July 25, 2023

The unpredictability of life

One of the most impressive elements of Buddhist teachings, I find, is their ability to provide profound insights into the nature of life and the human spirit. One of the most famous and beloved of these wisdoms is represented by the story “Whether good or bad, who knows”.

The story tells about an old farmer who lives in a small village in China. One day his only horse escapes, and his neighbors pity him, calling his misfortune an unfortunate event. But the old farmer responds with composure, saying, “Good or bad, who knows.”

A few days later, the horse returns with a herd of wild horses. Again the neighbors are there, this time to congratulate and call the event happy. “How rich you are now”. But again, the farmer responds with the same calm wisdom, “Good or bad, who knows.”

The following week, his son tries to tame one of the wild horses, is thrown off and breaks his leg. The neighbors consider this misfortune “Oh you poor farmer, your only son can’t help you now and you are already old”. But the farmer remains equanimous, repeating his mantra: “Good or bad, who knows.”

A short time later, the army marches into the village and forces every young man into military service. But since the farmer’s son has broken his leg, he is spared. The neighbors envy him. Again, the farmer says, “Good or bad, who knows.”

The essence of this wisdom story is that life consists of an endless chain of events that are in constant flux. We often tend to judge these events as good or bad based on our limited perspective and immediate circumstances. But this story reminds us that it is often impossible to predict the long-term effects of our current situations.

The message of the story, “Good or bad, who knows?” is a call for serenity, acceptance and openness to the vagaries of life. It invites us not to judge hastily and instead to cultivate a deeper awareness of the unpredictability of life and the limitations of our perspective.

In a world that is constantly in flux, this wisdom story offers a much-needed reminder that we are not in control of everything. What we can control, however, is our reaction to the events around us. We can choose to be overwhelmed by our circumstances or respond with calm and wisdom. Ultimately, this story teaches us that true peace and contentment do not depend on our external circumstances, but on our inner attitude and understanding of the unpredictable and eternally flowing nature of life.

Ratings are the source of perceived happiness and suffering.
Who knows what the things we experience are good for?

Image from Pexels on Pixabay

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