I was just listening to a talk by one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Ajahn Brahm. Ajahn Brahm is a UK-born monk of the Thai Forest tradition who lives in a monastery near Perth, Australia.
During the talk, Ajahn Brahm told his well-known parable about the truck of dung arriving at your door. I cried when I listened to the story, it resonated with me so strongly. So, I thought I'd transcribe it for you all. Enjoy!
(Warning: there are a few swear words in the story...)
Who ordered this truck-load of dung?
Life is like this. You’re sitting in your monastery, or you’re sitting at home or in your office, and then someone delivers you a whole truckload of shit. It’s right in front of your house or office.
There are two things about this delivery of shit in your life. The most important thing is, you did not order it. Life is like that. ‘Why me?’ you say. You didn’t deserve it, this thing just happened to you. You didn’t order it and you’re not responsible for it.
But, the second thing is that no-one saw it coming so you can’t ring up someone and get them to take it away. You’re stuck with it. So the first thing is that these things can happen and no-ones to blame. And the second thing is that you’re stuck with it.
But, there’s something you can do with the dung. You can find the nearest garden, and dig it in. It takes a lot of hard work to dig in the suffering, the disappointments, the diseases, the tragedies of life. But you’ve got no choice.
Actually you have got a choice, because what many people do with the dung of their life is to put it in their pockets. They put it in their handbag, they shove it up their shirt; they carry it around with them. You lose a lot of friends if you carry around shit. So, you should dig it in your garden. It’s hard work – maybe you only do half a bucket or one bucket a day, but you dig it in.
And after a while, we call it the miracle, the miracle of Dhamma (of truth). The miracle is that after a while the dung has disappeared and in its place you have the most magnificent garden. It’s the garden of wisdom, of courage, of compassion. Not just the kindness and compassion you get from books – but the kindness and compassion you get by embracing, understanding and digging in your problems.
This is the garden of the heart.