Big World, Small World

Where do you live; in the big world or in the small world?

A grief stricken woman entered a village in which the Buddha resided. In her arms, she carried the body of her recently deceased child. “Please, someone, bring my child back to life,” she cried. Inconsolable, she refused to listen to those who told her this was not possible. Finally, she approached the Buddha. “Honored One, can you save my child?” The Buddha replied, “Yes, but first you must bring me a mustard seed from a home that has never been touched by death.” The woman began her quest. At the first house she asked for a mustard. As she received the seed, she asked if they had ever experienced a death. They replied that their mother had died. Next she came to a home where the father had died. This was followed by a home where the husband had died, then a son, then a daughter. No matter how many homes she visited each had experienced death. At this point she awakened. Returning to the Buddha she said, “Honored One, I thought only I had suffered the loss of a loved one. Now that I realize that death comes to all I can accept the loss of my child.” With this, she allowed the funeral to proceed.

Living in the small world, the woman thought that she alone suffered. She could not understand why this fate had befallen her. However, when she realized that death is an inevitable part of life she was able to move beyond her suffering. She awakened to the big world.

On a lighter note, another story that illustrates this idea comes from a seminar I attended. The speaker told about an argument he had with his wife. They were redecorating their kitchen and could not agree on the type of flooring. This heated discussion continued right up to when he had to leave for the airport. All the way to the airport, and even after he had boarded the plane, all he could think about was their disagreement. As the plane took off, it circled over the city. Looking down he could see his house. How small it seemed. If his house was so small, his kitchen was even smaller. He awakened to the realization that the argument that had been causing him anguish was about something so insignificant. What had seemed so important when he was living in the small world of ego was put into proper perspective when he awakened to the big world.

The Buddhadharma teaches us to look within and examine our small world. Aware of our ego desire, and the suffering it brings, we awaken to the big world around us. Now, awake to the infinite wisdom and compassion that encompasses all, we can overcome our suffering and help alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings.

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