A master took his two students into a forest. There he took a hollow coconut with a small hole and inserted sweet rice. Then he tied it to a tree and waited with his students nearby. Soon, a monkey came along, sniffed the rice, inserted his paw, and screeched in frustration when he was unable to withdraw his paw (now a fist clenching the rice) through the narrow opening.
“Let go of the rice, silly! Run!” shouted the students, amazed by its obvious stupidity, but to no avail.
“What was the trap that caught the monkey?” asked the master.
“Rice,” said one student.
“The coconut,” said another.
“No,” replied the wise master, “The trap was greed - he only had to let go of his attachment to be free. Likewise, we are the ones who trap ourselves. We are always responsible. The real trap is always within, not out there. The causes of suffering are in us. External situations are only conditions.”
With that, he hacked the coconut open, and the unrepentant monkey ran away with a fistful of rice.
Don’t be like the monkey. What is in your monkey fist that you still hold on to?