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Parables

The Father

a retelling of a Buddhist parable

There was a man who lived in a small house in a small village. His wife had died giving birth to their first son, and as the boy grew up the man loved his son more than anything in the world.

One day while the father was away, plunderers came to the village. They kidnapped some of the villagers, including the son, and killed the rest. As they left town, they burned everything in sight.

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Killing the Neighbor's Cow

The current environment in Washington reminds me of the story of the two Russian farmers who were each farming their small one-acre plots of potatoes. Over time they'd grown to hate each other. They hated each other for so long they no longer even remembered why. One year, one of the farmers saved up enough money to buy a cow to provide milk for his family. The other farmer was envious and angry. He was walking on his land, kicking everything in sight out of anger—a rock, the dirt—eventually he kicked an old lamp and out came a genie.

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Who Is My Neighbor?

A modern retelling of Jesus' parable

An attorney stood and asked Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus replied, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?"

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself."

Jesus said, "You have answered well. Do this and you shall live."

But wanting to justify himself, the attorney asked, "And who is my neighbor?"

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Two Men and a Chimney

a retelling of a Jewish parable

A young man went to a Rabbi and said, "I wish to study Talmud."

The Rabbi asked, "Do you know Hebrew or Aramaic?"

"No," replied the young man, "But I wish to study anyway."

"Have you studied Torah?"

"No, but I graduated summa cum laude from Berkeley with a philosophy degree, and got my master's from Harvard. I'd just like to study Talmud to round out my education."

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The Garden

a retelling of a Taoist parable

In a village two temples stood next to each other. One was a Buddhist temple with a garden. One of the priests was a master gardener who spent time every day tending the flowers, shrubs, and trees.

Next to the Buddhist temple was a smaller Taoist temple. Every day the aged Taoist master sat outside and watched the Buddhist priest care for the garden.

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Master Kung and the Kicking Horse

a retelling of a Taoist parable

In a village in ancient China there were two wide streets running parallel to each other, and a narrow but heavily-used alley between them.

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Who Knows?

A retelling of a Taoist parable

In a valley lived a farmer. He was not rich, but neither was he poor. He had food enough for his family. He had fields that yielded a decent harvest year after year. And he had a very fine work horse.

One morning the farmer discovered that his horse had run away during the night. His sympathetic neighbors said, "What bad luck!" But the farmer simply replied, "Good, bad, who knows how it will turn out in the end?"

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Carrying the Lady

A retelling of a Buddhist parable

Two monks were on the road from their monastery to town. At a certain place a river crossed the road, and a recent storm had washed away the bridge. As the monks approached the river they saw a lady in a long gown standing on the bank. "I must get to my sister's wedding," she said, "but if I step into the river I'll ruin this gown. Can you help me, please?"

The younger monk declined, for theirs was a strict sect that forbade its members from having any physical contact with the opposite sex.

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