Carolyn Young

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How To Cultivate An Equanimous Mind - Story About A Chinese Farmer


I love fables, parables, and myths. They teach us lessons. Not necessarily life lessons, but small lessons. They may offer advice for particular moments in life. Stories also teach us about values, morality, and traditions. Through stories, we can learn about different cultures, history and how our beliefs were shaped.

I came across this particular parable, The Chinese Farmer, which I share below. This story teaches us how at times we are quick to judge events. We often regard them as “terrible” or “amazing.”  The truth is we really don’t know if they are or not. 

Every event has an equal chance of having positive or negative results. We just have to give it time to play out, to see all the twist and turns that take place before we pass judgment.  Just like in the story, what initially seems like a “terrible” thing now, may turn out to be ”not so terrible” after all. For me, the story is an example of the equanimous mind. Equanimity comes from the Latin word aequanimitas, which means “equal mind.” 

The equanimous mind is balanced, maintains its composure, doesn’t judge -- only observes. It doesn’t see good or bad. An equanimous mind can perceive pleasure without clinging to it, and be aware of the unpleasant without condemning it, but it stays open to the experience. Cultivating an equanimous mind takes time and can be difficult since it’s our human nature to judge.

Just like the farmer in the story, we must learn not to judge. His answer to his neighbor's comments is an attitude worth cultivating.

Hope you enjoy the story!


The Chinese Farmer

Once there was a Chinese farmer who worked his poor farm together with his son and their horse. When the horse ran off one day, neighbors came to say, “How unfortunate for you!” The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

When the horse returned, followed by a herd of wild horses, the neighbors gathered around and exclaimed, “What good luck for you!” The farmer stayed calm and replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

While trying to tame one of the wild horses, the farmer’s son fell and broke his leg. He had to rest up and couldn’t help with the farm chores. “How sad for you,” the neighbors cried. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” said the farmer.

Shortly thereafter, a neighboring army threatened the farmer’s village. All the young men in the village were drafted to fight the invaders. Many died. But the farmer’s son had been left out of the fighting because of his broken leg. People said to the farmer, “What a good thing your son couldn’t fight!” “Maybe yes, maybe no,” was all the farmer said.

Carolyn YoungComment