Empty Boat – Lessons for Life

A monk decides to meditate alone, one day, away from his monastery. He takes his boat out into the middle of the lake, embarks it there, closes his eyes and begins his meditation. After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly feels the bump of another boat colliding with his own. With his eyes still closed, he senses his anger rising, and by the time he opens his eyes, he is ready to scream at the boatman who dared to disturb his meditation. But when he opens his eyes, he sees it is an empty boat that had probably drifted away from the banks along with the water-waves and floated to the middle of the lake.

At that moment, the monk achieves self-realization, and he understands that the Anger is within him; it merely needs the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him. An empty boat had triggered anger in him. This anger was in him all along, something externally just merely ignited it. From then on, whenever he came across someone who irritated him or provoked him to anger, he reminded himself : ‘‘The other person is merely an empty boat. The anger is within me….”
In reality, we all have the anger within us, all the time, All it needs is someone, like the empty boat, to just provoke it and instigate us. It is up to us to remain calm and silent !!
If a man is crossing a river; And an empty boat collides with his own skiff, Even though he be a bad-tempered man; He will not become very angry. But if he sees a man in the boat, He will shout at him to steer clear. If the shout is not heard, he will shout again, And yet again, and begin cursing. And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty. He would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat; Crossing the river of the world, No one will oppose you, No one will seek to harm you.

An angry person may have whatever opinion about him or her, deep inside though, they suffer from a lack of self-esteem. And believe it or not, your sense of self-esteem is directly proportional to your degree of selflessness. The more selfless you are, the stronger you will be. And the stronger you are, the greater your self-esteem. Only someone with high self-esteem can be calm. It is much easier for such a person to direct his or her energy in a more productive way than to shout and get mad.

Therefore, one good way to rise above anger is to build your self-esteem. The more you look within for answers to your emotions, the less you hold others responsible for your feelings. They will still come and slam into you, but you learn to look upon them as empty boats. They are just drifting. No doubt, you may still feel bad or off when they spoil your paint-job, when they damage your carefully-protected belongings. Yet, this doesn’t mean they will also evoke anger in you.

Also, Not Being Angry doesn’t mean you don’t get hurt. Living in our world, it’s impossible to not get hurt by our loved ones. It will happen. That is not in your hands. If someone hits you with a stick, you will feel the pain. How you choose to respond though is what differentiates a good person from a great one. You may choose to take away their stick, distance yourself from them, yell at them, hit them back or even love them in return.

Other than being hurt, there is, however, one more cause of anger. No one likes to hear it but a closer diagnosis of the world will clearly reveal it to you. It is self-obsession. The more obsessed you are with yourself, the angrier you get at the slightest of conflict. Self-obsessed people take themselves very seriously. Whether it be their life, religion or their opinions, everything is a serious matter for them. These are the ones who, even after seeing an empty boat, will keep yelling and cursing the one who abandoned that boat at the first place. A self-obsessed person does not know what to do with his or her anger. Once again the antidote is going beyond your individual existence and embarking on a journey greater than the sum total of one’s selfish desires.

I once read a quote that said, “Open your mouth only when what you have to say is more beautiful than silence.” This pretty much sums up the best way to ascertain how best to express your displeasure. Every little thing we do, say or think, every thought we brood over, every emotion we harbor adds to the weight. You may not be able to entirely empty your boat, but don’t keep it overloaded either. Heavy objects sink faster. Really, it’s that simple. Be light, be free.


Shobha Iyer

shobha iyer

Very Ambitious ; Always Cheerful; Dreamer; Hard-working ; Self-Motivator; Positive Attitude ; Multi-Tasker; Friendly; Fun Loving; Humble; Honest., Fiery Aries.... Shobha

2 Comments

stringoftales · February 10, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Great!

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