Once upon a time, in a little village, there lived a tearful old lady. She had two daughters: the eldest daughter married an umbrella seller and the youngest daughter married the owner of a rice-flour noodles shop. When the weather was nice, the weepy woman always thought how her eldest daughter would be unable to sell any umbrellas. Encountering a rainy day, she mawkishly considered how her youngest daughter was going to dry her noodles with no sunshine. And what if mildew appeared? So whenever the sun shone the old lady cried for her eldest daughter, and when it rained she cried for her youngest. Whether it was a sunny or rainy, the old lady was always crying. Therefore people often called her “Old Tearful”.
One day, Old Tearful met a Zen master. She asked him, “How can I stop to worrying and crying?” The Master listened and then gave his counsel with a smile. “You can do nothing to change the weather, but you can regulate your mind and mood. The difference between good or bad is your frame of mind. Everything possesses two sides. Vexation and bliss are two sides of the same coin. Perhaps, when you see the sun you can be happy for your youngest daughter because it means she can dry many rice-flour noodles. When it rains, you can think about your eldest daughter. Her umbrella shop will certainly prosper. Thus you should not worry and cry. ”
In Buddhism we believe that, “Various phenomena only appear to one’s heart/mind; the difference in the world also is only made by one’s heart/mind.”
I think many people have heard the story about half a cup of water. Half a cup of water produces different responses from different minds. Pessimistic people will say, “Oh! This cup is half empty.” Optimistic people will say: “Great! This cup is still half full.” So the Zen Master Sheng-Yen said: “An ordinary mind bends to circumstances; a sage’s mind transforms circumstances.”
There is a poem from the Southern Song Dynasty that goes like this, “After trudging through endless mountains and rivers, one might begin to doubt whether there is a path out. Suddenly one encounters the shade of a willow, bright flowers and a lovely village.”