Thursday, December 22, 2011

A pancake by any other name...

The other day my son was having a two-year-old meltdown and I resorted to the totally lazy dad thing to do--offer him food. More often than not it works; however, lately he's been saying no even to chocolate. My goodness, what is this world coming to?

So he was shrieking something awful and I offered him the first thing that came to mind: a pancake left over from breakfast.

Immediately he stopped sobbing, tears running down his cheeks, and said, "Yeah!"

I reached into the bowl on the counter and grabbed a pancake ball. You see, my wife has this neat little grill, like a waffle maker, that makes cake-or pancake balls.

But the second he caught sight of the pancake ball he shook his head vehemently and cried,"No!"

I tried to explain to him that it was still a pancake--well technically it wasn't a cake, but it was still made out of the same mixture.

You probably can guess where I'm going with this.

He wasn't convinced and I had to offer him juice instead to pacify him. But as I sat with him on the couch, as he sipped his drink, I realized that the pancake phenomenon is like the Buddhist teaching of sunyata, the Absolute. While matter may take a variety of forms, it's all the same substance--just like the pancakes. You can cook them flat or in balls, but they're still the same.

It's like Fazang's Golden Lion analogy--you can fashion gold into rings or a lion statue, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still gold. The substance remains the same.

The same applies to my pancake balls. Or to the entire universe, for that matter.

I sat on the couch and digested the realization. And as silly as it sounds, the insight actually had a profound effect on me. I sat and marvelled, listening to my son finish his apple juice.

It was pretty amazing. As I've said before, you never know what you'll learn from a child; sometimes they make for excellent teachers.

Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: garretkeogh.

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