I am reading Breakfast with Buddha right now. It’s about a man traveling across the northeast of the US with a Buddhist monk. The man is your orthodox Christian who doesn’t particularly want to be sharing this car ride with the monk, but he has decided to try and make the most of it.
Monks, by nature, are men of few words. The man would like more discussion while traveling (but not about religion; he has boundaries, don’t we all?). So Buddha has agreed that the man can ask him a question at breakfast time.
The first morning, the man asks “What is the meaning of life?” Let’s start out big, huh?! I had to laugh because most of us would admit defeat with that question alone. Who can really say what the meaning of life is? I mean, it’s not like we are privy to God’s entire plan for humankind.
I loved the Buddha’s response. He took the man’s half full glass of water and dropped some dirt into it (that he had just scooped up from the road). He stirred the dirt so the water got cloudy. When the water settled, he stirred it again. Here was his answer to that question: “When you – when some person – does things he shouldn’t do. Watch.” He stirs the dirt in the cup again. “Then you can’t see… If you want to see life as it is in a true way, then you have to make the water very pure, very clean. This is not easy in this world but it is what you have to do.You cannot upset the mind.”
How many ways do we muddy up our water of glass each day? Most of us are not killers (I hope- lol). Most of us do not steal. We don’t cheat on our spouses. We don’t do the BIG things that make us “sinners.” But we all know people who embellish events enough that we say “embellish” vs. “lie” because no one wants to call them liars. But even things like eating too much. Smoking. Drinking. Not getting enough sleep. Watching violent or angry television. Those daily decisions we make cloudy up our glass of water. There may be less dirt in the water than if we were to kill another person, but the water is still cloudy.
When we can clearly see through the water, when the sediment settles to the bottom of the glass and the upper layers are clear, only then can we truly understand the meaning of life. That is when we see what life is truly about.
Wouldn’t it be great to take one day or one week or one month and not indulge ourselves, so we can get a clearer understanding of life?