Buddhist psychology & the wolves within

There’s an Cherokee legend called The Wolves Within. It goes like this. An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice,

“Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.”

The Grandfather continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offence when none was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

In Buddhist psychology there is a practice called “selective watering” that teaches us how to selectively strengthen the parts of our mind we want to feed and weaken the parts of our mind we don’t. This week, we will explore this practice, so we can apply it in our daily lives and grow towards being the person we want to be.

On Wed Sept 21st we’re going to take a break from working through the verses in Reflections on Silver River and explore what a Native American fable can teach us about Buddhist psychology, see you there!

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