no, we go to 10th Street. She asked if we make many stops. I told her that this was the express. She asked if we go by the dairy, and I told her we go by the ballpark. Then she said ‘Shit, I’m on the wrong bus!’ and she got off the bus. I don’t know what you thought was so disgusting, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder!”

On Giving Away All Your Marbles

So, I’ve been thinking a bit about hope and love recently, and that got me to thinking about trust, which got me to thinking about full hearted generosity – and the all too human inclination to hold just a little back, you know just in case, just so we don’t look foolish, just so we have a little something in reserve, just in case. And I came across this story …

Esme and Biron were two young children whose families lived next door to each other. One day, Biron was shooting marbles in the park across the street from their homes, when Esme walked over to see what he was up to.  Esme was eating some candies from a paper sack, and watched him for a while.  After a few minutes, Biron offered to trade Esme his marbles for her candy. Esme thought about it and agreed.

But Biron pocketed his favorite marble before they made the exchange.  Esme on the other hand simple gave Biron her whole bag of candy in the exchange.

That night, Esme slept deeply and peacefully, while Biron tossed and turned and could not sleet at all.  He was haunted by doubts about whether or not Esme had hidden some candy from him the way he had kept back is favorite marble.

The moral of the story of course is that if you don’t give your very best one hundred percent in your relationships and in your interactions with others, you will be haunted by doubts about whether the other person has given their full measure as well. So, do your best, give it all you’ve got, and you will be able to sleep at night with a full and open heart and a clear conscience.

Dream well my friends!  Live full throttle with an open heart and a peaceful soul!


The Magic Eyes of Understanding

So I was surfing around the internet the other day, thinking about forgiveness, and I came across the fable of the magic eyes … see what you think!

a fable about THE MAGIC EYES.


Once upon a time in a land that was far away and near to my heart there was a small village which had a baker, Zed, who was well steeped in righteousness. Zed was a tall thin man, even his face was long and thin. He was so upright and righteous that he seemed to spray righteousness even as he spewed vituperations on any who came within his sight. So, people mostly stayed out of his sight.

In contrast, Zed’s wife, Amia, was short, soft and plump. She just looked cuddly, and her soft cuddliness invited people to come closer to enjoy her warm, open cheerfulness. Now, Amia loved and respected Zed, but his upright righteousness kept her at arm’s length, and she yearned for something more. And in that yearning need was the seed of sadness within Amia’s soul and between Amia and Zed.

Life went on and wants and needs followed their course, and one morning, after Zed had been working since dawn preparing his doughs for the oven, he came home for a brief rest and found Amia with a stranger in their bedroom. Amia’s indiscretion became the talk of the town. Now scandal was in the house of Zed the righteous.  Everyone expected that Zed would send Amia away. Everyone thought that his righteousness would demand it of him.

But, Zed surprised everyone, and simply said that he forgave Amia as the holy scriptures said one should do. But as we all know the heart and the mind are not always in harmony, and in Zed’s heart of hearts he should could not let go of his anger and disappointment with Amia for bringing shame to his home and to his name. Whenever he thought about her, as much as he tried to forgive her, he only felt angry and began to despise her as a whore. Even he began to recognize that his forgiveness was a thin veneer for the punishing righteousness that he heaped upon her. What he really came to feel for Amia was hatred for betraying him as her faithful husband.

As life went on, over some time, Zed’s internal duplicity began to rankle his guardian angel. This angel was a wise old soul, and so each time Zed wallowed in his animosity and resentment of Amia, the angel would drop a tiny pebble into Zed’s heart. Each time a pebble dropped into his heart, Zed would feel a stab of pain. The more he hated her the more pain he felt, and the more pain he felt, the more he hated her. Soon enough, Zed’s heart grew heavy with the weight, and he now walked bent over from the waist from the weight in his heart. Zed became so weary from the pain and the weight in his heart, that he began to wish he were dead.

At that point Zed’s guardian angel, Tess, appeared to him in the image of Della Reese. Tess told him that to be healed of his heart ache, he would need magic eyes. Through those magic eyes he would be able to look back to the time before his hurt and to see Amia not as a betrayer, bur as a weak woman in need of his kindness. Through the magic of seeing through these new eyes, the pain of his old wounds might be healed.

Zed was not convinced. His righteous self said that nothing could change the past, and that Amia was guilty of betraying him. Tess agreed that the past cannot be changed, but she said, you can change how you see the past. Your vision of what happened is open to re-vision, and you can allow it to be healed through the magic eyes.

Zed was still not convinced and his hatred of Amia had become a refuge for him, but he was a desperate man, and so he asked Tess how he might look through these magic eyes. Tess said, “You only need to ask with a sincere desire to see through them, and their vision will be granted to you. Each time you see Amia through the magic eyes of understanding, one pebble will be lifted from your broken heart.”

Zed still had his doubts, but he asked for the vision of the magic eyes with all the sincerity he could muster. Tess smiled her blessing. Zed felt that he had been touched by an angel.

Over some days Amia began to change in Zed’s eyes. He began to see her as a sad woman with unmet needs rather than a heartless evil being. Zed’s vision changed and his heart began to soften as one by one each of the pebbles lifted from his heart. This took a long time, but over time Zed’s heart became softer and lighter. As these changes grew in Zed’s heart, his whole being began to change. He began to stand straighter and his countenance softened. He no longer spewed righteousness, but was less sharp than he had been. Eventually he welcomed Amia back into his heart, their hearth grew warm together and together they resumed their journey through the second season of their lives in hope and humility, together learning to temper righteousness with compassion with eyes of understanding.

On Being Certain, Certain People and Other People

Sometimes I just get a thought in my head and I can’t let go of it. This story is what I did with one of those thoughts . . .


Once upon a time in a place called Kenvilley the people were struggling to find their way to live in peace and justice with each other. In Kenvilley only Certain People were allowed to love each other and to make their homes together and build families. The Other People saw how these Certain People lived together, and they perceived that it was good. And so, they too wanted to be able to love whom they loved and to make their homes together and build families as well. These Other People had loved each other for a long time, and now they wanted to be able to live together and build families and to celebrate all that they had together.

These Other People went to the town leaders and made their case. But the town leaders said that it would be immoral for them to usurp the privilege of building families that by sacred tradition was granted only to the Certain People. The Other People were not deterred, they continued to work tirelessly side by side with all the peoples of the community, loving each other and becoming known as good citizens. One day, after many entreaties by the Other People, the Chief Leaders of the larger society proclaimed that that all of the peoples, the Certain People and the Other People,  who loved each other and who freely choose to do so could make their homes together and build families.

But the Record Maker of Families in Kenvilley refused to listen to the Chief Leaders. She said that she was certain that personal god forbid families among the others, and she would listen to no other.

Now, the founding citizens of Kenvilley and the larger society said that gods, goddesses and governance where all good things, and that they should be kept separate, so that all peoples would be free to choose and honor their own personal gods and goddesses, and there would be one impartial government for all of the peoples.

But the Record Maker of Families in Kenvilley said that her god told her she must be holy and moral, and to allow the Other People to make their homes together and build families would be immoral.

The Leaders and the Other People were angry and frustrated with Record Maker of Families. The Leaders put her in jail for a while, but she refused to change her mind because she was certain.  (And we all know that if you do not change your mind and your underwear pretty regularly, soon enough things begin to smell pretty badly!)

Some of the Other People tried to talk to the Record Maker of Families, but she would not listen to them, she said they were sinners, and she was certain.

The Other People got together to talk among themselves. They talked about what the registrar’s god had said about other things. They remembered pronouncements like, “you are forgiven for your sins. So is everyone else.” And they thought that even if the Record Maker of Families believed they were sinners, she should also recognize that she too was a sinner and they were all forgiven.  And the Other people wanted to remind the Record Maker of Families about the “Remember that love thy neighbor think?”  And they wanted to tell the Record Maker of Families that they were her neighbors too.

And they really thought they had her with this one, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Honor the laws of the land in which you live.” But then one of the Others remember that this whole problem with the registrar was because they got the Chief Leaders to change one of the laws of the land. Someone said, ‘but that law was unfair.’ Quietly someone else said, ‘but now she thinks the change is unfair.’

And they were quiet for a while thinking about this, wondering among themselves about the best way, the fairest way to decide what is fair for everyone.

Someone said, ‘love is the answer.’ And that sounded good. But someone else asked, ‘who gets to decide what love is?’

And someone else asked, ‘who gets to decide who gets to decide?’

And of course somebody asked, ‘who gets to decide who gets to decide who gets to decide?’

And they all scratched their heads (and other body parts), thought about it for a while, and then one quiet woman stood up and said, ‘we do, right here, right now. With our words, with our lives. We decide with every breath we take. Who we are, how we are. It all matters. Love is the answer. Our lives and our love will transform her hatred, her misunderstanding, her ignorance, one heartbeat at a time.’

Another of the Others asked her, ‘you mean love conquers hate? Like the Buddha said?”

She smiled and said, ‘well, the Buddha had it part right, and maybe it’s just a bad translation, but not conquers. No more violence. Love transforms hate. That’s what I mean. Like water transforms rock. We just gotta keep on loving.’

And since Kenvilley is where they used to grow a lot of tobacco, they all thought that the Record Maker of Families should put some sweet lovin in her pipe and smoke that a while.


Thinking about John ODonohue and Beauty

I am now of an age where any day, every day that I wake up and find that I am still breathing is a wonderful day. And, yet, some days are indeed just a bit more wonderful, more full of wonder than other days.  For my money, there are few people who speak to this better than John O’Donohue.  Here are some lines from his book: Beauty: the Invisible Embrace.  See what you think!

“We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty. . . .

The human soul is hungry for beauty… When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul. For a while the strains of struggle and endurance are relieved and our frailty is illuminated by a different light in which we come to glimpse behind the shudder of appearances and sure form of things. In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. Beauty brings a sense of completion and sureness. Without any of the usual calculation, we can slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us.”


The human soul is hungry for beauty! Ain’t it just so.  I remember back in graduate school, reading about some research that Abraham Maslow did where he found that people learn better and thrive more in circumstances of beauty.  So, here’s what I think. Let’s each of us go out today and do some one thing to make the world a little more beautiful for someone else. And, let’s each of us go out today, look around at the world we are living in and appreciate, really appreciate one little thing that is just beautiful somewhere nearby – maybe look at the ocean, or a tree or flower, or look into someone’s eyes. Take a deep breath, and say ‘thank you.’ Just a moment to notice and remember. For me, I will be appreciating the beauty of John O’Donohue’s (1956 – 2008) thoughts and words.

The donkey and the load of salt

There is a story about a rich merchant and his donkey who went to the seaside markets to buy salt. On the way home they had to cross a river. There were no bridges across the river, so the merchant drove the donkey across the river. This donkey was not as sure footed as his breed is reputed to be, and so he lost his footing on the rocks and accidentally fell in the river. Very quickly he got back on his feet, and noticed that his burdens were considerably lighter as the water melted and dissolved the salt.

The merchant noticed that the packs on the donkey’s back were hanging with more slack, and so he turned the donkey around, when back to the seaside, bought more salt, and reloaded the donkey.  Then they turned home ward again.  When they came to the river, the donkey (who was more wily than sure footed) once again slipped on the rocks, pulling his packs under the water and once again melted most of the salt. As he rose to his feet the donkey shook his head and brayed in triumph. The merchant suspected what the donkey had done, but thought to bide his time, in dealing with his delinquent donkey. They continued on their way home and the merchant did the best that he could selling the bits of salt that remained.

A short time later the merchant and the donkey returned to the seaside markets. This time however the merchant bought a large load of sponges rather than salt.  On the way home the donkey recognized the place on the trail leading up to the river, and as he entered the river, once again the donkey intentionally lost his footing, slipped into the river and soaked the packs on his back. But this time the salt did not dissolve, rather the sponges absorbed great quantities of the river water, doubling the weight of the donkey’s load!

And the moral of the story? Just cause it worked once, doesn’t mean a strategy will work every time.  Don’t be a donkey! Stay awake to the details of the situation!

Who is stingy now?

I found this story about Gessen the stingy artist the other day when I was surfing the web. It made me think about all the times I judged someone for being a jerk … hope you get a few moments of self-reflective beard stroking from it too.  It is from a book called ‘101 Zen Stories’, also known as ‘Zen Flesh, Zen Bones’


Gessen was an artist monk. Before he would start a drawing or painting he always insisted upon being paid in advance, and his fees were high. He was known as the “Stingy Artist.”

A geisha once gave him a commission for a painting. “How much can you pay?” inquired Gessen.

“‘Whatever you charge,” replied the girl, “but I want you to do the work in front of me.”

So on a certain day Gessen was called by the geisha. She was holding a feast for her patron.

Gessen with fine brush work did the paining. When it was completed he asked the highest sum of his time.

He received his pay. Then the geisha turned to her patron saying: “All this artist wants is money. His paintings are fine but his mind is dirty; money has caused it to become muddy. Drawn by such a filthy mind, his work is not fit to exhibit. It is just about good enough for one of my petticoats.”

Removing her skirt, she then asked Gessen to do another picture on the back of her petticoat.

“How much will you pay?” asked Gessen.

“Oh, any amount,” answered the girl.

Gessen named a fancy price, painted the picture in the manner requested, and went away.


It was learned later that Gessen had these reasons for desiring money:

A ravaging famine often visited his province. The rich would not help the poor, so Gessen had a secret warehouse, unknown to anyone, which he kept filled with grain, prepared for these emergencies.

From his village to the National Shrine the road was in very poor condition and many travelers suffered while traversing it. He desired to build a better road.

His teacher had passed away without realizing his wish to build a temple, and Gessen wished to complete this temple for him.

After Gessen had accomplished his three wishes he threw away his brushes and artist’s materials and, retiring to the mountains, never painted again.



it just goes to show, you never really know what someone’s motives are, what they are really up to.  so, I guess we all might just as well assume the best and ask how we can help?

whose got issues?

Back at the cloister of the good Sisters of Mary Magdalene life proceeds apace. But what exactly is apace? About three feet? Well that depends on how long your legs are really. But no, when you scope out the dictionary, apace means to travel fast enough to keep up with the momentum around you. That being the case, life for the good sisters definitely did not proceed apace. The good sisters in face remain intentionally out of step with the momentum around them, taking their good old sweet time to pray and meditate and to savor the sweetness of the world around them, to bask in awe of what is and what could be when we but find our place at one met with what is.

Well, for the most part that is how this are. But then there is Sister Honora. You will remember Sister Honora – she is somewhere around 90 years old, and has some visual and auditory challenges (some would say she is blind as a bat and deaf as a stone, but don’t let her hear you say that or she will lasso you with her rosary beads and give you what for but good!). So, just the other day Sister Beatrix, one of the postulants caring for the older sisters in the cloister took it as her mission to convince Sister Honora that she really should be wearing her hearing aid.

Now, Sister Beatrix is humble if she is nothing else, and she is many other things. But her humility is one of her virtues of which she is most proud. So, she humble approached Reverend Mother and asked her how she might approach this issue with Sister Honora. The good Reverend Mother suggested that she stand about 40 feet from Sister Honora and talk to her in a conversational voice to see if she hears you. If not, then move in to about 30 feet, then to 20 feet, and to keep moving closer until she got a response.

So, the very next day Sister Beatrix was near the back of the in the refectory just outside of Sister Honora’s room, and she thought that they must be about 40 feet apart, so she called out to Sister Honora, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” She heard no response.

So Sister Beatrix walked down the refectory a bit closer to Sister Honora’s room, about 30 feet from it, and asked, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” And she heard no response.

Sister Beatrix smiled to herself as she gathered this proof positive of Sister Honora’s need to wear her hearing aid, she walked further through the refectory so that she was now about 20 feet from Sister Honor’s room and asked again, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” And still no response.

She put her head into Sister Honora’s room so that the two of them were about 10 feet about and one more time she asked, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” Still no response!

Finally she walked right up to Sister Honora, looked her square in the face, smiled and said, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?”

And Sister Honora also smiled and said, “Sister Beatrix, for the fifth time I’ve said ‘it is Luke 6:42, How can you offer to take the speck out of your sister’s eye with that log in your own eye.’ Dear, would you like to borrow my hearing aid?” And Sister Honora reached up to her ear to remove the hearing aid to offer it to our dear Sister Beatrix.



With thanks to Philip Chircop, this is an adapted version of his THE DEAF WIFE AND THE CONCERNED HUSBAND which he found in Cathy L. Wray, The Perfect Blend Devotional (WestBow Press, 2014) pages 147-148

Philip reminds us to remember this: The problem may not be with the other one as we always think. It could be very much within us. We sometimes tend to look to heal in others problems or issues that are actually ours.