Tag Archives: Steve Hagen

Who knows what’s good, who knows what’s bad?

“Good and bad aren’t absolutes. They are beliefs, judgments, ideas based on limited knowledge as well as on the inclinations of our minds

The situation we always live in is like that of the wise Chinese farmer whose horse ran off. When his neighbor came to console him the farmer said, ‘Who knows what’s good or bad?’

When his horse returned the next day with a herd of horses following her, the foolish neighbor came to congratulate him on his good fortune.

‘Who knows what’s good or bad?’ said the farmer.

Then, when the farmer’s son broke his leg trying to ride one of the new horses, the foolish neighbor came to console him again.

“Who knows what’s good or bad?” said the farmer.

When the army passed through, conscripting men for war, they passed over the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. When the foolish man came to congratulate the farmer that his son would be spared, again the farmer said, “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

When do we expect the story to end?”

from Buddhism Plain and Simple, Steve Hagen.


‘We act as though Truth were something we could stuff in our pockets, something we could take out every once in awhile to show people “Here! This is it!” We forget that they will show us their slips of paper, with other Truths written upon them.’
~ Steve Hagen Roshi

The Ultimate Authority

In his final talk before his death the Buddha said,

“Each of you be a light unto yourself; betake yourself to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourself.”

buddhaYou are the final authority. Not me. Not the Buddha. Not the Bible. Not the government. Not the president. Not Mom or Dad. You. No community of philosophers, scientists, priests, academicians, politicians, or generals—no school, legislature, parliament, or court—can bear responsibility for your life, or your words, or your actions. That authority is yours and yours alone. You can neither get rid of it nor escape from it.

Of course, you can pretend to give up this ultimate authority, or ignore it and act as if you haven’t got it, or try to give it to someone else. But you haven’t really gotten rid of it. You gave your authority to someone else. You chose to deny or ignore that authority. You made the decision to lie to yourself…

Hagen, Steven (2011-06-21). Buddhism Plain and Simple (p. 22). Perseus Books Group.