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Eating blame

Eating blame

A monk looking into his bowl of soup.
Instead of pointing the finger and allowing anger to manifest and perhaps sparking an argument, the individual swallowed that blame. (Photo by Dietmar Temps)

I recently read Zen Flesh, Zen Bones—a compilation of early Zen teachings from four major sources. One morning while contemplating I also thought about the teaching of “eating blame” from the parable of the snake’s head in the monk’s soup. Perhaps you’ve heard about the chef who accidentally put a snake’s head in the monk’s soup. I’ve heard two versions—one, that the monk swallowed the snake’s head and the second, that the chef ate it. That does not matter.

The importance of the teaching is that the blame was eaten. Instead of pointing the finger and allowing anger to manifest and perhaps sparking an argument, the individual swallowed that blame, along with the chance of pride—severing just like the snake’s head, that ego which can appear and jump out when we are not in awareness.

In bed I thought about this parable, and also Shunryu Suzuki and how he looked to the frogs as an example of how to practice. Just sit—a frog doesn’t think it is special. And I wrote the following poem:

Shunryu and the Frog

Eating blame, eating shame
Devouring insects of judgment
Sitting statuesque, unprideful
with no-thing to attain.
The body, a lecture seat
which nests a mind
hatching thoughts of clarity.
Little Green Frog—
you Golden Stupa!

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.

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