by Ven. Thubten Damcho

Every morning someone leads a motivation before the Abbey community begins our morning practice. Ven. Damcho shares this reflection from the Winter Retreat

When I was a layperson living in Singapore, I used to eat at a food center where one of the stalls sold live frogs. They had a glass tank to one side of the stall, and inside there were maybe 20 or so frogs, sitting in a thin layer of filthy water. Frog legs are considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, and Chinese people like their food fresh. So people could go up to the stall and order a plate of frog legs, and you know what would happen next.

I’ve been thinking about these frogs because sitting here in retreat I wonder, is my situation very different from that of the frogs? Like them I’m sitting here in my own filth – this heap of skin, bones, muscles, tendons, sinews, organs, urine, feces that I call my body – and what is my mind doing? Am I aware that I could die at any moment?

What could the frogs be thinking about?

“The frog in the corner on the right is so cute. I hope he’ll come talk to me.”

Or maybe, “This frog next to me is just too much. Can she stop getting in my space?”

When we look at the situation all of us are in in cyclic existence – which is not very different from the frogs’ – all our thoughts of attachment and aversion seem so sad and trivial. They’re totally irrelevant to what we need to do, which is to get out.

So let’s not wait for the butcher. Unlike the frogs, we do have a precious human rebirth, and the capacity to hear, think, and meditate on the Buddha’s teachings that show us an unmistaken path to liberation and full awakening. Let’s practice well not just for our own sake, but for the frogs, and also for the hawkers who kill frogs every day, all of us mired in ignorance thinking that we’re creating the causes for happiness when we’re increasing our own suffering.