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Horses running together

Blessings in Disguise

Once upon a time, there was an old man renowned for his wisdom and kindness who lived with his family on the northern plain of China. This kind old man had two passions: one was the breeding of fine horses, and the other was the love he had for his only son.

One morning, a servant failed to lock the stable door properly and the old man’s favourite stallion made his way out of the stable and ran off. Even after searching for many days, no one could locate the whereabouts of the missing stallion. When the neighbours heard about the circumstances of how the stallion had gone absent, they gathered around the old man to comfort him and expressed their dismay at his misfortune, saying it was simply a case of bad luck. To their surprise, the old man was not upset over his loss. He thanked the neighbours for their condolences and explained to them that there was no need to lament over the losing of the stallion. Since all the effort to recover the stallion had been exhausted, there is no benefit, none whatsoever, in clinging on to the loss with sentiment. He further reassured his neighbours that the escape of the stallion was not necessarily a sign of bad luck. It just came to happen and there is no need to be obsessed with grief about it.

Two weeks later, to the surprise of everyone, the runaway stallion showed up outside the house of the old man, accompanied by a beautiful white mare. As the old man inspected the returning stallion and the mare, the neighbours came to congratulate the good fortune of the old man, saying how excited they were for him because not only had his favourite stallion returned to him, it had brought along a good looking mare - a most valuable addition to his stable. To their amazement, the old man was not excited at all; explaining there is no reason to indulge in excessive self-gratification just because things are going well. Puzzled by the old man’s reaction, the neighbours decided to leave him alone.

A month later, his son took the white mare out for a morning ride. The mare lost her footing on a slippery rock and fell, landed with her full body weight on top of the son’s leg. The injury to the leg was so extensive that the doctor had to inform the old man that his son had became a cripple. On hearing the news, the neighbours extended their sympathy to the old man for the misfortune that had happened to his son. They suggested the white mare should be disposed of speedily as she obviously brought bad luck to the old man. The old man however would have none of this; and explained to the neighbours that they should not feel trouble or resentment towards the mare, for all things happened for the right reason even though we might be unaware of the bigger picture of cause and effect. The whole incident was an accident that no one could have predicted ahead of time. Now that it had occurred, one should accept it and get on with life the best way one is still capable of, instead of clinging to an endless round of emotional attachment which is a pointless indulgence and offers no help to anyone. On hearing this, the neighbours reckoned the old man must have lost his mind and gossiped among themselves that the poor man might be suffering from a lapse of sanity due to grief.

Two years later, an invading enemy from the north attacked China, and all the young men of the country were drafted into the military service to repel the invasion. Every able body from the old man’s district was called up for the fighting, but the son of the old man was exempted as a result of him being crippled. The war dragged on savagely for some years. By the time it was over, most of the old man’s neighbours had perished in the war. Had the son of the old man not been crippled by the white mare years earlier, his life was unlikely to have been spared, and the old man would have lost his son.

This story reminds us not to get too over-excited if things are going exceptionally well nor should we get too unhappy if things are not going as well as we hoped. The universal law of cause and effect governs all things we experience in life. There is no escape from the dynamics of ‘you reap what you sow’. The key is to avoid getting euphoric when we come upon success and end up indulging in excessive self-cherishing congratulation, nor should we become depressed and lose our will to do what is right even if things are not going smoothly our way. Life is full of surprises due to the influence of changing conditions. By holding firm to the right motivation and right guidance regardless of circumstances, we will always triumph for the greater good of the greater many when all others fail.