Simile of the Sleepy Two-Year-Old

I sat briefly in meditation this morning and, as usually happens, my mind conjured up random thoughts. Today I decided to develop one of the thoughts more thoroughly afterward my sitting, and below is the result. It is a simile, based loosely on the manner in which the Buddha would occasionally expound a lesson with a simile. It is meant to be mildly amusing while still making a point (one which I hope is not entirely lost by virtue of it being a horrible simile or something).

The Simile of the Sleepy Two-Year-Old

There are these four kinds of sleepy two-year-olds.

The first sleepy two-year-old when laid down for bed quietly stays in bed, under his blanket, and does not disobey his parents. He sleeps well and awakens in the morning in a good mood and full of energy.

The second sleepy two-year-old when laid down for bed stays in bed but wrestles and plays around on the blankets and eventually falls asleep on top of them. He may or may not sleep well, and may or may not awaken in the morning in a pleasant mood and full of energy.

The third sleepy two-year-old when laid down for bed jumps out of bed and plays in his room and is noisy. After being admonished by his parents, he eventually falls asleep in his parents’ bed. He may or may not sleep well, and may or may not awaken in the morning in a pleasant mood and full of energy.

The fourth sleepy two-year-old when laid down for bed refuses to stay in bed even when admonished. He plays and is noisy until he eventually falls asleep on the floor, uncovered. He does not sleep well and does not awaken in the morning in a pleasant mood and full of energy.

 The components of the simile are as follows: The sleepy two-year-old is a human being (not one in particular). The parents are the Buddha, the blanket the Dhamma, and the bed, the Sangha. Remaining quiet would be a term for restraining oneself in sensual pleasures, while being noisy and playing would then be a term for indulgence. Sleep is intended to be a term for death, and waking up in the morning for rebirth in the next life. Waking in the morning in a pleasant mood is a term for fortunate rebirth (perhaps in a heavenly realm), while not waking up in a pleasant mood would be an unfortunate rebirth (animal, hells, etc.). Waking up in the morning full of energy would be taking rebirth in a form in which all of the five sense faculties are functional (no birth defects). Otherwise would be … less functional…

Certainly this came to my mind because it relates to the chaotic behavior I’ve experienced in the last 9 years of child-raising. I’m not really sure if the simile “fits” perfectly, but it made me think a little about my behaviors and so I thought I would share in case it gives anyone else reason to contemplate.

Think about how much we are like any one of the four children in the simile… How often are we like the first child, doing as we are taught, living virtuously, giving unselfishly, and exercising restraint of our senses? Are we a more like the second, usually coming back where we ought to be but occasionally getting a bit distracted along the path? How about the third, who ends up following another path altogether? Or are we most akin to the fourth (who is essentially assured a poor fortune) who has little restraint and is altogether disinterested in the pursuit of the spiritual?

Think about it. Don’t hesitate to help me refine the simile a bit if you feel up to it, or to ask what I was thinking if it is too cryptic.

Please be well, friends!


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