The Power of Water
by Michael Berman
What the Buddhist parable that follows shows is the transformative power of water is such that even a single tear has the power to move mountains:
A Chan Master's Tear
One day Ch'an Master K'ung-yeh was travelling along a road and met some bandits who wanted to rob him.
Tears fell from the Master's eyes.
The bandits started laughing and exclaimed, "What a coward!"
Master K'ung-yeh then said, "Don't think that I'm crying because I'm afraid of you. I'm not even afraid of birth and death. I feel sorry for you young people. You're strong and healthy, yet instead of doing things that are beneficial for others, you hurt people by robbing them. Of course, what you're doing is not acceptable and can't be tolerated by society. What's worse though is that you'll all go to hell and suffer great pain as a result of your actions. I'm so worried about you that I can't restrain myself and am shedding tears for you"
The bandits were moved and decided to give up their evil ways.
For a follow-up activity, you can present your class with the following question: When was the last occasion that someone's tears had the power to change your life? If it was an experience you feel you would like to share, tell the person sitting next to you about it.
The waters have been described as the reservoir of all the potentialities of existence because they not only precede every form but they also serve to sustain every creation. Immersion is equivalent to dissolution of form, in other words death, whereas emergence repeats the cosmogonic act of formal manifestation, in other words re-birth (see Eliade, 1952, p.151).
As Eliade points out, in whatever religious context we find it, water invariably serves the function of dissolving the forms of things, and it can be seen to be both purifying and regenerative. 'The purpose of the ritual lustrations and purifications is to gain a flash of realisation of the non-temporal moment … in which the creation took place; they are symbolical repetitions of the birth of worlds or of the "new man" ' (Eliade, 1952, p.152).
The idea of regeneration through water can be found in numerous pan-cultural tales about the miraculous Fountain of Youth. So pervasive were these legends that in the 16th century the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon actually set out to find it once and for all -- and found Florida instead. In Japanese legends, the white and yellow leaves of the wild chrysanthemum confer blessings from Kiku-Jido, the chrysanthemum boy who dwells by the Fountain of Youth. These leaves are ceremonially dipped in sake to assure good health and long life. One Native American story describes the Fountain of Youth created by two hawks in the nether-world between heaven and earth. Those who drink of it outlive their children and friends, which is why it is eventually destroyed.
Here is another parable. Ask the learners to place the different parts of the story in the correct order, and then find a suitable title for it:
a. After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.
b. Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?"
c. A story is told of a man who was walking along the beach one day, when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
d. "Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!"
e. Then, smiling at the man, he said "I made a difference for that one."
f. "The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."
g. The youth replied, throwing starfish back into the ocean.
1 ___ 2 ___ 3 ___ 4 ___ 5 ___ 6 ___ 7 ___
Suggested title: Making a Difference 1-c 2-b 3-g 4-f 5-d 6-a 7-e
We all know by now what changes we need to make to our lifestyles to reduce the waste of precious natural resources, but how many of us can actually be bothered to make those changes, instead of just sitting back and leaving it to others? And what will be left for our children to inherit if we do not make the changes required? Hopefully, if we respect and care for the environment, it will care for us – just as it always has done, and just as it can continue to do.
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