By Daniel Scharpenburg
Drive all blames into one. The one we’re talking about here is ourselves.
We want to stop blaming everyone around us for our problems. It’s an easy thing to do—to blame others for everything that happens.
As a dad I see a lot of situations where one of my kids is aggressive or mean to the other and says, “It’s not my fault, they were being annoying!” And of course that’s silly. We can throw blame around and agonize over how other people are causing us to behave, or we can stand up and take responsibility for all of our actions. It’s up to us.
We want to stop blaming others for what happens, even if it is their fault. This is obviously really hard to do. We like blaming others. And, of course, what about when someone does something really bad, commits a terrible crime? This is like that old saying…forgive, but don’t forget. We can still learn something.
What we want to do is try to learn how to fully appreciate and understand everything that happens, regardless of whose fault it is. This is about moving away from the habit of complaining and instead looking at ways to turn our experience into the path to awakening. I want to leave you with the story of Hakuin and the accusation. This is a Zen story, and the monk featured in the story goes through some drama and doesn’t blame anyone. We could all learn a lesson from Hakuin.
A zen teacher named Hakuin lived in a small hut outside of a village. He had a great reputation and was liked by all. One day a poor young woman in the village became pregnant and lied to her parents. She told them Hakuin was the father.
After the baby was born this young woman’s parents took the baby to Hakuin’s hut and said, “You got our daughter pregnant! You must take care of this child. We can’t afford it!” They were very angry.
Hakuin said, “Is that so?”
And he accepted the baby, raising it as his own in his small hut.
This woman had ruined Hakuin’s reputation. People thought he was a wise and virtuous teacher and suddenly they didn’t think that anymore. Now they thought he was a creep. No one would be coming to learn from him any time soon; he obviously couldn’t be trusted.
But he just responded with patience. He could have responded with anger, or he could have aggressively denied the accusation. He could have called the young woman crazy or evil. Would that have worked? Would they have listened to a denial? Who knows.
Instead his attitude was just, “Okay, I guess I’m raising a child now.”
He took care of that baby for over a year. It’s said that he took really good care of it. He borrowed milk from a neighbor and fed and clothed the baby, caring for all it’s needs, raising it as though it were his own.
A year went by and the young woman confessed. It turned out that the baby’s real father was a fisherman or something.
The parents came back and apologized to Hakuin for ruining his reputation and giving him the baby. They said they’d take the baby back since it wasn’t his responsibility.
And Hakuin said, “Is that so?”
He let them take the baby he had cared for. This must have been hard on Hakuin. He had plenty of time to bond with this child and then he had to face what a lot of foster parents have to face. He had to just let the child go.
So, Hakuin can teach us something about how to handle drama. He was attacked and he handled it with humility and stoicism. He didn’t even worry about his reputation, he just did what had to be done.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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