en-A truckload of dung
Unpleasant things happen in life, like being last in our class. They happen to everyone. The only difference between a happy person and one who becomes depressed is how they react to disasters.
A truckload of dung from "Who ordered this truckload of dung?: Inspirational Wisdom for Welcoming Life's Difficulties" by Ajahn Brahm.
Imagine you have just spent a wonderful afternoon at the beach with a friend. When you return home, you find that a huge truckload of dung has been dumped right outside your door. There are three things to know about this load of dung:
1. You didn't order the dung. It is not your fault.
2. You didn't ask for it any other way. No one saw who threw it away, so you can't call anyone to take it away.
3. It's dirty and offensive, and its stench fills your whole house. It is almost impossible to bear.
In this metaphor, the truckload of dung in front of the house represents the traumatic experiences that are dumped on us in life.
Like the truckload of dung, there are three things to know about the tragedy in our lives:
1. We didn't order it. We say, 'Why me?
2. We are stuck with it. No one, not even our best friends, can take it away from us (even if they try).
3. It's so terrible, such a destroyer of our happiness, and its pain fills our whole life. It is almost impossible to bear it.
There are two ways to react to being stuck with a truckload of dung. The first way is to carry the dung around with us. We put it in our pockets, some in our bags and some in our shirts. We even put some in our trousers. When we carry the crap around, we lose a lot of friends! Even the best friends don't seem to be around that much.
"Carrying the crap around" is a metaphor for sinking into depression, negativity or anger. It's a natural and understandable reaction to adversity. But we lose a lot of friends because it's also natural and understandable that our friends don't like to be around us when we're so depressed. Besides, the dung heap doesn't get less, but the smell gets worse the older it gets.
Fortunately, there is a second option. When we are dumped with a truckload of dung, we heave a sigh of relief and then get to work. Out come the wheelbarrow, the fork and the spade. We fork the dung into the wheelbarrow, push it around behind the house and dig it into the garden. It is exhausting and difficult work, but we know there is no other way.
Sometimes we only manage half a wheelbarrow a day. We do something about the problem instead of complaining ourselves into a depression. Day after day we dig in the dung. Day by day, the pile gets smaller. Sometimes it takes several years, but the morning comes when we see that the dung in front of our house is completely gone.
Moreover, a miracle has happened in another part of our house. The flowers in our garden burst out of the ground everywhere in a blaze of colour. Their fragrance wafts down the street, making the neighbours and even the passers-by smile with joy. Then the fruit tree in the corner almost falls over, it is so heavy with fruit. And the fruits are so sweet, you can't buy something like that. There is so much of it that we can share it with our neighbours. Even passersby get a delicious taste of the miracle fruit.
"Digging in the dung" is a metaphor for welcoming tragedies as fertiliser for life. It's work that we have to do alone: No one can help us here. But by digging it into the garden of our heart, the pile of pain becomes smaller day by day.
It may take several years, but the morning comes when we no longer see pain in our lives and a miracle has happened in our hearts. Flowers of kindness sprout everywhere and the fragrance of love wafts through our street, to our neighbours, to our relationships and even to passers-by. Then our wisdom tree in the corner bends down to us, laden with sweet insights into the nature of life.We share these delicious fruits freely, even with the passers-by, without ever planning to.
When we have experienced tragic pain, learned its lesson and planted our garden, we can put our arms around another in deep tragedy and say softly, "I know." They realise that we understand. Compassion begins. We show them the wheelbarrow, the fork and the spade and boundless encouragement. If we have not yet planted our own garden, this is not possible.
I have known many monks who can meditate skilfully, who are peaceful, serene and calm in adversity. But only a few have become great teachers. I have often wondered why.
It seems to me now that those monks who had it relatively easy, who had little dung to dig, were the ones who did not become teachers. It was those monks who had enormous difficulties, who had to dig without fuss and quietly, and who came to have a rich garden, who became great teachers.
They all had wisdom, serenity and compassion; but those who had more dung had more to share with the world.
Ajahn Chah must have had a whole trucking company lined up at his door in his early life with their dung.
Perhaps the moral of this story is: If you want to serve the world, if you want to follow the path of compassion, then the next time a tragedy comes up in your life, you can say, "Whoopee! More fertiliser for my garden!"