Story: The Buddha’s three tasks

This is a DEPRESSION teaching story – concerning the central importance of activity to build control and give meaning.

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Read the story below

buddhas three tasks

A long time ago in the East lived a young man who, after suffering a run of bad luck, had slipped into a state of despair. Then one night while drowning his sorrows in a bar he overheard a story about how the Buddha can work miracles for people and put their lives back together. Intrigued and prepared to give things one last shot he went to see the Buddha. The Buddha confirmed the details of the story and said that indeed he could help him. However, he must first visit the homes of three other people who had also suffered misfortune in life and bring back something from them. Only then said the Buddha will I be able to help you.

So the man goes to see a farmer who is out ploughing a field. The farmer asks why he has come. The man explained his situation and said that the Buddha had told him to visit three people who, like him, had suffered misfortune and to bring back from each person an object of their choosing. Only then will the Buddha bring happiness back into his life .

The farmer thought for a few moments and then bent down, gathered a sheaf of corn in his hand and gave it to his troubled visitor. The young man looked rather perplexed but was nonetheless grateful for the corn. As he was leaving he remarked to the farmer that he did not appear to be suffering too much as a result of his misfortune. Tthe farmer simply smiled and said that he too had been to see the Buddha. And then the man visited two other farmers and following a similar conversation, was given gifts of an axe and saddle .

His task complete the man finally returned to the Buddha and presented him with the three gifts. The Buddha said to the young man that he had done well but that he would have to delay performing his miracle as he needed to go on an important trip.  The man looked disappointed but the Buddha said that now he needed the man’s help instead of the other way round.  The Buddha explained that for his trip he needed some corn to make bread, an axe to chop wood and a good saddle for his horse.  I can make none of these things explained the Buddha. So he asked the man whether he would plough and harvest the field of corn, make the axe so that he may have wood for his fire, and saddle his horse to ensure that his trip was a comfortable one. If you make me these things, my trip will be a good one and I will be able to relieve you of your misery when I return.

The man, grateful for the opportunity to help the Buddha agreed to do as asked and threw himself enthusiastically into his second task.     It was some months before the Buddha returned to make good his side of the bargain. On meeting with the man the Buddha thanked him for his fine corn, his sturdy axe and comfortable saddle for without those things his trip would have been a failure. The man expressed his gratitude to the Buddha for such kind words and went on to explain that he had so enjoyed sewing and harvesting the corn and making the axe and saddle that he had decided to become a farmer himself. The Buddha said that he was pleased for him and began making preparations for the miracle .  Seeing what was to take place the man stopped the Buddha and said that he no longer needed him to perform the miracle as he had already done so.

Mark Evans, Human Givens therapist