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An Empty Cage and Five Swallow Children

Last year the front of our meditation hall needed to be plastered. The wall is quite high so that we needed to use a ladder to climb on, but there was an old bay tree standing in the way. The lay friends in our meditations center discussed the issue and decided to cut the tree down so that they would be able to execute their work.

When cutting down the bay tree, there was a nest of swallow birds falling down. Some of the swallow‘s children fell out of the nest. Fortunately, none of them got injured.

And here begins the story of the swallow‘s children and the swallow‘s nest!

After we had discovered the swallow‘s nest with the five swallow children, I decided to take care of the children together with their parents. I bought a bird‘s cage for the swallow‘s children, and I added a roof to it so that they would be safe from rain and sun. I let the door of the cage stand open at all times.

The swallow‘s children were still young and still had down feathers. They always rose their heads and asked for food whenever I passed by. The ate a lot and grew fast. I bought bird seeds with many different kinds of grains and fed the little birds. The mother of the birds also continued to hunt some prize to feed her children.

The swallows grew very fast. After about one week they had new feathers and their wings grew bigger day by day. During this whole time, I observed how the birds were growing. They were very intelligent. As soon as I came near them and talked to them, they answered and rose their heads. Obviously, they were able to differentiate between known and unknown persons, and they were able to recognize their own mother.

One mother nourishing five children has hard work to do! The children continuously want to eat. I think that thanks to my support the mother also had to work a little bit less. Every few minutes the mother brought pride to the nest, day by day – that is really hard work!

In any kind of living being, the dedication of mother and father is always immense. Parents rarely think of themselves, all their love is dedicated to their children. But it is not easy for a child to recognize this. We have to wait until we ourselves become a father or a mother to understand how big the love of our own parents really is. Only then we can be grateful and appreciate the love of our parents. But life is not always as we want it to be. It may be that our parents are no longer there when we begin to understand their love and that our words of gratitude will come too late.

When I fed the swallows and observed their nest, I discovered that the swallow‘s nest was always tidy and clean. I couldn‘t discover any excrements. And the swallow‘s children were growing fast. Sometimes I said to myself that they might only take in the food and don‘t secrete anything. That would explain how they could grow so fast and how the nest always stayed clean.

One day I coincidently observed how the swallow‘s mother flew to the nest, fed the children, and afterward took the excrements of the children out and cleaned the nest. So the mystery was solved: The swallow‘s children took in the food and afterward secrete the remains.

The birds are exactly like us human beings. The parents always want their children to be tidy and clean. Even though the outer form of living beings differs, in their innermost core we can find something very similar. Maybe that is what we call the „buddha nature“. That is why in the realm of truth, all living beings have equal rights. All beings have the right to live, to develop, and to have a place where they can stay. They have the right to live in freedom and to flower out according to their nature.

Human beings are only one out of many kinds of living beings on this planet. The expansion of mankind has led to the eradication of many other species, who so far had lived peacefully together on the body of our beloved mother earth.

I see that the continuation of human civilization is only ensured if we become aware of the equality of all species. If on the contrary, we destroy our natural environment, if we destroy ecosystems and the natural habitat of other species, then mother earth will need to teach us various lessons in the form of her anger. If we are not able to learn these lessons, one day perhaps mother earth will need to get rid of us human beings so that a new consciousness can arise that will fit better with mother earth.

There is no stronger force than the force of nature. Instead of trying to control nature, human beings should come back to nature and live in harmony with other species. Only if we can do this, there will be a future for our children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, the swallow‘s children had many new feathers and their wings had grown big. Slowly it got a bit narrow in the little nest. The swallow‘s children left their nest. They chose a new, more spacious, and more adventurous place to live.

This is a natural law. Who fledges without going through challenges? Who grows up without falling down? I have observed the swallows. After they had left their nest, no one of them ever came back.

They never came back to their nest, but that doesn‘t mean that they are not thankful for their source, that they don‘t remember the cozy time in the nest anymore. Maybe they don‘t come back because they now consider the wide blue sky and the abundant nature to be their new nest, their new home. Here they can fly around and play. Nothing can restrict or limit them.

The swallows never came back to their nest and to the cage that built for them. But I still wanted to let the cage stay at its place. Every time I pass by the cage, I remember the five swallow children. Five wonderful beings of the creation grew up here and spread their wings to start the very first flight of their life into the sky of freedom.

The word „freedom“ is sacred. Freedom means independence and responsibility. Freedom means happiness. I always wish that my home country will become a place of true freedom. Freedom of any ideology, of any theory, of any political party. I wish that the sky of peace, happiness, and loving-kindness will open widely day ba day. Only if there is freedom, the voice of democracy can rise. Only in freedom, there can be a promotion of society, true creativity, and long-lasting positive development in a society.

When I look at the empty cage, I feel happy. If you come to visit me one day, I will show you the cage that is still staying in the same place. The empty cage isn‘t a symbol of imprisonment, but a symbol of freedom and responsibility.

- Thay Phap Nhat

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