Trees, Butterflies, and the Buddhist Moral Life

Step Four of the Green Bodhisattva PathClark Strand

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The 9th-century poet Po Chü-i (pinyin, Bai Juyi) once visited an eccentric Chan master known as Bird’s Nest. Finding the monk meditating in a tree, the poet cried, “Hey, master! It looks dangerous up there!”

“Not so dangerous as where you stand!” replied Bird’s Nest.

Po Chü-i, who served as governor for several small provinces, considered the precariousness of his political position and concluded, a bit ruefully perhaps, that the master was probably right.

“Then please explain for me the teaching common to all of the buddhas,” he implored.

In answer, the master quoted a familiar passage from the Dhammapada:

Avoid evil,
Practice good,
And purify your mind—
Such is the teaching of all buddhas.

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