Once, a famous teacher was returning home from an important lecture he had just delivered to a
group of esteemed colleagues, and was absorbed in the accolades he had received. His route took him
along a beach-side boardwalk where something caught his eye. A young boy on the beach was building the largest and most elaborate sand castle the teacher had ever seen. The child was respectfully
scooping the sand up in his hands, then patting it firmly yet gently into place. He had carefully created
towers and turrets, dug a moat, and raised flags, in total absorption.
When the boy completed his impressive work of art, he rested back on the sand, appearing to
admire his own work. Then, suddenly, he leapt forward, jumped on the castle, smashed it down,
spread it over the sand, and watched as wave after wave washed away any evidence of its existence. It
was as though the castle had never existed.
The teacher was shocked.
What a waste! Why should such an achievement be obliterated? Why would a creator destroy his own work?
He walked across the beach and asked the boy, “Why do youspend so much time and effort building such a huge and elaborate castle only to break it down?”
“My parents have asked me the same question,” confided the boy. “My mother sees something
very symbolic in it, but then that is my mother. She tells me that each grain of sand is like each aspect
of humanity. Together they can form something impressive but, when we forget about our relationships
with others and try to exist like a solitary grain of sand, something is destroyed in much
the same way that I destroy a castle, or that the ocean breaks it up into millions of pieces and disperses
it along the beach.
“My father says it is a way of learning about life. Nothing lasts forever. Like sand castles, everything
is created and destroyed, exists and vanishes, is impermanent. When we appreciate this we can
begin to enjoy the time that we have available. He says that building sand castles is a way that children
intuitively come to learn and understand these important lessons of life.
“For me?” asked the boy. “For me, I am just playing. I just want to enjoy what I am doing and
The lecturer untied his shoelaces and cast aside his footwear. He peeled off his socks and rolled up his trousers. He un-knotted his tie and sat down beside the boy, asking, “May I stay and play with you?