A Song of a Puppeteer

My mother was a beautician. She worked more than 10 hours a day when she was young. In my childhood, my grandmother took care of me all the time. She sang for me, told stories for me, or played with me. Among the stories she told me was a story which was quite helpful in analyzing one’s behavior. It was half-story and half-song. It is about a puppeteer and puppets. Unfortunately, I cannot show its melody. The translation of the lyrics is as follows:

“Here comes a puppeteer. He has a puppet box hanging from his shoulder. The box has puppets inside. Will he take out angels or monsters today?”
Later I found this song in a Zen discussion book. According to the book, its interpretation was that human beings carry both good and evil natures. In reacting to things happening, one can decide to be nice or to be nasty. Buddha said that human beings carry a poison snake in their mind. They are saying the same thing.

Further, this says that there is morality and law in human society. Morality is a direction that one feels the need to follow from his heart without being asked. Law, on the other hand, is the rule which authority or a third-party force people to obey to keep the order in society. The monster puppet, which this song describes, is the evil side of human nature, and if not stopped by good nature, it will come out often. Suppose there are no angel puppets in the master’s box, and all he grabs and takes out of his box are monsters. The song is teaching people to use one’s morality to control his evil nature. The morality can be nurtured by Zen practice or any religious discipline.

My grandmother’s interpretation was a little different. She told me that the puppeteer could decide which puppet he should take out, depending on the child to whom he is playing on the day. If a child is naughty, he will take out evil to confront the child’s evil spirit. When he plays with a nice child, he will play with angel puppet. In this way, one’s reaction to whom I am facing is determined, not by him, but by me. In order to receive a nice response, my grandmother taught me to be nice to everyone.

This may be my grandmother’s own interpretation. However, it contains an absolute truth. If one is angry, the other people facing to him will be angry, too. If one is happy, he makes others happy, and will receive nice and happy reactions from others. Even though it is my grandmother’s personal opinion, since a Zen statement has so many different interpretations, her view would not be totally wrong.

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