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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

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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!


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