Sono story

Sono story

Dennis Bradford

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This supposedly true Japanese story has been retold by Stephen Mitchell:

A hundred and fifty years ago there lived a woman named Sono, whose devotion and purity of heart were respected far and wide.  One day a fellow Buddhist, having made a long trip to see her, asked, ‘What can I do to put my heart at rest?’ 

She said, ‘Every morning and every evening, and whenever anything happens to you, keep on saying, “Thanks for everything.  I have no complaint whatsoever.”’

The man did as he was instructed, for a whole year, but his heart was still not at peace.  He returned to Sono, crestfallen.  ‘I’ve said your prayer over and over, and yet nothing in my life has changed; I’m still the same selfish person as before.  What should I do now?’ 

Sono immediately said, ‘Thanks for everything.  I have no complaint whatsoever.’ 

On hearing these words, the man was able to open his spiritual eye, and returned home with great joy.”

The reason for repeating this story is because stories are the usual way we learn easily and this story, properly understood, contains some valuable lessons.

Distinguish physical pain from suffering (sorrow, misery, discontent), which in this story understood as having an unpeaceful heart.

Is suffering optional?  Yes.  It’s curable.

Are there people like Sono willing to help you cure your suffering?  Yes, there are qualified spiritual teachers, authors, and coaches available.

Could you find someone who will cure your suffering for you?  No.  Sono couldn’t make the man’s heart peaceful.  Even though she was a wise, loving person, she was impotent to cure someone else’s suffering.  The Buddha and all other sages have taught this lesson.

Could you find someone who will help you cure your own suffering?  Yes.  There are lots of qualified people who will help you IF you commit wholeheartedly to doing what is required.

There’s no magic bullet, no instant cure, no quick fix.  The man spent a year repeating the words Sono gave him without wholehearted commitment.  Nothing happened.  It won’t happen for you, either, without wholehearted commitment.

Once the man really understood what was required, he made the leap.  He let go.  He surrendered.  He did what’s required.

What’s that?

Overcoming selfishness is what is required.  Detaching from self is what is required.  Transcending the ego is what is required.  Surpassing egocentricity is what is required.  Practices that fall short of that fail.

If you are like me, you have a regrettable tendency to think that experiences happen TO you.  “Oh, woe is me!  Yet again the world is causing me to suffer.”

What if instead you believed, wholeheartedly, that experiences happen FOR you?  “Thanks for everything.  I have no complaint whatsoever.”

Dennis E. Bradford, Ph.D.

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