Age: 13, Grade: 8
School Name: Middle School 255 Salk School Of Science, New York, NY
Educator: Jake Wizner
Category: Critical Essay
Ted Talk: Suffering and the Will of Human To Let Go
Once upon a time, a hunter was attempting to catch a monkey that was stealing food from the town. (image of monkey stealing/eating food) He chased him for a very long time but had no luck in capturing him. The monkey was very clever, he would run away rapidly, climbing and jumping from tree to tree. The hunter quickly began to feel as if the task was impossible, but just as the hunter was going to give up, a wise old man instructed him on how to accomplish his task. He was directed to get a rope, a coconut, some sugar, and some peanuts. Following the old man’s instructions, the hunter cut a piece off the top of the coconut, leaving a small hole in the center that was a size just large enough to fit a monkey’s hand. Next, he placed the peanuts and sugar inside the hole, tying the coconut to the tree.
After a night’s rest, the hunter traveled outside to check the coconut. Like the old man had advised him, the monkey was stuck there, (image “a monkey trap- MEDITATION CENTER OF D.C) running around the tree widely, his hand wedged inside the coconut. As the monkey stuck his hand in to retrieve the treats, his fist became lodged in and he was stuck unless he unclenched his fist. Still, the monkey was unwilling to let go of the sweet peanuts. If the monkey had been willing to let go, he would have been able to remove his hand from the coconut and run free, away from danger. it was clear that the hunter had not caught the monkey, but the monkey had trapped himself. In the end, the monkey had imprisoned himself to the tree due to his unwillingness to simply let go.
The teachings of Buddhism illustrate that the largest flaw of our society is our attachment to desire and the desire not to have aversion. (image of someone clinging to something) It is our selfishness and our addictions that causes our suffering. There are two ways this is put into effect. One is that since we cannot attain all of our attachments and desires, we become disturbed and angry, one manifestation for suffering. (image of two boys fighting over a toy and crying) The other is portrayed through the character of the monkey; the unwillingness to just let go. Eventually, a person will become a slave to their desires, (image: Religion: The Ways of Perception) unable to think of anything but what they think they need, but in truth, just want. (Image: Wants vs. Needs Stock illustration) In the bigger world, we can see foolish monkeys everywhere. Even that little device that we hold in our hands cause us to suffer, and the only way we can end this suffering is to put it down. We are missing so many significant details of the bigger world because of this technology, and yet we can’t seem to put it down. We may say that this addiction is not our fault that this suffering has been forced upon us, but we were the only people that forced it. We have the power within us to say no to whatever is causing us suffering, but the key thing his is that we say yes, and that is what begins this cycle. On the other hand, there are some instances in which we no longer have the right to say no. Imagine there is a hard-working mother whose kids are constantly arguing ing and her husband never assists her. I think that there is a very fine line that has to be drawn, telling us whether or not it is ok to release our grasp. That mother has a responsibility, a commitment to her family. This shows us that it is one thing to free yourself, but another to be freeing yourself but hurting others in the process.
The minute I heard the story of the monkey, it reminded me of my own experience that had my first lodged in a coconut. In kindergarten I became friends with this person whom I will just call Person A. (image of two little kids fighting) Even at that age, I knew that there was something wrong with that friendship, that the way that I was being treated was not ok. In truth, my best friend was a bully. I would sit down with her and my other friends and she would humiliate me, saying “I don’t want to sit next to Sasha, she’s disgusting.” Yet, I kept my first lodged in this coconut of a damaging friendship. I wanted the treaty that was inside it, I wanted friendship, an assurance that this person, as emotionally abusive as she might be, would always be there. So for 7 years, I was trapped. I didn’t simply allow myself to let go, and those 7 years were spent suffering. Throughout that entire time, I believe that she was the one who had caused this, but as I can look back on it now, I know that it was me. If I had been willing to simply let go, to stand up for myself and to not be afraid, I would have been a happier person. So here is my question to you: What gets your fist lodged? What are you unwilling to let go of? Is it a relationship, similar to me? That little device that everyone is so obsessed with? A job you do not enjoy, but feel you need? Whatever the problem is, I hope that you can let go. Next time you are faced with suffering, consider that you are bringing this suffering upon yourself, and instantly when you have the power and the confidence to let go, to move on, that suffering will vanish, and you will make your life better. Thank you.