The seed begets the fruit

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The seed begets the fruit


I had a chance to meet American Buddhist monk Dae-Bong, and during our interview he told me an interesting story.

One day at a supermarket in the United States, a young boy of around five or six was fighting with his younger brother and was just about to hit him. Their mother saw them, went running over, and struck the older boy on the head with her fist so hard that he started to cry.

Dae-Bong said that when he saw this he realized it was just like the way we live our lives every day. The mother was scolding the older boy so the younger one wouldn’t cry, but as a result she ended up making the bigger boy cry. Dae-Bong said that he wished he had had a videocamera so he could have taped the scene and shown it to the mother.

When people hear this story they chuckle to themselves — they might even criticize this mother for not having had the foresight to see that she would only make the older boy cry in the end. Actually, this is also our very own story, each and every one of us.

It’s all because we cannot see the relationship between the seed and the fruit. Everything that appears in this world has a seed, and when it matures that seed bears a fruit. This fruit then becomes a seed again, and the seed a fruit; therefore, the seed and the fruit are the same — they equal each other.

When most of us imagine seeds and fruits, however, we just think of grain stalks in a field or apple trees in an orchard. If we plant seeds, apples are produced, and they later become seeds again — it’s a natural principle of the world. Therefore, everyone thinks of things like seeds and fruits as only being phenomena that occur in nature.

If we closely examine our own lives, however, we can see that we plant countless seeds every day. What kind of seeds? These are none other than the seeds of our thoughts and speech. Our numerous thoughts, from the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep at night, are all seeds. For example, on our way to work in the morning, we bump into a stranger on the subway. Now at this point we have a choice — which seed shall we sow, from the many seeds within us?

Seed A: Look angrily at the other person.
Seed B: Apologize first and say, “I’m sorry.”
Seed C: Scold the other person and yell, “Hey! Watch out!”

If we sow Seed B, the other person will usually also say that they are sorry. However, if we choose Seed A, then the other person will do the same and glare back. If we choose Seed C it’s easy to get into an argument. The other person’s response to the particular seed we have sown is in itself the fruit of our action. Many people tend to merely sow their seeds but cannot see the fruit that their seed produces, nor can they perceive the connection between their seed and the fruit — it’s easy to think of the seed and the fruit as being separate phenomena. People such as this typically can’t even find their own seeds, no matter how difficult or painful their lives are — it’s all the more difficult for them to solve their problems.

Those who have realized that the seed equals the fruit are different types of people since they see the fruit inherently contained within the seed. To people like this, the problem of which seed to choose actually becomes the problem of which fruit, since they already perceive the fruit within the seed, and the other seeds within this fruit. Therefore, they see further, more wisely, and with a wider perspective. This type of clarity is known as wise discernment — the power of perception.

You can try and apply this principle in your daily life with your family, friends, and co-workers, or even while speaking with or responding to strangers — carefully consider which fruit your speech and actions will bear. After sprinkling the seeds, you must be mindful to observe how they grow and which fruit you will harvest. When the other person hears your speech, will a smile form on their lips, or will they glare at you with an even more spiteful look? Will an irreparable wound remain in their hearts? Our discernment becomes keener when we make an effort to penetrate this endless cycle of seed and fruit, seed and fruit, seed and fruit. It’s the same when we talk with our families, figure out work-related strategies on the job and meet with clients. We must always see the fruit within the seed — the seed and the fruit are not separate.

*The author is a JoongAng Ilbo writer on religious affairs.

Baek Sung-ho
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