All Things on Earth Have Value
Published #67 | Winter 2022 Issue
Long ago, in a temple in Japan, there lived two novice Buddhist monks: One was bright and understanding, the other haughty and arrogant.
This haughty and arrogant monk often thought himself wiser than everyone else; no one was better than him, and all others were useless. The wise monk wanted to make him understand the principle that “All things on Earth have value,” so, as the haughty and arrogant monk was reading and walking, the wise monk shouted, “Stop!” The monk was startled and stopped.
The wise monk took a hoe in his hand and said, “You think that nothing is useful other than yourself; therefore, the spot you are standing on must be the only spot that is useful, while everywhere else is useless.”
He started to dig out all the soil around the arrogant monk until eventually there remained only the little piece of dirt the arrogant monk was standing on. This caused the ground around the arrogant monk to become unstable, and he fell. He was very angry and still refused to accept the teaching, saying, “I still think everything else is useless.”
Some time later, a situation arose in the village. Some farmers had sown seeds to grow, but birds had eaten all the seeds. These farmers did not know what to do, so they asked the wise novice monk to help them find a way to scare away the birds. After contemplating for a while, the wise novice monk made a bamboo water gun that made loud noises to scare away the birds. However, not long after, the birds returned. These farmers could only repeatedly use the bamboo water guns to scare the birds away.
The arrogant monk laughed at this and said, “This problem is no big deal.”
The farmers asked him, “Do you have a better method?”
The arrogant monk looked at the nearby forest and said, “That’s easy! There are many bird nests in the forest. That is why we have so many birds. As for these trees, it is useless to keep them. We should just uproot all of them.” Everyone thought this could resolve the root cause of the problem. As such, they demolished the forest.
Not long after, a typhoon came. Wind and heavy rain significantly damaged the farmhouses. In the past, the forest had served as a windbreak and protected the village, and now the villagers could only use wooden pillars and sandbags to support their houses and resist the storm. The arrogant monk finally realized that he had caused a huge problem.
After the storm, the monk felt shame and remorse and said, “Now I understand that a wise person should not think highly of himself. Instead, he should respect all things rather than causing harm to them. I was so wrong in the past. I should learn to respect people and everything on Earth.”
Indeed, everything has its value and use, and all people also have their own strengths. Those who are sharp but petty-minded think that there are things in the world that have no use; while those with true wisdom know that they must always respect all living beings and their intrinsic abilities. This is because everything on Earth has value.