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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__Real and Imaginary: (27) Life Is Breathing,(28) The Tiger and the Persimmon》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and imaginary

(27) Life Is Breathing

One day long ago, Buddha was chatting with three disciples about the universe and life.

When they came to the question as to how long is life, one disciple said it was like a few days. Buddha shook his head.

“Like the time of a meal.” said a second disciple.

Buddha kept silent.

The third disciple pondered a moment and said: ‘Life is the time of breathing, when exhaling expects not inhaling and inhaling expects not exhaling.”

“You have a true understanding.” Buddha praised.

Buddha went on to explain that life and all other things in the world exist in a state of Non-Constance. The four forms of birth, presence, difference and death are always changing, just like breathing.

“What should we do?” the first and second disciples asked in unison.

Buddha smiled. “That is for each person to answer. “But we should treasure life.” He continued, “We need not worry about yesterday and tomorrow. They are linked by today. We need to do the best this moment, enjoy it, care for all the people and things around us, and appreciate beauty. Remember that a bell-ring in a moment echoes the continuing sound from the past to the future. You are the bell.”

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Note: This is a retelling in English of a tale in the sutra涅槃經》. It contains the wisdom of Buddha as he explained the truth of life in simple terms. It is all about time and change that exist subjectively as well as objectively, with each person grasping it to lead a good and happy life. The concept of Non-Constance (無常) is a positive force in life. It urges each of us to strive for good and noble, with satisfaction and happiness as the constant consequence.

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Tales Real and Imaginary

(28) The Tiger and the Persimmon

Once upon a time, a tiger came to a family compound to catch an ox in the barn. It stealthily made sure no body saw it when a child in the annex house broke out with a big cry.

The mother said: “Stop, a tiger is coming near. It will take you away if you continue to cry.” But the child cried louder.

The tiger was perplexed. It thought: “I am the King of the Forest, yet this child is not even afraid of me!”

Then, the mother yelled: “Look, you naughty child, stop this minute. Here is a Shizi (柿子 persimmon).” The child stopped immediately.

Now the tiger was afraid. It did not know what a Shizi was. But it suspected that the Shizi must be very fearful to stop the child’s crying so instantly.

Just then, a beam of moonlight broke through the clouds to strike where the tiger was hiding. The tiger was more scared. It inched back a few silent steps, and fled as fast as it could, forgetting the ox in the barn.

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Note: This is an English rewrite of an ancient Korean fairy tale in the Silla Dynasty, when there were many tigers in the country. The original tale was contained in 新羅書》. It taught children that the taste of a sweet persimmon could more directly affect behaviour than an imaginary fear.

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