The other day in karate class, our sensei (instructor) began by explaining that 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. A year of wealth and financial prosperity. “So none of us need to worry,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. He then proceeded to tell us a Zen story – one that I enjoyed so much that I want to share it with you.
There was a family of three that lived happily in the country in a small house. One day, as the woman who lived there was out and about, she noticed three very old men with long white beards sitting on the side of the road. Sensing they needed care, she invited them back to her home.
When they arrived, her husband was curious about what was going on. “Who are these men?” he asked her. “What are their names?”
When the woman inquired, they shared that their names were “Wealth”, “Success” and “Love”.
Her husband agreed that they should welcome the old men into their home and tend to them. The men explained that only one of the three would be allowed to enter, and that the family had to decide which one to invite.
At that point, our sensei paused the story and asked the class to discuss which one of the three we would have invited into our homes. As the group began to wonder which of the men looked like they needed the most care, he reminded us that Zen stories were about ancient principles and more metaphorical than literal. From that point, the discussion was lively.
Several indicated that they would not hesitate in asking Love in above all else. One person said, “Hey, the Beatles told us that’s really all you need.”
Another pointed out that any of the three would really be OK. “After all, wealth could be a wealth of health, money, love, whatever. And success is really about how you define it. So that could include love and money too.”
Still others felt that the family was happy before the men appeared and asked why they really needed to invite anyone in the house.
Someone else referenced that our sensei opened his discussion by indicating that this was the year of the Dragon – a point that must have some relevance to the answer he was looking for.
The discussion continued and the group finally arrived at the consensus that they would choose love. We gave our answer to our sensei and he told us the rest of the story.
The husband and wife talked it over. He felt they should invite Wealth, while she was leaning more toward inviting Success. From beyond the room, they heard the voice of their young daughter. Oh Mother and Father, invite Love!
The husband and wife looked at each other and decided to trust in the wisdom of their daughter. They turned to Love and said, we have decided that you should come into our house.
Upon hearing his answer, all three men began to applaud and cheer. The family was confused.
Love explained, “If you would have chosen Wealth or Success, only the one you invited would have been allowed to enter. But since you chose Love, all three of us can come in.”
Love. Inviting love into your home may not sound like such a stretch. How about into your workplace? How about into your job? What would it be like to live every part of your life with love being the first thing you invite in?
Love doesn’t pay the bills, you might think. Love doesn’t allow you to come out on top, you may have been conditioned to believe. What’s love got to do with it?
How about EVERYTHING? Look around. I don’t know about you, but I’ve begun to notice that there is a distinct difference between people who have made love a priority in their lives, and those who have chosen differently. It seems that people who have put wealth and success before love are often some of the most fearful, angry, defensive people around. And those who have put love first are the most generous, courageous, and fulfilled – regardless of what’s in their bank accounts.
And if the Zen story is true, perhaps with love, we can reach the highest and purest levels of wealth and success. The kind that is not fleeting. The kind that does not exclude. The kind that does not become depleted as it is shared, but rather multiplies and grows in strength, abundance and true power.
Wealth, Success and Love. Invite Love in, and the others will follow. Sounds good to me.
What do you think?
My family and I practice karate at the Center for Humane Living, a nonprofit organization whose vision is to inspire all people to live peaceful and compassionate lives while implementing a fully humanitarian agenda.
Photo credit: Graksi
A few weeks ago in a karate class I heard a marvelous Zen story that spoke to the incessant yearning we all feel from time to time to be more, do more, and have more. This desire at times gives us the strength we need to power through some of life’s most imposing obstacles. At other times, it has a way of creating obstacles of its own. How can we use our aspirations in ways that work for us, and help others in the process? That is the subject of an article called The Art of Affluence that I wrote for my February ezine. Below is an excerpt with a link to the full article. I hope you enjoy it!
A wise master was walking along the sandy banks of a lazy river, breathing deeply, enjoying the feel of sunshine on his skin, and taking in the beauty all around him. Just across the river one of his students was walking anxiously back and forth, scanning the perimeter of the river and the surrounding land. When the student saw his master, he began waving his arms and shouting, “Master! Master!” The Master looked up and waited silently for his student to continue. “Master,” said his student, “How do I get to the other side?” The master simply replied, “You are already there!”
One of the many things this Zen story speaks to is the desire we all have to be more, do more, and have more. And one thing people throughout history can’t ever seem to get enough of is money.
Wealth has been used as a scorecard for success throughout the ages. From its conception, its lure has led many to do things that are not in the best interests of others. We have been conditioned to believe that it is the key to freedom, happiness, and security. People often take jobs that are not truly aligned with their talents because they fear that without them, they will not have the money they need to satisfy their basic needs. Many seek positions of leadership because of the increased pay it has to offer and all the things they could buy as a result.
Money has also allowed organizations and people to expand their level of influence, improve the quality of services and products they offer, and attract key talent that will allow their visions to become reality. It allows programs to be created and perpetuated that improve the quality of life within communities and the world at large. It pays our bills and puts food on the table. And it allows us to travel and buy things of beauty and utility that can become the source of inspiration and joy.
There is nothing wrong with wealth, just as there is nothing wrong with prestige, power or pride. The key is the manner in which these needs are met, and where the desire for them originates. If the aspiration is for a greater purpose – one that is not solely self serving, the desire is aligned with a higher good and the resulting outcome will be as well.
If the motive is not in the best interests of others, it is more aligned with ego and likely to lead to objectionable behavior, such as greed, envy, insensitivity, arrogance, and paranoia. Those who attain what they seek in an effort to serve others are far more likely to sustain it. Those whose motives and tactics are more aligned with serving themselves alone will live in fear of the inevitable loss of their fleeting success.
Often people are drawn to formal positions of leadership for what they have to offer – power, control, prestige, and higher pay. These things feed the ego, which would have us believe our inherent value is equated with them and that the more we have, do or achieve, the more successful we are. The problem is that no matter how much power, control, prestige, and money we acquire, it never seems to be enough. Life becomes a series of races, battles, and games to be won with little time left to savor the victories, which are often short lived. Click here for the full article.
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