As I was stumbling, I came across this site on Buddhist Stories. The very first story was The Worm, about two Buddhist monks who died within months of each other, but whose afterlives went in very different directions: one went to Heaven, while the other became a worm in a dung pile. Here’s the story:
There is a wonderful little story about two monks who lived together in a monastery for many years; they were great friends. Then they died within a few months of one another. One of them got reborn in the heaven realms, the other monk got reborn as a worm in a dung pile.
The one up in the heaven realms was having a wonderful time, enjoying all the heavenly pleasures. But he started thinking about his friend, “I wonder where my old mate has gone?” So he scanned all of the heaven realms, but could not find a trace of his friend.
Then he scanned the realm of human beings, but he could not see any trace of his friend there, so he looked in the realm of animals and then of insects. Finally he found him, reborn as a worm in a dung pile… Wow! He thought: “I am going to help my friend. I am going to go down there to that dung pile and take him up to the heavenly realm so he too can enjoy the heavenly pleasures and bliss of living in these wonderful realms.”
So he went down to the dung pile and called his mate. And the little worm wriggled out and said: “Who are you?”, “I am your friend. We used to be monks together in a past life, and I have come up to take you to the heaven realms where life is wonderful and blissful.” But the worm said: “Go away, get lost!” “But I am your friend, and I live in the heaven realms,” and he described the heaven realms to him. But the worm said: “No thank you, I am quite happy here in my dung pile. Please go away.”
Then the heavenly being thought: “Well if I could only just grab hold of him and take him up to the heaven realms, he could see for himself.” So he grabbed hold of the worm and started tugging at him; and the harder he tugged, the harder that worm clung to his pile of dung.
Do you get the moral of the story? How many of us are attached to our pile of dung?
— from the story The Worm, by Ajahn Brahmavamso
I actually thought I had gotten the moral of the story, when I saw the writer’s first question, “Do you get the moral of the story?” But when he asked “How many of us are attached to our pile of dung?” I realised that I hadn’t.
What I presume the writer’s intended moral was that we should not be so attached to what we’re comfortable with. Perhaps there’s a Heaven out there just waiting for us, with people trying hard to get us there, but we’re just too stubborn to see it.
In the context of this story, I do not agree.
Karma is there for a Reason
If the monk who became a worm was meant to go to Heaven, he would have gone there in the first place. If the monk who had gone to Heaven were to bring the worm there as well, what would the other people who were re-born into worms think? Would it be fair for them?
And what kind of Heaven would allow those who did not belong there to be there? It would be like inviting paedophiles into a kindergarten — it won’t be a pretty sight.
Heaven’s what you Make of it
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. One man’s Heaven, is another man’s Hell. What would a worm do in a Heaven populated by human-like beings?
No matter how nice we might think our house is, no wild animal would be content to live there. Animals are happier where they were placed by nature: in the wild. Likewise, the worm’s Heaven would well have been his dung pile; and if you noticed how hard he fought to remain where he was, you’ll find it hard to think otherwise.
My moral of the story is: Not everyone thinks like you do. You may think you know what’s best for another, but you will never know until you are the other.
Life’s simply not as straightforward as it suggests.