Before anyone asks me: ‘Why did you write this book?’, I will pre-empt them and ask it of myself:
I have written it not because I think I have all the answers to all the problems in the world, but because I think we often look in the wrong places or in the wrong ways for answers; usually, our minds are full of ideas about what it is we are looking for, and are motivated by fear or greed, not realizing that such looking only distorts what is here and prevents us from seeing clearly. Too concerned with ourselves, we become like dogs running round in circles chasing their own tails.
The world is a whole and we are parts of it; even if we dislike or disagree with it, we cannot separate ourselves from it. So we need a realistic way of looking at it, a compassionate and positive way. “As I am, so are these; as these are, so am I”. The Buddha’s words help us to see people and other living things with understanding and love instead of with constant fear and self-concern.
I have chosen the cover-picture and the title for this book to show different points-of-view. Both the hawk and the mouse could be saying to each other: Wait a minute!, but for different reasons. One could be saying: “Wait a minute! Don’t go away; I want to catch you”, while the other could be saying: “Wait a minute! Let’s talk this thing over!”
Unlike the participants of the picture, we can look at both sides: that of the hawk and that of the mouse. The hawk would excite admiration for its streamlined grace, as it did in the person who gave me the picture: “Isn’t it magnificent!” Few of us would feel sympathy for the mouse, as mice are regarded as pests that destroy crops, spread disease, and so on. But the mouse also has its point-of-view. Mice were on the planet long before men began to produce food; it is not their purpose on earth to destroy crops; that is our idea of them. Just what is their purpose, we don’t know, but then, that is not surprising, is it? We don’t even know what our purpose is—or even if we have a purpose—do we? Moreover, like you and I, mice also have feelings, and wish to live and be happy.
In the hawk’s eyes, we see exultation of the kill, while in the eyes of the mouse terror of being killed. Nature is ruthless and without sentiment and cares not if we live or die. Why does it favor the strong over the weak? Why does it play cruel and deadly games with its children?
Life is a struggle, involving much pain and heartache, and finally, when death comes upon us, we seem to lose all that we struggled for. But, looking back, can we say that the living and dying of all the people before us was a total loss and waste? Does not every generation leave something to those that follow? We carry on where others left off, as in a relay-race, not needing to start all over again from the beginning. And if we, as individuals, do not pass on much to those who follow us, I am optimistic that the generation of which we are part, will, though to be sure, we will also pass on things not good, simply because we are imperfect and still learning.
In and from our struggles, we might learn things unique to our species and which distinguish us from other beings, like compassion, tolerance, self-sacrifice and wisdom; we have a broader vision of life than animals have; our struggles and sufferings will not be in vain if we acquire something of such things. We inherited so much from people who lived before us, and so, even though we pass and die, our living will not have been a waste if we leave something of value to others. Would this not be a more worthy motive for living well than thoughts of a better personal life after death? If there is an after-life, it will probably follow on as a result of how we live this life.
The hawk has no choice but to kill; the mouse no choice about what to eat, be it crops in the field or grain in the store. We, however, do.