I was taking a break, sitting down on a bench that was alongside a secluded path inside a garden. I was enjoying the fragrance of the flowers and herbs, and the warm sun and the peace. In the time I was there, hardly another person had walked by. Looking down at the concrete path a bee caught my attention. It was on the path, walking. Or it was in fact running, or so it seemed. It was in a hurry. I quickly realized that it was injured, and one of its hind legs was dragging. Yet with all its effort it tried to mobilize itself. Its effort seemed exhausting, as it made its way along the path, sprinting with its damaged body. Sometimes the bee would roll over, and wave its legs and wings madly, to get itself back up. This happened over and over. I watched this bee with curiosity, and inspired by its determination to keep moving and get to wherever it wanted to go. I was willing for it to be a success. After running a while it started beating its wings. “Ah, now it can fly to safety,” I thought. It managed to lift off for a few seconds and then came down again. It did this a few times, and moved further along the path. I grew hopeful for this bee, and that his determination would see it through.
Two people, walking side by side appeared at one end of the path. I instantly became concerned for the bee. It was in the middle of the path. “Maybe they will avoid it by chance,” I thought. As the couple came closer, I thought I could say something, bringing their attention to the bee, but it didn’t seem appropriate. Not that I was embarrassed to do so, but I didn’t want to interfere with the process of nature that was going on in front of me. Would the bee live or die? I would watch, but I hoped it would live to continue its fight. They came closer and closer, and then my hope was dashed in an instant when a foot landed directly on the bee. Disappointment washed over me.
There was a good chance it could have survived those feet, but chance was not on its side. I saw the bee’s life and its death. One moment it was alive and then no longer. What was its purpose in this life I thought? Where is it gone to now? How fleeting life is, that can be quashed in an instant. It lived and died. But isn’t this bee’s life the same for us humans. We live and we die. We can get injured. We struggle to live, overcoming hardships. And our life can end unexpectedly in an instant. But the difference between the bee and human life is that humans can know why we are born. We can seek for Buddhism and the teaching of Shinran Shonin and we have the opportunity to escape the cycle of life and death, something that other living forms cannot.
Therefore, although human life may have fundamental parallels with other life forms, we are distinctive by our ability to be able to listen to Buddhism and hear the call of Amida Buddha.
Frank Costelloe, USA
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #10 | 2011, A Question of Fate
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