Home » Features » The Lady Who Did (Not) Lose Her Beloved

While we cannot truly lose
what we cannot truly have and hold,
we can truly suffer,
over what we imagine we had and held.

Stonepeace | Books

Once upon a time, Zen Master Foyin encountered a lady, who was about to drown herself in a river out of despair. After saving her, he asked why she wished to kill herself, especially since she was still so young. She replied that she had been married for just three years, when her son perished, leading her husband to abandon her. Thus, she felt her life to now be meaningless. The master next asked how her life was like before marriage. She recalled that she was carefree and doing alright. The master remarked that right now, she has merely returned to that original state three years ago. Just as she was without her husband and son then, she is without them now. Essentially, on the whole, she did not have any real loss. The ‘koan’ to ask is – ‘If she could be so carefree three years ago, why should she be so sorrowful three years later?’

How do we answer this question? The truth is, we suffer only when we dwell on our present unfortunate situation out of needless aversion. Yet, this misfortune is so only when we compare with it with a just transpired previous state, that was relatively more fortunate, which we have equally needless attachment to. Due to this, those who have the most suffering tend not to be those who were long-suffering at first, whose lives have since improved; but those who had much but lost it all later. Because of the sense of loss from comparison, there is grief and lamentation. However, if we are to look at the big picture over a longer period of time, both the suffering and happy now are but experiencing transitory twists and turns of the wheel of karmic mis/fortune. Thus, it is equally delusional to be stirred up by both experiences of good fortune and misfortune.

The master was nudging the lady to transcend the dualistically alternating states she was going through, to return to how she was before it all – which represents the original state of our Buddha-nature. Especially in times of turmoil, we should return to this stable spiritual home base within, which is free from confusion by attachment to good fortune and aversion to misfortune. Why be too elated or depressed? Simply by bringing our hearts and minds home through mindfulness of Buddha(-nature), instead on dwelling on external conditions that keep fleeting by, sustainable peace of mind will arise. The stuff of our present situations should thus be contemplated to only be passing fruits of causes and conditions gathering for a while, before eventual departure. This is not being indifferent or uncaring though, as true equanimity functions proactively with equal compassion for all, while being unperturbed by anyone or anything. How wonderful!

Because everything changes
from moment to moment,
we should treasure everything
in this moment.

Because everything changes
from moment to moment,
we should not be attached to anything
in this moment.

Stonepeace | Books

One Response to “The Lady Who Did (Not) Lose Her Beloved”

  1. Suffering and happiness is part and parcel of our life. There are rising and falling from causes and conditions and not permanent. If you apply the wisdom from the Eight foldpaths and has the right understand and right thoughts. You can purify the negative into positive and change your thoughts from suffering to happiness.

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