Monday, June 21, 2010

Contemplative Monday

One of my favourite writers and 'teachers' is Thich Nhat Hanh . The simplicity of his writing is very contagious and heartfelt.

In his book , You Are Here, he tells the following story. I hope you have a minute or two to read it. 

"In my country, Vietnam, there is a famous story about a young couple who lived in the 17th. century. The name of the young man was Truong, and his young wife came from a village called Nam Xuong. War broke out, and the young man was called up to serve in the army. His wife was pregnant, but he had to leave for the front all the same. They cried a great deal.

The young man served in the army for three years before he was allowed to come home. On the day of his return, his wife was very happy to see him. She went and stood at the entrance to the village with her little son, and when they met, they cried for joy. Then the young woman went to the market to get what she needed to make an offering to the family ancestor shrine (a Vietnamese tradition)........

While the young woman was at the market, the father tried to persuade his little boy to call him 'Daddy'. But the child refused, saying, 'No, you are not my daddy. My daddy is another man who comes every evening. My mommy talks to him for a long time, and she cries with him. Every time my mommy sits down, he sits down also. And every time she lies down, he lies down too.'

All of Truong's happiness evaporated on the spot. He became like a block of ice. When the wife came back from the market, she sensed that something had happened. Her husband did not look at her or talk to her, so she prepared the offering silently in the kitchen.

When she had finished, the husband placed the offering silently on the shrine, unrolled a mat, lit some incense, and touched the earth in front of his ancestors in order to announce to them his return. Then he rolled the mat back up without allowing his wife her turn to touch the earth. He thought she was unworthy to present herself at the shrine because she had cheated on him.

Instead of staying home with his family to celebrate their reunion, he went to a bar and spent the whole day there trying to drown his sorrows. That is something many of us do. Because we do not know how to deal with our suffering, we resort to the use of drugs and alcohol.

For three days in a row, the young man did not come home until late at night. His suffering was too great. He never said a word to his wife or looked at her, and her suffering was also very great. By the fourth day, the pain was too much for her, and she threw herself into the river and drowned.

The young man on hearing the news, went back to his house. That  night he stayed with his child, and when it was dark he lit the gas lamp. Suddenly, the little boy began to shout, 'There, there is my father,' and he pointed to Truong's shadow on the wall. 'Every night my daddy comes, and Mommy talks to him for hours and hours, and she cries a lot. Every time my mommy sits down, he sits down too.'

The truth was suddenly all too clear. The man who had come every evening was actually the mother's shadow. The truth was that the young woman had waited faithfully for her husband. But one day the little boy came home and said,' Mommy, every other boy and girl has a father. Where is my father?' So she pointed to her shadow on the wall and said, 'That's your father. You can say,'Good morning, Daddy,' and 'Good night, Daddy' to him. And she talked to the shadow to convince the boy. Now the truth was out but it was too late.

Wrong perceptions. All of us are only human, and we have wrong perceptions every day. Our spouse or partner is also subject to wrong perceptions, so we must help each other to see more clearly and more deeply."

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