The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

The secret of difficult people

by Ajahn Brahm
February 18, 2015
Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:00 -- Ajahn Brahm

Excerpted from Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy by Ajahn Brahm.


Kissing the Ugly Frog

Once upon a winter time, a poor young maiden in rags was collecting firewood in the snow-covered forest to heat her drafty little hut. There among the fallen wood, she saw the ugliest frog that had ever existed. “Urghh!” she shrieked. “I think I’m gonna throw up!”

Then the grotesque frog spoke: “Please don’t throw up yet. Help me instead. I’m really an unfortunate boy. I had a spell put on me by a wicked witch who didn’t like my music. Kiss me and the spell will be broken. In return I will make you wealthy and be your servant.”

So the poor girl closed her eyes and kissed the frog. 

The frog didn’t turn into a prince, because these days royalty have too many bodyguards for wicked witches to come close enough to cast any spell. No, it was much better than that. The frog changed into a famous pop singer, cuter than Justin Bieber and just as rich. They started a relationship and now live happily ever after in a mansion in Malibu.

Such is the oldest fairy story, with a little twist. But what is its meaning?

There are many “ugly frogs” in our modern life. Your mother-in-law may be one of them (If you rearrange the letters in “mother-in-law” it spells “Hitler-woman”!). So how can you “kiss” such an ugly frog as the stereotypical mother-in-law?144 DON’T WORRY, BE GRUMPY 

A young Buddhist wife could not get along with her husband’s mum, even though she tried. No matter what the daughter-in-law said or did, it was never, ever good enough. The mother-in-law would always find fault with her. It was driving the young wife crazy.

The daughter-in-law tried meditating. That didn’t work.

Then she tried spreading loving-kindness to her mother-in-law every morning and evening. That didn’t work either.

Next she tried Buddhist chanting, but to no avail. The mother-in-law was just as critical of her as ever.

Being a Mahayana Buddhist, the young wife would often pray to the goddess of mercy, Kuan Yin. So early one morning she tried praying. 

She must have been exhausted from all the worry about her mother-in-law because she fell asleep while praying and dreamed of Kuan Yin. There was the goddess of mercy in her flowing white robe holding the vessel of kindness, but when she looked at Kuan Yin’s face, she was shocked. The face was not the usual one that is seen on all statues of Kuan Yin in the temple. Instead, Kuan Yin had her mother-in-law’s face!

It was a sign. From that time on, the young wife regarded her difficult mother-in-law as an embodiment of the goddess of mercy.

With such a fundamental change in her attitude toward her mother-in-law, she received less negativity. The mother-in-law began to like her daughter-in-law, and they soon became the best of friends.

How you regard others will be how others regard you. That is how to kiss an ugly frog and remove the wicked spell.

 

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