There was once a man who prayed relentlessly for divine awareness to bring him lasting joy and success in his life. Finally, after months of praying, his effort bore fruit. As he went to sleep, he dreamed that he was wandering in the forest looking for enlightenment. The next morning, taking the dream as a cue from God, he headed to the woods and meandered there for several hours looking for some sign that would provide answers. That’s when he spotted a fox with no legs lying between two rocks in a cool place. Curious as to how a legless fox has been surviving, he hid behind a tree and waited until sunset and was surprised to see a lion come and lay meat before the fox. “Ah, now I understand,” the man thought. “The secret to success in life is to trust that God will take care of all my needs. I don’t need to struggle to provide for myself. All I have to do is simply surrender.”
Two weeks later, weakened and starving after applying his newfound “wisdom”, the man had another dream. In it he heard a voice say, “Fool! Be like the lion, not like the fox.”
There’s such a powerful lesson in this Zen tale for everyone who walks the path of self-discovery. Life is a fine balance between surrender and service. The fox was in the state of surrender because of his physical inability to do anything. The lion, on the other hand, was capable of hunting; he was in a position to help the fox and was doing exactly that.
Serving is a privilege
When I am fully capable of helping myself and others, I have the opportunity to be the large-hearted lion. At such times, I need to act courageously, move forward with conviction and do all that I can to the best of my ability. I must not look for an excuse to shy away from action. I must be careful not to resign myself to a difficult situation and recognise the strengths I possess. Besides, being of service to others is a privilege. When someone needs my help, it means I am being given the opportunity to use my gifts and I must be grateful for that.
There are also times when I actually find myself in the position of the fox—absolutely helpless regarding a situation. Such times—when there’s simply no way out—are times to practise surrender, which is another way of saying that I must simply relax and allow life to unfold. Such surrender is an act of faith, and comes from a deeper understanding that whatever is happening is exactly what is supposed to happen. How do I know that? Because, it is happening! As Byron Katie says, “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100 per cent of the time.” I might as well accept what is. Then, a lion may or may not be on his way to rescue me—that’s not my lookout. My job is to make peace with my situation, however undesirable it is. Because, life has its own way of working out.
My great challenge, of course, is to guard against the tendency to underestimate my inner strengths or assume false weaknesses as an excuse for inaction. When I do so, I am behaving like the man in the above story who acted like the crippled fox even though he was really a mighty lion.