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Three Parables We Learned from Dr. Srikumar Rao


By: Team Better Together

Sometimes, the easiest way to see things from a different perspective is through a story. That’s why we LOVED the parables Dr. Rao shared with us on Episode 178 of Better Together with Maria Menounos. Here are three of our favorite tales and their takeaways from the episode.

The Second Arrow

In this Buddhist parable, the Buddha asks a student: “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replies that it is. The Buddha then asks: “If the person is struck by a second arrow in the same spot, is that even more painful?” The student again replies that, of course it is. The Buddha asks, “Why, then, do you shoot the second arrow?”

What does this mean, exactly? Well, Dr. Rao explained that story with another one: A son asks his mom if he can go out with friends and take her car, despite just recently getting his drivers license. The mom says no. The son keeps pushing, and finally the mom gives in after making him promise to stay safe. Later that night, the son gets drunk, breaking his promise, and gets into a life threatening car accident. One of the mom’s friends calls her and berates her for being a horrible mother, asking how she could possibly let her son go out unsupervised and saying that his accident was her fault. That’s a pretty horrible and unfair thing to say, right?

You’d be shocked to hear that coming from a friend, but not so shocked if you said it to yourself. Thus, when something bad happens in life, you should not shoot a second arrow at yourself to deepen your wounds. Rather, you should practice being kind and compassionate to yourself when something goes wrong, to begin the healing process rather than making it harder.

The Sufi Horseman

In this parable, there is a man and son who are very happy but very poor. The father decides he wants to make money by breeding horses, so he buys a stallion on borrowed money. The stallion runs away, and his neighbors come over and chastise him, saying how he thought he would become rich but instead he’s out money and a stallion. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?” The stallion ran off with wild horses, and the man was able to entice all of the horses to come back, making him a wealthy man. Now, his neighbors said how lucky and rich he was, but he again shrugged his shoulders and said, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?” As they were breaking the wild horses to sell, one horse threw the man’s son off its back causing the son’s leg to break and heal crooked. Once again, the neighbors came around saying what a shame this injury was, and once again he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?” Soon after, the country where the man lived and the neighboring country went to war. All the able bodied men in the village were rounded up to go fight, but the man’s son was left behind as his leg was crooked. The neighbors, upset about losing their sons, cried and said how lucky the man was, to which he replied, you guessed it, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

It goes on like this forever, but the moral of the story is this: can you think of something in your life that, at the time, you thought was horrible, but actually turned out to be a good thing? When facing something that you deem “bad,” ask yourself if there’s any possibility that, sometime in the future, you will deem this “good”? Then, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do proactively, right now, to make it good. Now, as Dr. Rao says, “You’ve moved seamlessly from the realm of despair to the realm of possibility.”

The Wolf and the Dog

Lastly, we have the parable of the wolf and the dog. Coming from Native American tradition, this story tells of a young tribe member about to join the ranks of the adults. The final step to do so is to have an interview with a medicine man. The medicine man says, “Here is a dog. It is intelligent, loving, kind and trustworthy. And here is a wolf – malevolent, vicious and ready to kill. The dog and the wolf are fighting and they are both inside you.” The young man asks which one will win, to which the medicine man replies, “Whichever one you feed.”

Put into practice, this reflects your positive and altruistic side and your negative and self serving side. Identify which of your impulses fit into each category, and try your best to selectively feed the dog and not the wolf. The same applies for everyone you interact with. Commiseration and venting can be helpful, but you also may be feeding the wolf in both yourself and others by fostering and spreading this negative energy. In every encounter you have, ask if you have fed the dog or the wolf in yourself and in the other person or people involved, and by feeding the dog you will improve the lives of yourself and those around you.

Jeff Graham

Jeff Graham

Jeffrey C. Graham is a writer, host, and producer living in Los Angeles, California. You’ve seen (or heard) his work on Sirius XM, AfterBuzz TV, and Earwolf, among other outlets. Jeff thinks of himself “intellectual,” but he’s a voracious fan of The Bachelor franchise, so perhaps not?

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