There was once a simple farmer who kept a horse in his field. One day the horse got loose and ran away. A neighbour heard this news, and on crossing paths with the farmer said, “such bad news about your horse.” “Maybe”, said the farmer. A few days passed and the horse returned, bringing with it two more wild horses. Again the neighbour heard this news and on meeting the farmer in town said, “fantastic news about the horses.” “Maybe”, said the farmer.
One day a few weeks later, the farmer’s son was breaking in one of the new horses and it threw him, fracturing his leg in the process. The neighbour came to visit and on hearing what had happened said, “such bad luck with your son’s broken leg.” “Maybe”, said the farmer. Soon after this incident some officials from the military came calling. They were drafting young men into the army to go and fight in a war. On seeing the son’s condition they didn’t bother with him and went away. Again the neighbour heard and on seeing the farmer exclaimed, “such great luck that your son does not have to go to war.” “Maybe”, said the farmer.
This lovely little parable aptly illustrates several things that can be the cause of pain and suffering if we remain unaware of our true nature (consciousness). The farmer was obviously accepting of “what is.” He also understood that good and bad are simply personal judgements, and that the nature of the phenomenal world is cyclic.
He did not judge each situation as it occurred. He simply accepted each scenario in the understanding that the natural flow of nature would soon carry it on its way. Had he not accepted the seemingly unfortunate events exactly as they were, and instead formed a judgement that they were “bad”, the story playing out in his mind would have caused him to suffer. Equally, had he allowed the seemingly good fortune of events to carry him off on the crest of a wave, the judgement made by the egoic mind when the fortunes were reversed would have also caused him to suffer. In consciousness there is no relativity, no phenomena, nothing to judge. Instead of becoming embroiled, the farmer remained “the witness” to the dramas playing out before him on the stage we call life.