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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Selfishness is "Heaven and Hell"

I once heard a story about a visit to heaven and hell. In both places the visitor saw many people seated at a table on which many delicious foods were laid out. In both places chopsticks over a meter long were tied to their right hands, while their left hands were tied to their chairs. In hell, however much they stretched out their arms, the chopsticks were too long for them to get food into their mouths. They grew impatient and got their hands and chopsticks tangled with one another's. The delicacies were scattered here and there. In heaven, on the other hand, people happily used the long chopsticks to pick out someone else's favorite food and feed it to him, and in turn they were being fed by others. They all enjoyed their meal in harmony.

--Shundo Aoyama Roshi

James: Now I don't believe in a physical, separate "Hell" or "Heaven" from the ones that we create and live in right here, right now. However, I agree with this parable in the sense that it points out the problems that come from being selfish, dualistic and trying to fight the Universal Law of inter-dependency and co-arising.

When we try to go it alone then we will always suffer sooner or later but when we work together we all grow, benefit and reduce our collective suffering. This all reminds me of the story of the monkey and the orange:

Apparently there is a trick to catching monkeys. You find a tree with a hole in it and put and orange in the tiny, tight hole. Then wait until the monkey arrives at the tree to take the orange. According to the story the monkey will hold onto the orange which prevents him from freeing himself from the hole in the tree because he is so greedy and thus you can come up and grab him without much fighting. I remember reading from Dr. David R. Hawkins (who's books are fantastic by the way) that the ego is so selfish and deluded that it will is willing to let the body die in order to get what it wants--such as drug addictions.

May we all always remember that liberation and true freedom comes from remembering our interconnectedness and striving for the good of all. If we only look after ourselves then we are sowing the seeds to our own destruction because as Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25, verses 31-40 in the Christian Bible). So in other words when we hurt others we are hurting ourselves. In not caring about the environment or thinking that animals are not our equals we kill ourselves because as the animals, plants, fish insects, etc. go--so goes man.

PHOTO: The Dalai Lama in profile.

~Peace to all beings~

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Greenwoman said...

Insightful post....and you've been in my thoughts of you been?

Michael said...

It reminds me of the story about the samurai who asked a zen monk what the difference between heaven and hell is. The monk then proceeded to curse the warrior who raised his sword to kill the monk. The monk then praised the warrior who then put his sword away.

Anyways that was a round about way of saying it is nice to meet you.

May all beings awaken and be free.

Just So

They call him James Ure said...


I've been doing well. We had a setback in trying to wave my student loan debts because of my disability but over-all I'm not letting it get to me too much.

Thank-you for thinking of me. :)


Great story. :)

trinitystar said...

Superb bit of wisdom here James.
Thank you for sharing.
Hope you are well. :o)

david said...

loves this ,

the great thing about doing something for someone else, is you are the first one to benefit. in service we forget about our "selves" and get a taste of bliss

very nice post james.

They call him James Ure said...

Trinity Star:

You are most welcome. It is so nice to share such thoughts with others. You all inspire me. :)


Isn't it beautiful? The other beauty of giving and sharing of ourselves is that it is the benefits are exponential!!

dragonflyfilly said...

i'v heard the story about how to catch monkeys, although i think there are some monkeys that are too clever to be caught!

i like the story about the chopsticks, and like you, i do not believe in a "place" called either Heaven or Hell; for myself i think of them more as a "state of mind"

nameste my little monkey friend!
love and Light,

Kuan Gung said...

Great post

They call him James Ure said...


Yes, there are some clever monkeys. Some of my favorite animals are the primates--esp. the chimps. I saw a show on them where they figured out a new sound for chocolate!! So smart!!! :)

Thanks for the comment and yes I'm your monkey friend. Working diligently to let go of my monkey mind...hehe...

Kuan Gung:

Thank-you. I bow to the Buddha within you. :)

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