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The Power of Water
by Michael Berman
- 3

Here is another Buddhist parable about water. Invite the learners to read it through on their own and to decide on what they think the message of the story is. They can then get together in small groups to compare their interpretations.

Searching for Answers in the Holy Book

There was once a man who formed a religious cult and people regarded him as a very learned person. He had a few followers who recorded his instructions in a book. Over the years the book became voluminous with all sorts of instructions recorded in it. And the followers were advised by their teacher not to do anything without first consulting the holy book. So wherever the followers went and whatever they did, they would consult the book which served as the manual in guiding their lives. One day when the leader was crossing a timber bridge, he fell into the river. The followers were with him but none of them knew what to do under the circumstances. So they consulted the holy book.

"Help! Help!" the Master shouted, "I can't swim."

"Please wait a while Master. Please don't get drowned," they pleaded. "We're still searching in our holy book. There must be an instruction on what to do if you fall off from a wooden bridge into a river."

But while they were frantically searching through the holy book in order to find the appropriate instruction, the teacher disappeared under the water and drowned.

Suggested Answer:

The message of the story is we should take the enlightened approach, which means neither slavishly following outdated conservative idea, nor resorting to any holy book without using our common sense. On the face of changing circumstances, new discoveries and knowledge, we must learn to adapt ourselves accordingly, and respond to them by using them for the benefit of everybody.

Ask the learners to read through the quotations below, and then for each member of the class to produce one of their own:

What Water means to me

When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Water is H20, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water and nobody knows what that is.
~ D. H. Lawrence, in Pansies, 1929

Water, thou hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself, thou fillest us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, in Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939

{Water is} the one substance from which the earth can conceal nothing; it sucks out its innermost secrets and brings them to our very lips.
~ Jean Giraudoux, in The Madwomen of Chaillot, 1946

When the well's dry, we know the worth of water.
~ Benjamin Franklin

The oceans are the planet's last great living wilderness, man's only remaining frontier on earth, and perhaps his last chance to produce himself a rational species.
~ John L. Cullney, in "Wilderness Conservation," September-October 1990

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.
~ Lao-Tzu (600 B.C.)

For we needs must die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person.
~ II Samuel 14.14

To put your hands in a river is to feel the chords that bind the earth together.
~ Barry Lopez (American author, essayist, and fiction writer)

Rivers are magnets for the imagination, for conscious pondering and subconscious dreams, thrills and fears. People stare into the moving water, captivated, as they are when gazing into a fire. What is it that draws and holds us? The rivers' reflections of our lives and experiences are endless. The water calls up our own ambitions of flowing with ease, of navigating the unknown. Streams represent constant rebirth. The waters flow in, forever new, yet forever the same; they complete a journey from beginning to end, and then they embark on the journey again.
~ Tim Palmer, in Lifelines

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. You must give to the rivers the kindness you would give to any brother.
~ Chief Seattle

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