Just a Fly in My Tea

"On this particular afternoon a fly fell into my tea.  This was, of course, a minor occurrence.  After a year in India I considered myself to be unperturbed by insects -- by ants in the sugar bin, spiders in the cupboard, and even scorpions in my shoes in the morning.  Still, as I lifted my cup, I must have registered, by my facial expression, or a small grunt, the presence of the fly.  Choegyal Rinpoche, the eighteen-year-old tulku leaned forward in sympathy and consternation.

"What is the matter?"

"Oh, nothing," I said.  "It's nothing -- just a fly in my tea."  I laughed lightly to convey my acceptance and composure.  I did not want him to suppose that mere insects were a problem for me; after all, I was a seaseoned India-wallah, relatively free of Western phobias and attachments to modern sanitation.

Choegyal crooned softly, in apparent commiseration with my plight, "Oh, oh, a fly in the tea."

"It's no problem," I reiterated, smiling at him reassuringly.  But he continued to focus great concern on my cup.  Rising from his chair, he leaned over and inserted his finger into my tea.  With great care he lifted out the offending fly -- and then exited from the room.  The conversation at the table resumed.  I was eager to secure Khamtul Rinpoche's agreement on plans to secure the high-altitude wool he desired for the carpet production.

When Choegyal Rinpoche reentered the cottage he was beaming.  "He is going to be all right," he told me quietly. He explained how he had placed the fly on the leaf of a branch of a bush by the door, where his wings could dry.  And the fly was still alive, because he began fanning his wings, and we cold confidently expect him to take flight soon...

That is what I remember of that afternoon -- not the agreements we reached or plans we devised, but Choegyal's report that the fly would live.  And I recall, too, the laughter in my heart.  I could not, truth to tell, share Choegyal's dimensions of compassion, but the pleasure in his face revealed how much I was missing by not extending my self-concern to all beings, even to flies.  Yet the very notion that it was possible gave me boundless delight."

-- Joanna Macy