Author Topic: Eating the Blame  (Read 18587 times)

negra orquida

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Eating the Blame
« on: May 29, 2012, 04:04:21 PM »
Story time!

Circumstances arose one day which delayed preperation of the dinner of a Soto Zen master, Fugai, and his followers. In haste the cook went to the garden with his curved knife and cut off the tops of green vegetables, chopped them together and made soup, unaware that in his haste he had included a part of a snake in the vegetables.

The followers of Fugai thought they never tasted such good soup. But when the master himself found the snake's head in his bowl, he summoned the cook. "What is this?" he demanded, holding yo the head of the snake.

"Oh, thank you, master," replied the cook, taking the morsel and eating it quickly.

The original title to this story is called "Eating the Blame".  I am guessing this story is relating to accepting blame, though I can't figure out how eating the snake head equates to accepting blame?? Anyone would like to decipher this code? :p

One of the 10 major Boddhisatva vows is (ok I extracted this from wikipedia):

"A disciple of the Buddha shall not praise himself and speak ill of others, or encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of praising himself and disparaging others. As a disciple of the Buddha, he should be willing to stand in for all sentient beings and endure humiliation and slander -- accepting blame and letting sentient beings have all the glory. If instead, he displays his own virtues and conceals the good points of others, thus causing them to suffer slander, he commits a Parajika offense."

Why is accepting blame an important practice in Buddhism? It seems that this covers accepting blame for mistakes not done by us as well.  Isn't this unfair? Why should I let others have all the glory, wouldn't it be fuelling their pride / misconceptions?

Jessie Fong

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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2012, 06:38:02 AM »
I am guessing that the cook took the morsel and ate it to save a long explanation.  There's no harm for him to take the blame, irregardless if he was the one who was not careful or it was somebody else.

N.O. as you have explained :  He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of praising himself and disparaging others.

Accepting blame is admitting mistakes and the wish to do better and move on.


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2012, 09:29:21 AM »
Hmm... while I was reading this story, I was also wondering how is this story related to eating the blame when the fault was the cook's in the first place?

What occurred to me was... When we make a mistake, whether it is intentional or non-intentional, we should admit it, clean it up, correct it, and not trouble anyone any further. That is why the cook, immediately ate it when his master asked him, and not wanting to disturb his master's mind, he mentioned nothing of it.

In answer to your question about taking the blame, i think just because we are Buddhists does not mean we can just be a push over and let the other person win all the time. It really depends on situations.

For example, if taking the blame will only cause the person involved to further make trouble, continue to be sneaky, and create more negative karma, then by all means, reveal the sneaky person for his/her own good.


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2012, 02:46:15 PM »
This is accepting defeat and offering victory to others - a very profound Lojong practice and essential for bodhisattvas.  All sentient beings had one time or another in the countless past lives had been our mothers.  Though we do not recognize each other in this life, we need to realize that our mothers had been very kind to us in the past lives.  Sentient beings mistreated us because we had mistreated them in the past.  It is only logical that we absorb the mistreatment due to our past negative karma.  It is one way we can purify that karma.  If we think carefully, without the kindnesses of all our mothers, we won’t have developed to where we are now!  It is having gratitude for our mothers and repaying their kindnesses that we accepted defeat and offered victory to them.  Yes, it appears to be unfair.  What about us doing the same to others in the past? Wouldn’t that be unfair to others too?  Accepting defeat and offering victory to others allows us to break our attachment to our strong grasping of I, the root cause of existence in samsara. On the other hand, we need to exercise skillful means and wisdom and not just be a door mat for others to step on or take advantage of us!


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2012, 05:05:48 PM »
In the case of the cook...
When we are pointed out that we are wrong, we should admit it and accept the consequences (accepting responsibility of what was committed) and move on.

As for taking on the blame of others will also depend on situations and who is the creator.  Example: If the person who is continuously creating all these faults and mistakes without even truly regret it, we should speak up and point it out to him.  If we were to accept the blame for it, we are in fact, not helping him to change for better but instead reinforcing his negative habituations and not taking upon the responsibility of his own consequences.  Why should we take upon the blame and cause more suffering for others?


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2012, 06:31:28 PM »
Thanks for all your awesome stories. To me admitting to mistakes is more likely the moral of the story here.

When the cook immediately ate up the gross snake's head, it shows that he acknowledged his mistakes whether it was intentional or not without trying to cover up and make excuses to justify what went wrong. This is a good example of taking responsibility of one's actions no matter how difficult it may seem. Better to endure the consequences of your mistake now then to continue covering up by lying, trying to think in your head what actually went wrong and just accept that it was part of your lack of care in your job that caused the mistake.

However, I do think that the chef should actually say sorry instead of thank you as it is more appropriate to show remorse and regret.


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2012, 09:46:25 AM »
My opinion is the cook did the right thing instead of beating around the bush. He said thank you because he was given the chance to be truthful and by being thankful and eating his mistake clearly indicates the cook has a very clear mind. Better to swallow his own mistakes and the mistakes ends there and then. If the cook decided otherwise the consequences will be terrible. Imagine the cook put the blame on others for his mistakes, he will create more negative consequences and hurt and damage others in the process which in return will not have good results and by the time he wants to be sorry for all that is done, it will be too late.


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2012, 10:42:10 AM »
In my opinion, by eating the snake's head immediately, the chef admitted his mistakes instead of trying to explain and justify his mistakes and create more negative karma. He took responsibility of his actions. However, I feel that he should apologize instead of saying "thank you." He should say "thank you" when he took the snake's head from the Master then say "sorry" to all of them for the mistakes he made.


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2012, 02:45:00 PM »
I think that the cook took the head of snake to eat is the right action but he should say sorry without explanation instead of said thank you to the master. The mistake of cooking is from the cook so he could not blame other, hence he is response for it and he did admit it by ate the snake's head.

i  not sure why the is call eating the blame as the cook did the mistake and should be blamed and he admit it. If other done the mistake and should be blamed and the cook take the blame for it then it should call eating the blame.   


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2012, 05:03:05 PM »

We can learn from a mistake after ,we have made it.Admission of a mistake,even if only privately to ourselves,makes learning possible by moving the focus away from blame assignment and towards understanding.Wise people admit their mistakes easily.They know progress accelerates when they do.By accepting the blame means you cannot blame others for the choices you have made.The most important lesson in all of mistake making is to trust that while mistakes are in,if you can learn from the current one and also able to learn from future ones.

Big Uncle

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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2012, 05:47:37 PM »
The ending of the story was quite abrupt and I am not sure how to interpret it. I am guessing that the lesson being taught with this story is to accept the blame and consequences of our actions. It is pointless to engage in lengthy excuses, explanations and coverups.

Karma is blind to our excuses and explanations. It will eventually catch up. So, just accept the blame and make the best out of the situation. In this case, the cook just ate the snake head as a gesture of acceptance of blame. Our world would have a lot less wars, conflicts and disagreements if people would just accept the blame or the consequences of their actions.


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2012, 11:28:32 PM »
If the mistake is done by us , it’s not a blame. I would say a blame is when an innocent party being accused of some mistake  done by another person.

Taking blame is an important Buddhist practice in the training of  detachment from the 8 worldly concerns. All our worldly concerns arise from self grasping which is the cause of cyclical sufferings.

If we truly believe in the law of karma and we know taking the blame will keep harmony within the community then doing it should be an easy and worthwhile effort. However, with the right motivation and if we know who the real “culprit” is, we should find opportunity to skillfully tell him/her to take responsibility and not just keep quiet. As it’s been said by some wise person – the “bad” guys can do all the evil things because the “good” guys choose to keep the silence and allow them to do it.


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2012, 04:00:42 PM »
'Eating the blame' can be seen as 'accepting the blame'. In this case, the cook was prompt in accepting the blame thus leaving no chance to others to be mistakenly blamed for the deed. I guess by swallowing the snake's head there and then, he already signified that he was the culprit and there was no need for him to apologize and show sincere regret for his action. Also,he takes total responsibility for a gross negative action and also the consequences all on himself by swallowing the snake's head.He is saying "may all the negative karma of this action ripen on me".     


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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2012, 03:44:20 AM »
This is thought provoking. I think similar examples would be good guide for us to contemplate, for example in the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation by Langri Tangpa:

6. When someone I have benefited and in whom I have great hopes gives me terrible harm, I shall practice regarding him or her as my holy guru.

Usually we expect a person whom we have helped a great deal to be very grateful, and if he reacts to us with ingratitude we are likely to get angry. In such situations we should not get angry but, instead, practice patience. Moreover, we should see this person as a teacher testing our patience and therefore treat him with respect. This verse contains all the Bodhicaryavatara teachings on patience.

From the Dhammapada:
 “When we hold fast to such thoughts as ‘They harmed me, they mistreated me, they molested me, they robbed me,’
We keep hatred alive.
If we thoroughly release ourselves from such thoughts as ‘They harmed me, they mistreated me, they molested me, they robbed me,’ hatred is vanquished.
Never by hatred is hatred conquered, but by readiness to love.
This is eternal law.”

I think the point of all these is not that we take the blame at let others “win”, of course it must be done with wisdom. Dalai Lama also said before that being compassionate doesn’t mean you let people just take advantage of you. If letting the others win will be worse for that person, then perhaps we should speak our mind and it will help the other person to realize and accept his/her mistake. This of course is skillful means which we have to practise and develop.

So in the situation that we accept the blame for others, it doesn’t mean that you’re saying what the other person did is okay. It may not be okay, but you forgive because you want to be happy, and you realize that holding onto anger and grudges makes you and the people around you miserable. It doesn’t mean you forget, but you can forgive.

Positive Change

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Re: Eating the Blame
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2012, 01:42:43 PM »
I reckon the symbolic "eating of the snake" is as everyone has pointed out, eating the blame or otherwise accepting the blame regardless of who's fault it is. In this case of course it was the cook himself. But the twist is, if you actually did look at it from the cook's perspective, he did not really know it was him. But as the cook he just accepted it willingly without hesitation and excuses!

That is the core of the teaching here I believe. It is taking ownership of our "work" and accepting without hesitance and reluctance when things go wrong. It is not about taking the fall as there was no one else. The cook knew he was the cook and whatever that goes wrong in his scope of work he will and did accept.

The thank you for me was also an acceptance and humility on the part of the cook... in that he admitted and apologized (in action) and promptly thanked the master for letting him know of his mistake with no need for lengthy explanation of how or why the head of the snake got into the soup. That very thank you showed the sincerity of the cook for me!