Mirror of the World

Translation by Merilyn Umbroh    Illustration by Dream David

Su Dong Po, a famous Song Dynasty literary scholar, and the monk Fo Yin were good friends who often meditated together.

One day when they were meditating Su Dong Po had an inspiration. After completing his meditation he asked Fo Yin, “What did you see in me when I was meditating?”


Fo Yin looked closely at him for a moment and said: “Your body was glittering like a Buddha.” Upon hearing that, Su Dong Po was over the moon and laughed heartily.

Fo Yin then asked Su Dong Po: “What about me, how did I look?”


Su Dong Po liked to tease the earnest Fo Yin. He said: “You looked like a pile of cow dung.”

Fo Yin said, “That means I need to put more effort into my practice.”

Having taken advantage of Fo Yin, Su Dong Po went home and chuckled about the incident to his younger sister. His smart sister said, “My dear brother, this time you have lost to Fo Yin.”


“Why is that?” Su Dong Po asked.

“Fo Yin saw that you looked like a Buddha because there is Buddha in his heart, and thus everything looks like Buddha to him. When you said Fo Yin looked like cow dung, imagine what was in your heart!”

Grandmaster JinBodhi shares his thoughts on this story

Everyone sees the world differently. A person sees things according to how he feels in his heart.

In our daily interaction with others, in order not to become “cow dung,” it is best to have tolerance and understanding. The maxim “Take a step backward and you’ll realize that the sea is in fact as wide as the sky” refers to this principle.

Most people, after being misunderstood or criticized harshly, get furious and retaliate. Their attitude is “an eye for an eye.” As a result, it is difficult for them to later bury the hatchet. In situations where you feel you are being criticized, it is best to keep smiling and wait for the person to finish talking. Have a compassionate heart and empathize with difficult people. Look for opportunities to calmly explain or apologize. If you were to fight head-on with a difficult person, not only would you not solve the problem, the matter may become even worse and eventually the relationship would be beyond reconciliation.