By the anonymous philosopher, Zen Daddy

Editor’s Note: If you are having any trouble with the metaphor in this post, plug in “Elephants” and “Donkeys.”

Greetings and salutations to all! The Zen Daddy is back to share a bit of the dharma with you. Today we will begin with a story…

Art by David Gothard (click for source)

A man raised by wolves was trotting along a forest path when he ran into a man who was raised by squirrels.

They made polite introductions, and started talking about their favorite things.

“There’s nothing better than running along a forest path,” said the man raised by wolves.

“Are you crazy? There are dangerous animals around! The only way to travel is climbing high and jumping from tree to tree!” replied the man raised by squirrels.

“Now YOU are the crazy one,” countered the man raised by wolves. “A person could get killed if they fell out of a tree!”

There is no ending for this story, because the two men see themselves quite differently and argue as the sun rises and falls, day after day, despite them both finding themselves in the odd position of being men raised by animals. And this is what many people do throughout their day. And, most likely, you too have either been raised by a wolf or a squirrel.

Shotoku Taishi, Japan’s first great Buddhist prince, stated in the Constitution of Seventeen Articles*: “All men have minds of their own and each man’s mind views things differently. When another is right, I am wrong. When I am right, others are wrong. I am not necessarily wise and others are not necessarily fools. We are all just ordinary men.” Uchiyama goes on to add, “The fact that we are all just ordinary people is really the closest to the truth. That kind of understanding is surely more important than being obsessively bound to one’s own ideas of justice or rightness, which will only lead to discord, fighting, and war.”

We each have a unique reality that we live in; nobody else can know it exactly because no one has experienced the exact same things we have. It is helpful to remember that what we think is “the only sensible course,” or “the only rational viewpoint” is largely a product of how we have been raised, who we interact with on a daily basis, our surroundings, our income level, etc. When we argue about things, we are in most cases choosing whether trees or the ground are best, and not even considering that one can also fly through the air or swim in the ocean.

When you are practicing Right Speech with others, keep in mind that you may be a person raised by wolves talking to a person raised by squirrels, and choose your words carefully and with great compassion.

Enjoy your day!

*courtesy of “From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment” by Dogen and Uchiyama


About bensten

Teacher, writer, blogger and spiritual practitioner. Managing editor of

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