TIGERS AND BERRIES
In ancient China, there was a traveler. Neither young nor old, he walked with a staff as he journeyed through the mountains between towns.
As he climbed a steep path with a cliff wall to one side and a steep dropoff on the other, he enjoyed the fresh green of the forest and the scent of pines.
As he approached a bend in the trail, he saw, coming toward him, a tiger.
Now, traveling in those days was inherently dangerous if you left the safety of civilization. A seasoned traveler always knew the potential of unexpected menace. And stayed aware of avenues for escape.
Luckily, vines grew profusely on the sides of these mountains and there was a large thick one that dropped off the edge next to him. He launched his staff as the tiger began his attack, hitting it between the eyes and momentarily stunning it.
Taking advantage of the moment, this traveler sprang to the vine, grabbed the thickest that he could and shimmied down and out of the tigers reach.
Taking a breath, he looked down for a way out. Below him, another tiger walked from the trees and watched him, hungrily circling not far below.
Gazing upward to see if the tiger was still there, its drooling face greeted him and as he watched, two rats (one black and one white) scurried along the cliff and began to nibble at his vine.
As the futility of his situation dawned and his anxiety rose, he noticed, just within arms reach, a berry bush grew and peeking from beneath the leaves, was a plump red berry. He reached out and plucked it and the sweetness was beyond compare.
This is one of my favorite Tao/Zen parables. Partly because we don’t know what happened next.
Our Imaginations first configure that he became dinner since we tend to look at the worst scenarios as the most likely. But I can think of several other possibilities off the top of my head. None of which would negate the sweetness of the berry.
We all have times in our lives that we are faced with disasters or potential disasters, sometimes one after another. We can become frantic, overwhelmed, and self-blaming in these situations or in their aftermath.
We all want to live and save others. We all want a walk in the woods to be pleasant and go home to rest. We all want our lives to go on without a hitch. And, we all hope, pray, plan, and avoid whatever dangers we can concoct in our minds. We even counsel others to “be safe”.
Berries come in many flavors. It can be the “flavor” of a moment of fresh air, love, pride, solidarity with nature, or just a feeling of peace and gratitude.
Tigers and berries are constants in life.
Humans have survived by imagining tigers so as to avoid them and we eat whatever is available to fill our ‘guts’, both physically and mentally.
We are fed the images of tigers on a daily basis.
Our anxieties and ‘responsibilities’ take our eyes off of the berries, which have the seeds of creativity and real survival.
EAT MORE BERRIES and BE ALERT FOR THE REAL TIGERS.
Dana Sanford 1–8–19