Managing Imperfection

There is a famous story from Buddhist legend about the young mother who was beyond consolation at the death of her young child.  She ran around begging someone to help bring him back to life.  An old wise woman suggested that she bring him to the Buddha.  The Buddha saw the woman and child and said that he could bring the child back to life under one condition.  That the woman collected a tamarind seed from every household who had not suffered a death in the family.  The woman proceeded to run from house to house begging for information about their lives.  The truth was saddly apparent.  No household had been spared the pain of death.  She returned with her dead child to the Buddha without any seeds.  He offered her his compassionate wisdom–life is impermanent and death must be recognized and accepted as a part of existence in this or any incarnation.  According to legend, the woman was able to bury her son and went on to be a great Buddhist teacher.

There are no perfect lives ‘out there’.  It seems to be our human nature to dwell upon our individual suffering and to see others as having an easier time of it. Why do they have more, live in a bigger house, travel more, seem happier than I do? The truth is that nobody escapes the inevitable  pain and suffering of existence.  No one is free from physical, emotional or mental stresses and strains.  No one is completely happy, or completely sad.

We all caring around with us the wounds of past hurts, physical, emotional or both.  We are all the ‘walking wounded’.  But the problem is not that we are imperfect–it is how we accept these imperfections and move on.  Our awareness that our fellow humans all experience pain is an important beginning.  The Buddha did not try to torture that poor mother by having her make rounds of the homes of other people.  The realization of this truth could only come from her experience of it.

Likewise, we need to understand that assuming the role of victim of life’s assaults upon us does nothing to help us move on.  We can accept the pain yet reduce the suffering when we realize that this is the nature of all existence.  Furthermore, once we come to understand that life is a series of tests, challenges, or obstacles for us to deal with and overcome, than we can understand why we are imperfect. It is the only way that we can test ourselves.

Embracing our own difficulty allows us to help others through their own. It offers us the opportunity to heal ourselves while we help others heal themselves.

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