Thursday, May 30, 2024

Buddha and the Muddy Lake

Amlan Shekhar Baruah

The following short story is of an incident in Lord Gautama Buddha’s life, from the Jataka Tales.

Once, Gautama Buddha was travelling with some of his disciples. While travelling, they came across a lake and stopped there. Buddha told one of his disciples that he was thirsty and so requested that he bring some water from the lake. So the disciple walked up to the lake. But then he noticed that some people were washing clothes in the lake, and a bullock cart also started crossing the lake at that moment, due to which the lake became muddy. So, the disciple went back to Buddha and told him that the water in the lake was very muddy and unfit for drinking. Then Gautama Buddha suggested that they all take some rest under the tree for some time. After half an hour, Buddha again requested his same disciple to go back to the lake and bring some water to drink. The disciple went but noticed that the water in the lake was still muddy and unfit to drink. So he went back to Buddha and informed him of the same. He told Buddha that he could try looking for clean water in other places. But Buddha insisted his disciple not to do so but to rest for some more time. So the disciple agreed with Buddha and rested with him for some more time. After another half hour, Gautama Buddha again requested the same disciple to go back to the lake and bring some water to drink. So, the disciple again walked to the lake for a third time. This time, he noticed that the mud in the lake had settled down and that the water was crystal clear and fit for drinking. Thus, he collected some of the water in a pot and brought it to Buddha. Buddha looked at the water, smiled, and said to his disciple:

“What did you do to make the water clean? You did nothing! You just let it be. The mud settled by itself, and you got pure water without having to put in any effort. Your mind is exactly like that. When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it some time, and it will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen effortlessly.”

The above words of Gautama Buddha to his disciple at the end of the story are something that we all can learn from. The mind is like water. When it is disturbed or agitated, it becomes muddy with random, impure, and unnecessary thoughts, just like muddy water. The solution to this is to just let it be until it calms down by itself. When our mind is too stressed, angry, or anxious about anything, it is better to stay calm and not worry or think too much about it. If we continue worrying or thinking about it, that will only put more stress on our mind and thus make it more agitated. But when we stop making any effort and just relax, all the worries and impure thoughts in our mind will slowly and gradually settle down by themselves, and thus our mind will automatically calm down.

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