Since Easter, Buddhism has been the subject for the Year 7 students. The Buddhist Scriptures include what Christians might call “parables,” stories with lessons about life.
Paroles, stories with a meaning, fables, have had an enduring capacity to retain their relevance through the centuries. Some speak as much to the Twenty First Century as they did to the First, or any other century. The stories have fostered an interest in stories from other sources.
There is one story I heard told by a missionary thirty years ago for which I have never been able to find a source. Internet searches took me to a Chinese website, perhaps it is of Eastern origin.
Four beggars usually met at an old shack at the end of the day.
One day, they were very angry because none of them had got much in their begging bowls.
“I only got this piece of meat today,” the first said.
“I hardly got anything,” the second said. “I just picked up these few vegetables outside the fruit and vegetable store.”
The third complained that all he had been given was a handful of herbs that he couldn’t eat on his own.
The fourth beggar had not done much better, he shouted angrily, “I only got this handful of old, dried beans, and they aren’t very nice!”
As they sat around the fire, one of them had a great idea, “Let’s put all our bits together and boil them. In this way, we can make a delicious dish and share it.”
They all agreed.
However, the first beggar thought, “I don’t want to share. I’ll just pretend to throw my meat into the pot. They’ll never know and I’ll eat my meat later.” So he pretended to put the meat into the pot.
Now the same idea had also hit the other beggars and the shack was so dark that no one could see what the others were doing.
Finally, one of them suggested that the dish should now be ready and, in turn, each of them helped himself to a bowl. They drank the hot water in absolute silence, learning that selfishness doesn’t taste all that good.
It is a tale that seems particularly apposite as the country seeks to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. There seem many groups wishing to receive from the pot and few prepared to put anything into it.
If the path becomes confrontational, if it becomes a situation of demands and denials, if there is a failure to proceed with consent and a failure to foster co-operation, then the lesson learned by the beggars is going to become a familiar one.