Four Mountains


ओं मणिपद्मे हूं

In a conversation I was having with Joe a few nights ago, we started talking about how many Buddhist teachings are related through a story, and how the visualisation, especially for someone with a developed imagination, can really help impact the meaning and create a sort of understand. There are basically two kinds of knowledge, conceptual understanding acquired through second hand experience and knowledge you acquire from directly experiencing something yourself. I think Jean-Paul Sartre had this same realization when he wrote about the rock in Nausea. I’ve heard a similar analogy in Buddhism, talking about a watermelon. No matter how you explain the vine, the leaves, the texture of the shell, the sweet, juicy taste, the only way to truly know a watermelon is to see it, pick it up, open it, and take a bite. No amount of words will explain it.

A lot of lessons in life can be taught through another person’s experience, although sometimes it takes learning something the hard way to really get through. For thousands of years people have been teaching through stories. Children’s stories usually have some moral in the end or some lesson. It reaches us on a deeper level than just saying, don’t do this or that. Is it that we relate to the characters on an emotional level that becomes personal? I don’t know, but I usually feel a good understanding of something even experiencing it through a story. It doesn’t take much to put my mind in that situation and it almost becomes ‘real’.

Joe told me a teaching Buddha had given to a contemporary king who often requested the Buddha’s council. On the topic of the importance of spiritual practice, the Buddha spoke…

“Majesty, suppose one day your trusted messenger brought news that there is a mountain, as high as the sky, approaching from the East, crushing every living thing in its path. Just as you begin to worry about this situation, another trusted messenger brings news that a mighty mountain is advancing from the West, also crushing everything in its path. Then messengers from the North and South arrive, bearing similar messages. Four mountains are advancing, crushing every living being in their paths. There is no way to escape, there is nothing you can do to prevent the mountains from coming. You have very little time left. Majesty, what do you do?”

The King thought, then responded, “I believe there is only one thing I could do. That would be to live my remaining hours in as worthy and sereneway as possible, following the true teaching.” The Buddha praised the king.

Yesyour Majesty! Those four mountains are the mountains of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Old age and death are closing in on us, and we can never escape.


9 responses »

    • Thank you Marcus,
      I was thinking about you today while I was walking home from the kindergarten along the river.
      The banks are lined with blossoms and the stream is full of ducks.
      I hadn’t been in touch for a while, just hoping your well in Thailand!

  1. Hi Joseph,
    How are things going these days? Has the big day happened yet?!

    Thanks for the great story! That really is a good one, it makes a person think.
    Best wishes for everyone!

    with palms together,
    Chong Go

    • Hi Chong Go,
      Thank you for your comment ^^
      The baby still has a little fattening up to do, but she’s already big!
      There are still 3 weeks until the due date, but we think it will be sooner.

      Will you be around this weekend for the celebrations?
      It might be EunBong’s last chance to be out for a few weeks, it would be nice to see you!

  2. Dear Joseph,

    Leo here. Leo is Carlo is Mando. Ha ha! It was nice talking to you recently (a few weeks ago?).

    I like this post. I read it with as much attention as I could, for there are things on my mind. I want to wright tonight, Amber is having stressful times at work, and I am in one of those states where I want to go to the bathroom, hang the laundry, edit my blog, and sleep, all at once. Ever have that?

    I think what I can say is, I have felt as though I have experienced a lesson through a story too. It is why I love movies so much, and why I actually think a theater comld be a Temple of The Story.

    Say, what about a pinic one day with Amber and I; you and Eunbong? When is the big day?

    • Hi Carl,
      I might only have a couple of weekends left before the ‘Samsara’ hits the fan but when things settle in it would be great to getogether.
      It’s really uncomfortable for EunBong right now and the doctor told us we should go too far from the hospital now but I think we’ll be going to the Buddhist festival in Seoul.
      It’s this weekend isn’t it??

      There’s a beach close to the airport we really like going to also, we take the shuttle to the airport and hangout there pretending we’re going on a trip, have lunch then hop on a bus to the beach. If Amber would be up for that sometime, it’s a really nice spot!

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