Tag Archives: suffering

A Buddhist Parable

2008 July Fishing-078

I have been writing and working on my book on how (and why) to welcome conflict, and I have been negligent about making blog posts! And I have much to say!  Today I am noting in particular that, as I am writing the book, I find interesting tidbits to add in for illustration or inspiration. Here is a Buddhist parable that I am finding particularly inspiring. This version is adapted from the book, Triggers, by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter.

A farmer was covered with sweat as he paddled his boat up the river. He was going upstream to deliver his produce to the village, trying to make the round trip before dark. As he looked ahead he spied another vessel, heading rapidly downstream toward his boat. He rowed furiously to get out of the way but it didn’t seem to help.

     He shouted, “Change direction! You are going to hit me! To no avail. The vessel hit his boat with a violent thud. He cried out, “You idiot! How could you manage to hit my boat in the middle of this wide river?” As he glared into the boat , seeking out the individual responsible for the accident, he realized no one was there. He had been screaming at an empty boat that had broken free of its moorings and was floating downstream with the current.

The moral of the story is: it’s always an empty boat. The parent who never acknowledged you, the driver who suddenly cut you off, the boss who promoted the slacker – they are all empty boats. They were acting based on their own unexamined or unresolved psychological suffering. It had nothing to do with you.