This is a story that Siddhartha Gautama, popularly known as the Buddha, told the first time to children when he had just founded a Great Way, the Path of Awareness. Please enjoy an excerpt of it from the book Old Path White Cloud.
Siddhartha quietly gestured for the children to sit back up and he said,
“You are all intelligent children and I am sure you will be able to understand and practice the things I will share with you. The Great Path I have discovered is deep and subtle, but anyone willing to apply his or her heart and mind can understand and follow it.
“When you children peel a tangerine, you can eat it with awareness or
without awareness. What does it mean to eat a tangerine in awareness? When you are eating the tangerine, you are aware that you are eating the tangerine. You fully experience its lovely fragrance and sweet taste. When you peel the tangerine, you know that you are peeling the tangerine; when you remove a slice and put it in your mouth, you know that you are removing a slice and putting it in your mouth; when you experience the lovely fragrance and sweet taste of the tangerine, you are aware that you are experiencing the lovely fragrance and sweet taste of the tangerine. The tangerine Nandabala offered me had nine sections. I ate each morsel in awareness and saw how precious and wonderful it was. I did not forget the tangerine, and thus the tangerine became something very real to me. If the tangerine is real, the person eating it is real. That is what it means to eat a tangerine in awareness.
“Children, what does it mean to eat a tangerine without awareness? When you are eating the tangerine, you do not know that you are eating the tangerine. You do not experience the lovely fragrance and sweet taste of the tangerine. When you peel the tangerine, you do not know that you are peeling the tangerine; when you remove a slice and put it in your mouth, you do not know that you are removing a slice and putting it in your mouth; when you smell the fragrance or taste the tangerine, you do not know that you are smelling the fragrance and tasting the tangerine. Eating a tangerine in such a way, you cannot appreciate its precious and wonderful nature. If you are not aware that you are eating the tangerine, the tangerine is not real. If the tangerine is not real, the person eating it is not real either. Children, that is eating a tangerine without awareness.
“Children, eating the tangerine in mindfulness means that while eating the tangerine you are truly in touch with it. Your mind is not chasing after
thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, but is dwelling fully in the present
moment. The tangerine is truly present. Living in mindful awareness means to live in the present moment, your mind and body dwelling in the very here and now.
“A person who practices mindfulness can see things in the tangerine that
others are unable to see. An aware person can see the tangerine tree, the tangerine blossom in the spring, the sunlight and rain that nourished the tangerine. Looking deeply, one can see ten thousand things that have made the tangerine possible. Looking at a tangerine, a person who practices awareness can see all the wonders of the universe and how all things interact with one another. Children, our daily life is just like a tangerine. Just as a tangerine is comprised of sections, each day is comprised of twenty-four hours. One hour is like one section of tangerine. Living all twenty-four hours of a day is like eating all the sections of a tangerine. The path I have found is the path of living each hour of the day in awareness, mind and body always dwelling in the present moment. The opposite is to live in forgetfulness. If we live in forgetfulness, we do not know that we are alive. We do not fully experience life because our mind and body are not dwelling in the here and now.”
Gautama looked at Sujata and said her name.
“Yes, Teacher?” Sujata joined her palms.
“Do you a think a person who lives in awareness will make many errors
“Respected Teacher, a person who lives in awareness will make few
errors. My mother always tells me that a girl should pay attention to how she walks, stands, speaks, laughs, and works, in order to avoid thoughts, words, and actions that might cause sorrow to herself or others.”
“Just so, Sujata. A person who lives in awareness knows what she is
thinking, saying, and doing. Such a person can avoid thoughts, words, and actions that cause suffering for herself and others.
“Children, living in awareness means to live in the present moment. One
is aware of what is taking place within one’s self and in one’s surroundings. One is in direct contact with life. If one continues to live in such a way, one will be able to deeply understand one’s self and one’s surroundings. Understanding leads to tolerance and love. When all beings understand one another, they will accept and love one another. Then there will not be much suffering in the world. What do you think, Svasti? Can people love if they are unable to understand?”
“Respected Teacher, without understanding love is most difficult. It
reminds me of something that happened to my sister Bhima. One night she cried all night long until my sister Bala lost her patience and spanked Bhima. That only made Bhima cry more. I picked Bhima up and sensed that she was feverish. I was sure her head ached from the fever. I called Bala and told her to place her hand on Bhima’s forehead. When she did that, she understood at once why Bhima was crying. Her eyes softened and she took Bhima into her arms and sang to her with love. Bhima stopped crying even though she still had a fever. Respected Teacher, I think that was because Bala understood why Bhima was upset. And so I think that without understanding, love is not possible.”
“Just so, Svasti! Love is possible only when there is understanding. And only with love can there be acceptance. Practice living in awareness, children, and you will deepen your understanding. You will be able to understand yourselves, other people, and all things. And you will have hearts of love. That is the wonderful path I have discovered.”
Svasti joined his palms. “Respected Teacher, could we call this path the
‘Path of Awareness’?”
Siddhartha smiled, “Surely. We can call it the Path of Awareness. I like
that very much. The Path of Awareness leads to perfect Awakening.”
Sujata joined her palms to ask permission to speak. “You are the awakened one, the one who shows how to live in awareness. Can we call you ‘the Awakened One’?”
Siddhartha nodded. “That would please me very much.”
Sujata’s eyes shone. She continued, “‘Awaken’ in Magadhi is pronounced
‘budh.’ A person who is awakened would be called ‘Buddha’ in Magadhi.
We can call you ‘Buddha.’”
Siddhartha nodded. All the children were delighted.