FLOATING ON A SANDALWOOD LOG
(An ancient Buddhist parable, Adapted & Performed by Denise Valentine)
(Instrumental copyright by Katriel )
Click Play to listen
Once, there was a young boy who set out on a journey in search of his happiness. He searched far and wide; he searched the cities, the towns, and the countryside.
He searched from the top of the earth, to the bottom of the earth.
He asked everyone he met along the way. "Excuse me, Sir, can you tell me where to find my happiness?" "Well son, I don’t rightly know what happiness is, so how can I tell you where to find it?"
A little further down the road… "Miss, oh Miss, can you tell me where to find my happiness?" "Oh child, I can’t find my own happiness, so how can I tell you where to find yours?"
He was becoming a little discouraged, but he continued on his journey. Time passed. The little boy became a young man.
One day, he came upon an old, old man, sitting under a bodhi tree. He thought, that old man looks wise. Surely he can tell me where to find my happiness.
"Wise One, I am searching for my happiness. I’ve looked everywhere. I’ve searched far and wide; I’ve searched the cities, the towns, and the countryside. I’ve searched from the top of the earth, to the bottom of the earth. And I’ve asked everyone I met along the way. And still, I could not find it."
The Wise One said to the young man, "go and find a one-eyed turtle floating on a sandalwood log, and return to me. Then you shall know the secret to happiness." Ohhh, the young man was so excited that his search would soon be over. All he had to do was find a... one-eyed turtle floating on a sandalwood log???
Eighty thousand yojanas down on the bottom of the ocean floor, lives a one-eyed turtle.
This turtle has neither limbs, nor flippers. His belly is as hot as eight hot fires,
while the shell on his back is as cold as Snow Mountains.
What this turtle yearns for day and night, the desire he utters morning and evening, is to cool his belly, and to warm the shell on his back.
But only the wood of the sandalwood tree has the power to cool his belly. So the little turtle longs with all his might, to climb onto a sandalwood log and place his belly in the hollow in order to cool it, while at the same time, exposing the shell on his back to the sun in order to warm it.
But by the laws of nature, the little turtle rises to the surface of the ocean, only once every thousand years. And even when he does so, the ocean is vast, the little turtle is small, and floating logs are few.
If he should happen to find a floating log, it is seldom made of sandalwood. And even if he should happen to find a floating log, and it is made of sandalwood, it rarely has a hollow in it the size of his belly. If the hollow is too large, he will fall in, and cannot warm the shell on his back, and there will be no one to pull him out. If the hollow is too small, he cannot place his belly in the hollow. The waves will wash him away, and he will sink back down to the bottom of the ocean floor, to wait another thousand years.
Even if, against all odds, he should happen to find a floating log, and it is made of sandalwood, and it has a hollow in it the size of his belly, he has only one eye. His vision is distorted. If the log is floating eastward, he perceives it as floating westward. If the log is floating north, he sees it as floating south. The harder the little turtle tries to climb onto the log, the farther away from it he goes. Thus, he always moves away from the log, and can never approach it.
And so, the young man returned to the wise old man, without the one-eyed turtle floating on a sandalwood log. "Old man, old man, you tricked me. I couldn’t find a one-eyed turtle floating on a sandalwood log."
"Then, young man, you have found the secret to happiness. We cannot see our own eyebrows, which are so close. Nor the heavens in the distance."
"Likewise, we do not see that happiness exist in our own hearts. Searching for your happiness, outside your own life, is as elusive as finding a one-eyed turtle floating on a sandalwood log."