To the Last Drop
A women’s charitable organization gradually came to be dominated by an energetic member, skilled in committee procedures and expert at shouting down arguments against her plans. She began to use the meetings as a vehicle for self-display, and for giving expression to her personal likes and dislikes. Quite soon there was a marked deterioration in the organization’s activities, but most of the members were afraid to oppose her.
The only one who was courageous enough to do so was the disciple of a Zen teacher. She got no support from her timid fellow members in her attempts to get things back on to a proper basis, and was instead subjected to a campaign of vilification, not stopping at personal physical attacks of a minor nature.
She made no complaint, but the teacher came to hear of it, and one day said to her, “What is your feeling under this persecution?”
She said, “Well, I suppose I try to feel sorry for her because of the bad karma which she is piling up by destroying a benevolent activity.”
“No use at all!” cried the teacher. “That sort of attitude is no good, it’ll only tire you out, and anyway, you won’t be able to keep it up—no one can. Now—think this: you’ve got to drink down that poisonous venom to the very last drop. There is a verse:
Set free the bird to fly in the infinite sky of your tolerance;
Loose the fish to swim in the boundless ocean of your forgiveness.
She said, “But what are we to do? She is not only vicious, but destructive too. Are we simply not to oppose her? I have opposed her and she hates me for it. Are we just to let her have her way, out of love and forgiveness and tolerance? Others are now beginning to join me; people are slowly realizing what is happening.”
The teacher looked at her with his eyes wide open. “What you do must come from love. It does not mean doing nothing—the words and acts of love are not always kind on the surface. You may oppose her—in fact you should do so. But it must be for the sake of the benevolent work of your organization, and it must be on a basis of love.
“If you cannot act from love, you may succeed, but you will probably end up just like her. Very likely she herself began as a reformer; having been successful, she got carried away by it. Tiger-slayers often end up as tigers themselves.
“And if you yourself are successful, don’t seek triumph; be satisfied with success. Then make it easy for her, if she seeks to shed this role in which she has got caught. Probably she is already sick of it, but cannot get out of it. Let the glacier melt slowly, under the gentle spring sun.”