If you cannot care for a simple small being,
how can you care for complex bigger ones?
On this particular afternoon a fly fell into my tea. This was, of course, a minor occurrence. After a year in India I considered myself to be unperturbed by insects – by ants in the sugar bins, spiders in the cupboard, and even scorpions on my shoes in the morning. Still, as I lifted my cup, I must have registered, by my facial expression or a small grunt, the presence of a fly. Choegyal Rinpoche, the eighteen-year-old tulku who was already becoming my friend for life, leaned forward in sympathy and consternation. ‘What is the matter?’
’Oh, nothing,’ I said. ‘It’s nothing, just a fly in my tea.’ I laughed lightly to convey my acceptance and composure. I did not want him to suppose that mere insects were a problem for me; after all, I was a seasoned India-wallah, relatively free of Western phobias and attachments to modern sanitation. Choegyal Rinpoche crooned softly, in apparent commiseration with my plight, ‘Oh, oh, a fly in the tea.’ ’It’s not a problem,’ I reiterated, smiling at him reassuringly. But he continued to focus great concern on my cup. Rising from his chair, he leaned over and inserted his finger into my tea. With great care he lifted out the offending fly – and then exited from the room. The conversation at the table resumed…
When Choegyal Rinpoche reentered the cottage, he was beaming. ‘He is going to be all right,’ he told me quietly. He explained how he had placed the fly on a leaf of a branch of a bush by the door, where his wings could dry. And the fly was still alive, because he began fanning his wings, and we could confidently expect him to take flight soon… I could not, truth to tell, share Choegyal Rinpoche’s dimensions of compassion, but the pleasure in his face revealed how much I was missing by not extending my self-concern to all beings, even to flies. Yet this very notion that it was possible gave me boundless delight.
– Joanna Macy (World as Lover, World as Self) [Excerpt]
The Buddha is Still Teaching: Contemporary Buddhist Wisdom
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