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"An Antechinus" by Alan Couch. Creataive Commons Attribution via Flickr.

“An Antechinus” by Alan Couch. Creative Commons Attribution via Flickr.

By Ven. Chönyi Taylor

It is a dreamy autumn day. A light rain is soaking into the thirsty soil of my garden to the delight of plants and weeds and birds and possums and our local, sweet little antechinus which looks like a mouse. The dry summer which seemed to last forever has, like everything else, suffered the fate of impermanence. For the first time this year, I have to hang the washing indoors. The occasional patches of sunlight make a half-hearted effort to dry it out. I had planned to work in the garden but my back, another example of impermanence, will let me bend over, but not let me straighten up. I give up on gardening for a few days. Now I can set my mind any way I choose provided I do not use my back. What to choose?

It looked like a mouse, but it was an antechinus that ran across my kitchen bench this morning. They tend to sneak inside when I leave a door open. The antechinus is a little marsupial, common where I live. My home is a great environment as far as they are concerned. Warm, lots of food, especially highly desired dog food. Lots of water, and a dog trained to not catch them. At this time of the year, the females are also looking for a warm place to nest. The locals have a soft spot for them, but not the holiday makers.

In a holiday town like mine, many visitors think the antechinuses are mice. Mice are vermin and have to be killed. They set their baits and lethal traps not knowing they are killing off a native animal. Without being taught, it is difficult to discriminate between mice and antechinuses. Discrimination is a form of wisdom. Without this wisdom, antechinuses become mice, and thus, vermin.

Wisdom has several aspects, and discrimination is one of them. Each of these are born from Prajñaparamita, the mother of wisdom. All her children have different qualities designed to oppose different forms of ignorance. The main ones are:

1. Mirror-like Wisdom, the child that watches and which sees everything, just as a mirror reflects everything near it, there is no anger in this child, just watchfulness.

2. Wisdom of Equality, the calm child, the child that feels his or her pleasure and pain and but does not build them into dramatic stories of needing the pleasure or being horrified by the pain. This child has no pride. She knows what it was like before the calm set in.

3. Wisdom of Discrimination loves maths. This child can easily separate one object from another. All objects are simply that so this child has no space for grasping and clinging.

4. Wisdom of Accomplishment is the child that shows us how to get things done. Jealousy is not an issue, it only interferes with the task. So this child shows no jealousy.

5. And finally there is the child that is rarely seen but always present, Wisdom of Dharmadhatu, the essence of the wisdom of our own consciousness, the wisdom that becomes the boundless essence of a buddha.

So what has this to do with my antechinus? Obviously the wisdom of discrimination will help me differentiate it from a mouse, but the other wisdoms are also ready to help. Mirror-like Wisdom points out that I do not need to label the creature as good or bad and so there is no need to be angry with it. Wisdom of Equality teaches me that any alarm that may arise comes from me and not from the cute little animal. My pride becomes dashed by this awareness. Wisdom of Accomplishment points out that I can see this little creature as a teacher, not separate from my Dharma path. And within the help of Wisdom of Dharmadhatu I can see both “I” and it are impermanent and we do not inherently exist. It teaches me to see through the eyes of Buddha.

Now I need to be practical and find a non-lethal trap for this little antechinus because it does, like mice, leave its droppings everywhere and I do not want myself or my visitors to become ill. Then when it is caught, I can release it gently back into the bush and hope that it finds a new habitat there. May this precious teacher find the happiness that does not change.

Ven. Chönyi Taylor is a registered Foundational Buddhism FPMT teacher and an elder for the Discovering Buddhism at Home Course. She is the author of Enough! A Buddhist Approach to Working with Addictive Patterns (Snow Lion, 2010) and has been published in MandalaBuddhadharmaDharma Vision and Sangha Magazine. She is a founding member and member of the training committee of the Australian Association of Buddhist Counsellors and Psychotherapists and an Honorary Lecturer in the Discipline of Psychiatry at Sydney University.

"Claws for Diggining" by Michael Sale. Creative Commons Attribution via Flickr.

“Claws for Diggining” by Michael Sale. Creative Commons Attribution via Flickr.

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