The Story of Seven Buns 七個包子的故事

There were two friends called Xiao Ming and Xiao Hua. Xiao Ming was really hungry, so they decided to get something to eat.

Xiao Ming ate the second bun … but was still hungry. So Xiao Hua ordered another one for him.

Xiao Ming ate the third bun … but was still hungry. So Xiao Hua ordered another one for him.

Xiao Ming ate the fourth bun … but was still hungry. So Xiao Hua ordered another one for him.

Xiao Ming ate the fifth bun … but was still hungry. So Xiao Hua ordered another one for him.

Xiao Ming ate the sixth bun … but was still hungry. So Xiao Hua ordered another one for him.

Xiao Ming ate the seventh bun … and was finally full!

“*Phew*” … thought Xiao Hua … “didn’t know that he can eat that much! ;p”

But Xiao Ming was starting to appear a bit perplexed.

“What’s wrong?” Xiao Hua asked.
“I was just thinking … ” Xiao Ming replied “I became full after eating the seventh bun.”

“Yes … ” Xiao Ming offered … wondering if that was a hint for an eighth!

“So why didn’t we just get the seventh bun for me? I mean, I could have eaten the seventh bun and be full already!”

“Don’t be silly Xiao Hua! You became full after eating the seventh bun only because you ate the first six buns!” countered smartie Xiao Hua.

“Really? I could have sworn I was not full at all when I ate the first six, but I am full, now that I ate the seventh! … … ” quipped Xiao Hua.

Before Xiao Ming could further his analysis and spin his usual rhetoric, Xiao Hua dragged him out of the bun shop named “The seven-bun shop”.

My friend, think about a skill or ability that you have. It can be something trivial or something amazing. It can be unique or it
can be common. But it must be something you have. Got it? Good.

Now, answer this question.

Were you born with this skill or ability? If you answered yes, I’m not talking about your ability to give silly answers! :p
ok, so try to recall how you acquired this ability. Who was there to help you learn it? What resources did you need back then? Who helped you acquire the resources? You got it yourself? Who gave or sold it to you?

Now, how was it that you were able to learn this ability either from a person, a book or the web? Would you be able to do so if you did not understand the language used? You would not be able to even understand whatever is written in this article if you did not learn the English language.

So learning English was a pre-requisite to learning the above ability. Apply the same reflection on the English language. Go through slowly and deeply.

For most of us, you will find that practically all the abilities we have today are the result of not just our own effort, but the culmination of our own effort and that of many many many individuals, organisations, resources and many others that we were and perhaps still are oblivious to.

When we reflect on our achievements today, we may be grateful to one or two or a few individuals in our lives. But as we reflect deeply, we realise that we are like “Xiao Ming” in our little story above, attributing our “fullness” success to the last bun / person / group etc. In fact, the intricate web of inter-connected dependencies can only be modelled or abstracted mostly, and even then, we would realise that our very simple life really depends on many many many individuals to make it possible.

Today, we celebrate Teachers’ Day. Those who teach in classes and those who don’t. Those who teach us directly and those who teach us indirectly. Like the seven buns in the story, all the people in our lives has taught us something along the way, culminating in what and who we are today. We should learn from Xiao Hua in the story, and be grateful to all the numerous teachers in our lives. For it is not just the seventh bun that quell our hunger.

In Majjhima Nikaya 24, Ratha-vinita sutta – Relay Chariots, Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Punna goes through a similar analysis on the seven forms of purities with each leading to the next, but not any one particular solely responsible for total Unbinding, Nibbana. A parable is given by Ven. Punna involving King Pasenadi Kosala travelling between Savatthi and Saketa using seven relay chariots. Again, it is not solely with any one particular relay chariots, but through all the seven that the King is able to travel between the two cities. It is after this parable that the sutta was named.

So, my friend, take a closer look at your life. Reflect on the ‘buns’ you have eaten that helped you become ‘full’. Remember with gratitude, the ‘teachers’ who have taught you and helped you grow and mature.

We are indebted to many individuals, friends and strangers, large, medium and small, seen and unseen, near and far. To them, we owe much.

With love and compassion, gratitude and joy in our heart for all out there, Happy Teachers’ Day!

New 23 May 2013