One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!
(One reader claimed that Thomas Cleary once told him that the original ending of this story was quite different. According to Cleary, D.T. Suzuki changed the ending because he thought the original would not appeal to Westerners. The story was then picked up by others, such as Paul Reps. In the original version, the strawberry turns out to be, in fact, deadly poison.)
People's reactions to this story:
"After having only 5 hours of sleep I understand now.
'Live life to the fullest!'"
"'Eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die!' Not sure who to credit
the quote, but it seems to apply."
"Live each moment to the full. The plight the man was in was no reason
not to enjoy the wild strawberry."
"The man knew that he was about to die, and that there was nothing he
could do about it. The strawberry was his last chance to enjoy life so
instead of wasting his last moments in fear and frustration he took what
little pleasure he could and made the best of it."
"Enlightenment can be found in distraction from distraction. The Universe
is now! And strawberries are delicious."
"The most thought provoking story yet. We get so caught up with
ourselves we assume the world around us changes. Why should the
strawberry taste different?"
"I think most people take meaning of living in present as 'Don't worry
about what next'. I think he was not living in present. He was living in
past when he liked the fruit very much or future by thinking he may not
get the fruit again. But the present was how to save his life."
"Aren't we all hanging from a fragile vine awaiting an inevitable plunge to
doom while mice gnaw at our temporary safety? What else should we do but
eat a strawberry?"
"This story puts me in mind of the band playing as the Titanic sank.
There is something cloyingly 'live in the present moment' about it, BUT,
on the other hand, why didn't the man throw the stawberry at the mice?"
"It's clear why the strawberry was delicious. I would think
that mice would've been even more delicious at that point."
"The man should have taken those damn mice with him!"
"Perhaps if the man had thought to give the mice the strawberry then they
would not knaw on the vine and he would live, but instead he was self
absorbed and so he was destined to fall."
"The tiger is the past. The two mice are day and time which slowly kill
us. And the cliff is the future. The strawberry is the present. Forget the
past, not worry the future, and concentrate in the present moment. Only
by that way can we live happily."
"I heard this story but it was a little different,
not only did he face a lion but a bear jumped at his feet while two
ground hogs nibbled at his branch just at the momoment the branch
would break he noticed a plump ripe strawberry - aah delicious. My
view - no matter the memories of yesterday or the anticipation of
tommorrow or even the events of the day remember to always enjoy the
"Hmmm. The story 'Cliffhanger' is very similar to a Jain parable I read
once. The parable was supposed to embody the Jainist view of the world.
There was also a sword wielding demoness, the cliff was replaced by a
pit full of snakes and the strawberry was a dollop of wild honey. the
tiger represented old age, the demoness: illness and infirmity. The
honey represented the fleeting pleasures of life."
"The vine represents the reality that we live in every day. The tigers are
the fear, stress and lack of focus in our lives that interfere with our
desire to achieve peace and that is represented by the field. We are forced
by our fear out of the paece of our field into grasping to the vine that is
reality. The mice are the thoughts of good and evil and the deeper nature
of man that we try to ignore but constantly gnaw at our consciousness and
effect our grip on reality.The strawberry is the true nature of the smaller
things in life. The true value of these things is not truly appreciated
unitl we are forced from our stagnat peace by our fears and confront
ourselves, then we can truly appreciate what our reality has to offer us."
"People have a tendency to focus too much on the bad things that are
happening, and don't take enough time to see that there is beauty right
in front of them. If you grasp the beauty in a dark situation, you will
"Wonderful. I admire the man who is able to embrace the moment, and who,
regardless of circumstance, realizes the moment is sweet. If one must
die, said one ought to go with pleasure on the toungue. This is wisdom."
"Everything tastes sweeter when you know it is your last."
"Is this what it takes to appreciate wonderful?"
"Life is beautiful! It's a shame that we realize it just in very extreme
"In the worst of adversity, it is always important to enjoy the little
pleasures in life.
Urgency of life, love, the heat of the soul, warm breath to keep the demons
on their toes. Everything seems to go faster and become more important
daily, whilst at the same time becoming harder to fathom. -- MORCHEEBA
"Enjoy beauty while you can."
"What a story! Indeed, it points out that the essence of zen must be to
live until you are dead!"
(1) even in the midst of tremendous adversity, a truly enlightened
person knows how to Be Here Now; or
(2) this guy was in a serious state of denial.
These two possibilities seem to be polar opposites leading to the same
"IN THE MOMENT
IN THE BODY
- HOWEVER, I SPEND TO MUCH TIME OVER THERE -
IF YOU FIND ME TELL ME WHERE I AM"
|| The Present Moment || Without Fear || Concentration ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.