Releasing Cows

One day the Buddha was sitting in the woods with about thirty monks in a forest near the city of Vaishali. It was early afternoon and they were about to have a Dharma discussion when a farmer came along looking very upset. He said that all twelve of his cows had run away, and he wanted to know if the Buddha or the monks had seen them. He added that he also had two acres of sesame plants that had been eaten up by insects, and he said, “Monks, I think I am going to die. I am the unhappiest person in the world.”

The Buddha replied, “Sir, we have not seen your cows. Please try looking in the other direction.” After the man left, the Buddha turned to his monks and said, “Friends, you are very lucky. You don’t have any cows.” Our practice is to let go of our cows. If we have too many cows, inside us or around us, we should let them go. Without space, there is no way we can be happy. We take care of so many things, we worry about so many things, we have so many projects, and we think that are all crucial for our happiness; but that is not correct. The more cows we release, the happier we will be.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching Peace, Practicing the Art of Mindful Living

Photo ©1989, Jen Payne

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