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'Allegory of Cultivation'


  "A Stubborn Water Bottle"

Author: Tong Xin

Once upon a time, there was a water bottle in paradise. Guan Yin used the water bottle to contain the elixir and a willow twig. The water bottle had accompanied Guan Yin in paradise for thousands of years and always thought that it was very important to Guan Yin. However, one day Guan Yin suddenly picked up the water bottle and said, “Water bottle, you have become filthy and may no longer stay in this realm. You must now leave for a different realm appropriate to your level.” The water bottle said anxiously, “Guan Yin, I am not filthy! I am as clean and shiny as ever! I am not filthy or tarnished at all!” Guan Yin explained with a smile, “Yes, your appearance is as shiny and clean as ever, but your nature has deteriorated. You no longer meet the standard of this realm!” The water bottle started to beg, “Guan Yin, I have been staying beside you for such a long time. Could you make an exception for the old time’s sake?” Guan Yin smiled again and said, “Water bottle, think about what you have just said and try to compare you with yourself thousands of years ago. Do you feel you still meet the standard of this realm?” Water bottle then became upset and defensive. It told Guan Yin, “If I am no longer welcome here, I’d rather descend to the human realm and find a human being who will value the treasure that I am!” It took a leap and descended to the secular world.

As soon as the water bottle landed the human realm, it found itself inside a luxurious mansion. It was very pleased with its new home. Looking around the room, the water bottle found itself surrounded by a valuable collection of antique vases from different Chinese dynasties on the display shelves. It took a look at itself and thought, “I am a divine water bottle from heaven. These ordinary vases are naturally no match to me!” Indeed, the owner of the mansion took special care of the water bottle. In fact, he would polish the water bottle with incensed lotion every day. The water bottle was most pleased with the special treatment. He wanted to tell the man, “What an eye for the genuine treasure! I have made a right decision to come down here after all!”

One day, a man in a shabby outfit visited the mansion, but the owner of the mansion was surprisingly courteous to him. He even entertained the poor guest with a luxurious banquet. The water bottle wondered, “Why is the owner treating the poor man as the guest of honor?” After the banquet, the owner picked up the water bottle and said to the guest, “Mr. Zhang, this is a treasure that I have recently acquired. Feast your eyes! This is a most valuable treasure!” Next he said, “If you had not rescued me in time from the water, I would surely have died! I could never fully return your favor, but I would like to present this valuable water bottle as a small token of my appreciation!” Then he passed the water bottle to the guest.

Feeling astonished and furious, the water bottle began to resent the owner of the mansion. “So I am nothing to you but a present to somebody after all! And to a man of his stature, too!” The water bottle detected the stench of fish from the guest, and felt he was going to retch if he could! Although the shabby guest tried to decline the present, the owner insisted on giving him the present. He said, “If you should refuse my sincere gift, I would break this valuable bottle into pieces right away!” The guest had no choice but to accept the gift and bade the owner farewell.

Carried by its new owner, the water bottle traveled on a rugged and bumpy road and finally arrived at a shabby house full of the stench of fish. The water bottle could hardly believe that it had to face a new life in a fisherman’s rundown shack. As soon as the man entered the house, he shouted, “Honey, I have brought home a water bottle! Fill the bottle with wine at once! I am carrying it with me when I go fishing tomorrow!” Then a plump woman appeared from the kitchen, grabbed the water bottle, and left the house. Grasped by the woman’s rough and greasy hand, the water bottle felt very uncomfortable. Soon, it felt its body filled with cheap wine. The water bottle felt unbearably painful like it was suffocating! It used to contain Guan Yin’s elixir in paradise, but now it was filled with cheap wine in the human realm!

After a long time, the water bottle was covered with grease and dirt. It also had nicks and cracks on its body. But as time went on, it got used to the smell of the cheap wine and began to see how people in the human world love to drink it. On the days when it was not filled with cheap wine, it felt painful and ached for the taste of the cheap wine it once had detested. On a windy day, the fisherman carried it on a fishing trip again. When he picked up the bottle and was about to drink from it, a powerful tide hit the boat and caused the fisherman to drop the bottle. The water bottle fell into the sea and lost all of its wine. It was forced to drink lots of seawater, and found it repulsive. After drifting in the ocean for a long time, the water bottle thought of Guan Yin. It started to blame all of its misery on Guan Yin, and began to hate Guan Yin. Just as the water bottle started to hate Guan Yin, a stout wind directed tides to smash the water bottle against a rock near the shore. A part of the lid broke off on impact. The tide on kept on churning, and more and more parts of the bottle broke off. Each time a piece broke off, the bottle’s hatred for Guan Yin would grow. It also started to hate the owner of the mansion and the destitute fisherman. In fact, it hated everyone and everything. Little by little, the water bottle was covered with sand. It could no longer see the light of the day. Eventually it landed on the bottom of the ocean where it was completely dark, quiet and still. It was so still and quiet that it seemed time had stopped. The water bottle became terrified, but it was completely helpless. The sand kept landing on the water bottle. First it covered the opening of the bottle and eventually the rest of its body. The water bottle felt the weight of the sand. It wanted to struggle and get free, but it was completely helpless.

Surrounded by deadly calmness and covered by thick layers of sand in the bottom of the ocean, the water bottle started to miss the days when it was sitting next to Guan Yin, listening to her Buddha Fa lectures. While the water bottle was missing the good old days in paradise, it suddenly remembered the heartlessness of Guan Yin, the owner of the luxurious mansion and the fisherman. Then it decided to blame and hate them again. Then the water bottle found it was slowly losing its thoughts. It was terrified of this feeling of losing its thoughts. Eventually, it lost all of its ability to think. What remains was a dirty broken ordinary bottle buried in the rotten mud in the bottom of the ocean.

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