Skip to main content

Lessons from a Spider Buddha

There's a large spider living outside my window.  I don't know how he got there; whether he climbed up or was carried by the wind, but he's been there all summer.  

I stand and watch him sometimes as he goes about his day; spinning webs and catching insects.  The world is in a state of turmoil, but he's completely unbothered.  I respect that.

Sadly, my window doesn't provide adequate protection for him.  When it rains, the droplets batter the spider's web like canon balls; tearing it to pieces.  I was distraught the first time this happened.  

But my spider friend remained calm.  Instead of panicking, he retreated to a corner of the window.  Once the world had dried out a bit, he emerged from his hiding place and built a new web.  He was back to catching flies an hour later

This cycle has repeated itself several times.  And it will continue until my neighbor is washed away in a downpour.  But I admire his steadfastness; his determination to keep going in the face of hardship.  The first noble truth of Buddhism states, "Life is suffering," and the spider knows this better than anyone.

But that doesn't stop him from going about his work.  He knows more rain will come, but he continues to spin his web.  He knows the fruit of his labor will be destroyed.  But he enjoys it while it's here.  And when life takes away everything he's worked for, the spider retreats, regroups, and then goes back into the storm.

We build things.  They break.  We build them again.  This is the truth of the world.

And if we want to survive; we have to live like spiders.  We have to accept the futility of our actions, and then do them any way. We have to respond to the destructive aspects of life by creating something new over and over again.

Our bodies will fail us, our relationships will end, and there will come a day when everything we've worked for is washed away in a downpour of karmic rain.  But the objects of our affection are beautiful.  And they're worth having; even if we can't have them forever.

So, when life takes them away, we allow ourselves to grieve.  Like a spider, we retreat into our corner of the world for a while, but we don't stay there.  Eventually, we regroup and go back into the storm.  We have work to do.

Namu Amida Butsu

 If you enjoyed this essay, you'll love my book!

Lessons from a Spider Buddha


  1. Thank you for this instructive blog. I also allow spiders to live around my house (as opposed to killing them as many do) and often watch them as they go about their activities. Your spider reminded me of another spider in a poem by Walt Whitman:


    A noiseless patient spider,
    I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
    Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
    It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
    Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

    And you O my soul where you stand,
    Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
    Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
    Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
    Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

  2. Wondeful insight. There are a few spiders who live inside my home as well. Two are Daddy Long Legs. They live up high by the ceiling and light fixture. I have no idea what they are eating but they have been there several months, so they are eating something. We can learn so much from critters of all kinds. We just need to take the time to watch and learn.

  3. Yes, a good lesson when you want to just give up and retreat to the corner forever. But then you would die. What the "little things" can teach us! Thank you!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

3 Buddhist Practices for Creating Harmony

Sangha (community) is one of the three jewels of Buddhism.Buddha cultivated the practice of building community when he created the monastic order, and laid out rules which allowed his monks to live in harmony.

These rules have changed slightly as Buddhism has spread between different countries and sects.However, they are still a key part of practice.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for practitioners to recite the rules of their sangha together prior to a meditation retreat as a reminder of what is expected. This ensures that whether one is visiting the center for a couple of hours or a couple of years, they will have a quiet, contemplative space to train. That being said, it’s not just monastics who need to live and work peacefully together. Householder Buddhists who have bills, jobs, families, etc. also have a responsibility to build cohesive communities. Thankfully, there are several Buddhist practices that help lay Buddhists live harmoniously with their neighbors.Incorporating the followi…

Why We Don't Need More Angry Buddhists

A while back I read a book called, The Ape in the Corner Office by Richard Conniff.  In it, Conniff uses examples from the animal kingdom (everything from fish to primates) to explain why people do the strange things they do.  
For example, have you ever wondered why bosses can show up late to meetings, but their employees can't?
In short, showing up late is a dominance display.  He or She is the alpha of the office, and the meeting doesn't start until they get there.  
So, either consciously or subconsciously they're reinforcing their position in the group hierarchy each time they make people wait.  
In contrast, when an employee shows up early and puts a hot cup of coffee by the boss's chair, they're showing that they're both competent and respectful of the group dynamic.  These are important traits to have when it's time for year-end bonuses.
Reading the book was humbling because it reminded me that humans aren't as evolved as we think we are.  Many…

Literal vs. Symbolic Truth in Buddhist Practice

I grew up in the evangelical Christian church.  The word evangelical comes from the Greek word euangelion, which translates to "good news' or "the gospel.  In this case, the good news was that our souls had been saved by the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
So, we spent a lot of time at church talking about Jesus, hell, and all of the terrible things that would happen to us if we didn't accept him as our lord and savior.  
Again, this was "good news" because the only thing we had to do in order to avoid an afterlife of torment was to have an unbreakable faith both in Jesus and the holy bible.
We were told that we had to "act out" our faith in daily life both by recruiting friends and co-workers to come to church and by accepting the bible as the literal word of God.  Thus, the earth was created in six days, Noah put two of every animal on the ark, and the story of Genesis happened exactly as it was written; talking snake and all.
It …