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Parable of the River

There is a Chinese tale that I have heard in many versions, but always with the same lesson.

Once, in a serene village nestled by a flowing river, a group of monks resided in a monastery. One day, as they meditated by the riverside, they noticed a disturbing sight. Dead bodies of people were floating down the river, and it was evident that they had drowned. Distressed by the tragic scene, the monks felt compelled to act.
Without hesitation, most of the monks jumped into the river to try to pull the lifeless bodies out of the water, hoping to give them a proper burial and alleviate the suffering of their families. They worked tirelessly, exerting all their energy to rescue as many bodies as they could.

However, amidst the flurry of activity, one of the monks remained still on the riverbank, observing the situation intently. Seeing this, the others called out to him, urging him to join their efforts and help with the drowned victims. But the still monk calmly shook his head and said, "I must go upstream to find out why these bodies are ending up in the river."

While the majority of the monks focused on dealing with the immediate consequences, the wise monk recognized the necessity of addressing the root cause of the tragedy. He realized that no matter how many bodies they rescued downstream, more would keep coming if the source of the problem remained unattended.

The insightful monk traveled upstream, following the course of the river to its origin. There, he discovered a treacherous and dilapidated bridge that had collapsed, causing the tragic accidents downstream. The monk immediately set to work, repairing the bridge so that no more lives would be lost in the future.

This parable teaches a profound lesson about the significance of addressing the root causes of problems rather than merely dealing with their consequences. The compassionate act of rescuing the drowning bodies symbolizes the desire to alleviate suffering and provide immediate relief to those in need, which is vital. However, the monk who went upstream represents the wisdom to understand that long-term solutions lie in addressing the underlying issues, thereby preventing future suffering.
In the context of life, this tale encourages us to be both compassionate helpers and wise problem solvers. By addressing the root causes of challenges, we can make a lasting impact and create a better world, ensuring that the river of life flows smoothly and peacefully for all.

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