Saturday, March 19, 2011

The parable of the vinegar tasters

Another short tale, this time based on a traditional Chinese painting subject, also known as the Vinegar Tasters.

Three wise men were travelling across the country, going from town to town to teach wisdom. At one town in particular, they were welcomed warmly by the townspeople, and offered gifts of the town's produce. One of the gifts was a large pot of vinegar. The first of the wise men dipped his finger into the vinegar, tasted it, and a sour expression came across his face. "This vinegar is too sour," he said, "take it away." The second of the wise men dipped his finger into the vinegar, tasted it, and a scowl came across his face. "This vinegar tastes terrible. It is far  too bitter, take it away." Then the third man dipped his finger into the vinegar, tasted it, and smiled. "Mmm!" The other two looked at him confused. "Now this tastes like vinegar!"

In the Chinese tradition, the three vinegar tasters are Confucius, Buddha and Loazi, and each one's reaction is representative of their respective religion's attitude on life. Confucius sees the vinegar as soured wine, and sees it in need of correction, just as society should be maintained through strict rules. Buddha recoils at the  taste of the vinegar, and sees it as being too extreme for the body and an example of the suffering of life. Laozi, on the other hand, recognises that vinegar is what it is, and our perception of it is biased by our judgement of what it "should be".

In the same way, all indifferents, be they goods such as vinegar or money or fine arts or even medicine, or events such as celebrations or tragedies or deaths, are all as they are and nothing more, neither inherently good nor bad. Recognise them as such and you will see how your perception has been coloured, and know where you have mistakenly placed your values. Only then will you be able to accept yourself as part of the harmony of Nature, rather than willing yourself against it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You for the artickle, it is clear, brief yet complete!