Rightful Inheritance

By Jina van Hengel

Be still, and behold the jewel so precious, so bright You are like that, because I am like this. Look, and see I am in you, you are in me.  We were never born, we will never die.

"Be still, and behold the jewel so precious, so bright." Throughout time we receive many things that we enjoy, share with others, and then pass on as a beautiful heritage, a precious jewel. We look after the heritage of whatever we receive, whatever we are—our robes, bowl, lamps, body, mind, feelings, emotions, understanding, love, and support. They are all part and parcel of our heritage.

"You are like that, because I am like this." We want our heritage to be passed on to the rightful inheritors. Usually we consider family, friends, or sangha to be the rightful inheritors. But the proper inheritor is the one who needs the inheritance.

There is a story about a man who planted trees. His wife and son had died, and he spent his time gathering acorns in the forest, selecting the healthy ones and planting them in a barren area where nothing else would grow and no one cared to live. Carrying a metal-pointed stick, he made small holes in the ground and placed an acorn in each of them. As the years passed, trees sprang up and soon the barren land was transformed into a pleasant, green oasis. For our planet to be whole, nothing should lack what is needed. Where food is lacking, we give food. Where shelter is lacking, we give shelter. Where love is lacking, we give love.

It is easy to love someone we find lovable. They are lovable because they already have love; they are love. But the ones who need love are the rightful inheritors of our love. A lovable person is like a beautiful landscape that illuminates everyone and everything. We enjoy being in such a landscape. Someone who is unloved, unhappy, or angry is like a barren landscape where nothing grows and no one wants to be. However, that barren land is like that because we turn away from it. So let us approach and enter that land and plant acorns so that it will become a fresh and fragrant oasis.

"Look, and see, I am in you, you are in me." A tiny acorn has the totality of the tree, embodying all the conditions that made the tree—the weather, the soil, the other trees around it that either encouraged or hindered its growth. The same is true of us. We have inherited from our parents their whole being, including their parents, teachers, friends, environment, and everything and everyone that made them. Once we are aware of this network of inheritors, we naturally become mindful and take care of our heritage, our universal jewel. ''We were never born, we will never die." Everything is in us, and we are in everything.

From a Dharma talk given during the Transmission of the Lamp Ceremony at Plum Village, January 11,1992.

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