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The Lotus Pond

Renowned 21st century philospher, Thich Nhat Hanh prescribes some tips on anger management and the dangers of fear and anger that wrecks mankind.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2008 22:57 IST

In Plum Village, where I live in France, there is a beautiful lotus pond. May be one day you will come to Plum Village and you can see it. In the summer the pond is covered with hundreds of beautiful lotus blossoms. What is amazing is that all the lotus plants in the pond come from a single tiny seed.

Grow your own lotus pond

Lotus seeds have to be planted in wet soil. They do not grow well in dry soil. But there is a trick to planting a lotus seed. If you just put the seed into the mud, it will not sprout, even if you wait for weeks. But it will not die, either. There are lotus seeds more than one thousand years old that when planted properly have grown into lotus plants.

The lotus does not sprout if you just place it in the mud because the lotus seed needs some help to sprout. The lotus seed is a kernel with very hard skin covering it. Water needs to penetrate into the lotus seed through the hard skin. That is the trick. You need to make a little hole in the seed so that the water can get in.

You can pierce the outer skin by cutting into it with a knife or by rubbing it against a rock. This will give water a chance to penetrate into the seed. Now if you place it in the water or in the mud, in about four or five days the tiny seed will sprout and become a tiny lotus plant.

At first a few small lotus leaves will appear. Soon they will grow bigger. You can keep a little plant in your balcony or garden during the warm and mild months. But when it is cold, you have to bring it inside, where it will continue to grow.

In the spring you can bring it out again and put it in a larger container, and the lotus plant will grow even bigger. In one year you will have a few lotus flowers, and in three years, depending on your space, you will have a lotus pond as big as the one in Plum Village.

So you see, a huge lotus pond truly is contained within one tiny seed. This tiny seed contains all the ancestors of the lotus plant – it contains their fragrance and beauty, and all their characteristics. As this seed sprouts and begins to grow, it offers all these gifts to the world.

Your heart-lotus

You are a wonderful seed like the lotus seed. In you there is understanding and love and many, many different talents. From our ancestors we receive wonderful seeds. Out ability to play music or paint, to run fast or do math, to make things with our hands or dance are all seeds we receive from our ancestors. We also inherit seeds that are not so nice, like the seeds of fear and anger. These seeds of fear and anger can make us very unhappy and often we don’t know what to do.

Some time ago, a twelve-year-old Swiss boy and his sister started coming regularly to Plum Village. The boy was very angry at his father because his father did not speak kindly to him. Whenever the boy fell down or hurt himself, instead of helping and comforting him, his father would get angry and say, “ You’re stupid!”

The boy could not understand why his father treated him this way, and he vowed that he would never act like his father when he grew up. One day, this boy was watching his sister play on a hammock with another girl. They were swinging back and forth. Suddenly, the hammock turned over and both girls fell to the ground.

His sister cut her forehead. When the boy saw his sister bleeding, he became furious. He was about to shout at her, “You’re stupid! Why did you hurt yourself like that?” But because he knew how to practice, he caught himself and went back to his breathing. Seeing that his sister was all right, he decided to do walking meditation.During his walking meditation, he discovered that he was exactly like his father. He had the same kind of energy that pushed him to be unkind.

Action against anger

Continuing to walk mindfully, he discovered that he could not transform his anger without practice, and that if he did
not practice he would transmit the same energy of anger to his children.

His third and final insight was that when he returned home he would discuss his discoveries with his father. He decided to ask his father to practice with him so that both of them could transform their energy. So you see, the practice of looking deeply to gain understanding and freedom from your anger is very important.

From A Pebble for Your Pocket, Full Circle Books, 2008, Rs 95

First Published: Dec 19, 2008 22:44 IST