Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Blind Men and the Elephant

A number of disciples went to the Buddha and said, "Sir, there are living here in Savatthi many wandering hermits and scholars who indulge in constant dispute, some saying that the world is infinite and eternal and others that it is finite and not eternal, some saying that the soul dies with the body and others that it lives on forever, and so forth. What, Sir, would you say concerning them?"

The Buddha answered, "Once upon a time there was a certain raja who called to his servant and said, 'Come, good fellow, go and gather together in one place all the men of Savatthi who were born blind... and show them an elephant.' 'Very good, sire,' replied the servant, and he did as he was told. He said to the blind men assembled there, 'Here is an elephant,' and to one man he presented the head of the elephant, to another its ears, to another a tusk, to another the trunk, the foot, back, tail, and tuft of the tail, saying to each one that that was the elephant.

"When the blind men had felt the elephant, the raja went to each of them and said to each, 'Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?'

"Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, 'Sire, an elephant is like a pot.' And the men who had observed the ear replied, 'An elephant is like a winnowing basket.' Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a grainery; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush.

"Then they began to quarrel, shouting, 'Yes it is!' 'No, it is not!' 'An elephant is not that!' 'Yes, it's like that!' and so on, till they came to blows over the matter.

"Brethren, the raja was delighted with the scene.

"Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing.... In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus."

Then the Exalted One rendered this meaning by uttering this verse of uplift,
O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim For preacher and monk the honored name! For, quarreling, each to his view they cling. Such folk see only one side of a thing.


There is a story about a princess who had a small eye problem that she felt was really bad. Being the king's daughter, she was rather spoiled and kept crying all the time. When the doctors wanted to apply medicine, she would invariably refuse any medical treatment and kept touching the sore spot on her eye. In this way it became worse and worse, until finally the king proclaimed a large reward for whoever could cure his daughter. After some time, a man arrived who claimed to be a famous physician, but actually was not even a doctor.

He declared that he could definitely cure the princess and was admitted to her chamber. After he had examined her, he exclaimed, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" "What is it?" the princess inquired. The doctor said, "There is nothing much wrong with your eye, but there is something else that is really serious." The princess was alarmed and asked, "What on earth is so serious?" He hesitated and said, "It is really bad. I shouldn't tell you about it." No matter how much she insisted, he refused to tell her, saying that he could not speak without the king's permission.

When the king arrived, the doctor was still reluctant to reveal his findings. Finally the king commanded, "Tell us what is wrong. Whatever it is, you have to tell us!" At last the doctor said, "Well, the eye will get better within a few days - that is no problem. The big problem is that the princess will grow a tail, which will become at least nine fathoms long. It may start growing very soon. If she can detect the first moment it appears, I might be able to prevent it from growing." At this news everyone was deeply concerned. And the princess, what did she do? She stayed in bed, day and night, directing all her attention to detecting when the tail might appear. Thus, after a few days, her eye got well.

This shows how we usually react. We focus on our little problem and it becomes the center around which everything else revolves. So far, we have done this repeatedly, life after life. We think, "My wishes, my interests, my likes and dislikes come first!" As long as we function on this basis, we will remain unchanged. Driven by impulses of desire and rejection, we will travel the roads of samsara without finding a way out. As long as attachment and aversion are our sources of living and drive us onward, we cannot rest.

From Daring Steps toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Buddhism, by Ringu Tulku Rinpoché

Monday, January 8, 2007

Krsa Gautami and the Mustard Seed

On day, when the rainy season had ended, Krsa Gautami, the wife of a rich man, was plunged deep into grief by the loss of her only son, a baby boy who had died just when he was old enough to run about.

In her grief Krsa carried the dead child to all her neighbors in Kapilavastu, asking them for medicine. Seeing her, the people shook their heads sadly out of pity.

"Poor woman! She has lost her senses from grief. The boy is beyond the help of medicine." Unable to accept the fact of her son's death, Krsa then wandered through the streets of the city beseeching for help everyone she met. "Please, sir," she said to a certain man, "give me medicine that will cure my boy!" The stranger looked at the child's eyes and saw that the boy was dead. "Alas, I have no medicine for your child," he said, "but I know of a physician who can give what you require. "Pray tell me, sir, where I can find this physician."

"Go, dear woman, to Sakyamuni, the Buddha, just now residing in Banyan Park." Krsa went in haste to the Nigrodharama; and she was brought by the monks to Buddha."Reverend Lord," she cried, "give me the medicine that will cure my boy!" Lord Buddha, Ocean of Infinite Compassion, looked upon the grief-stricken mother with pity."You have done well to come here for medicine, Krsa Gautami. Go into the city and get a handful of mustard seed." And then the Perfect One added: "The mustard seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend."

"Yes, Lord!" exclaimed Krsa, greatly cheered. "I shall procure the mustard seed at once! "Poor Krsa then went from house to house with her request; and the people pitied her, saying: "Here is the mustard seed: please take all you want of it.

"Then Krsa would ask: "Did a son or daughter, father or mother, die in your family?"Alas! The living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief!"And there was no house but that some relative, some dear one, had died in it.

Weary and with hope gone, Krsa sat down by the wayside, sorrowfully watching the lights of the city as they flickered up and were extinguished again, And at last the deep shadows of night plunged the world into darkness. Considering the fate of human beings, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished again, the bereft mother suddenly realized that Buddha, in his compassion, had sent her forth to learn the truth.

"How selfish am I in my grief!" she thought. "Death is universal: yet even in this valley of death there is a Path that leads to Deathlessness [for] him who has surrendered all thought of self!" Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Krsa Gautami went to the edge of a forest and tenderly laid the dead body in a drift of wildflowers.

"Little son," she said, taking the child by the hand, "I thought that death had happened to you alone; but it is not to you alone, it is common to all people."There she left him; and when dawn brightened the eastern sky, she returned to the Perfect One.

"Krsa Gautami," said the Tathagata, "did you get a handful of mustard seed from a house in which no one has ever lost kith or kin?"That, Lord, is now past and gone," she said. "Grant me support."

"Dear girl, the life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and inseparable from suffering," declared Buddha, "for there is not any means, nor will there ever be, by which those that have been born can avoid dying. All living beings are of such a nature that they must die whether they reach old age or not. "As early-ripening fruits are in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of dying. Just as the earthen vessels made by the potter end in shards, so is the life of mortals. Both young and old, both those who are foolish and those who are wise - all fall into the power of death, all are subject to death.

Of those who depart from this life, overcome by death, a father cannot save his son, nor relatives their kinsfolk. While relatives are looking on and lamenting, one by one the mortals are carried off like oxen to the slaughter. People die, and their fate after death will be according to their deeds. Such are the terms of the world. "Not from weeping nor from grieving will anyone obtain peace of mind. On the contrary, his pain will be all the greater, and he will ruin his health. He will make himself sick and pale; but dead bodies cannot be restored by his lamentation.

"Now that you have heard the Tathagata, Krsa, reject grief, do not allow it to enter your mind. Seeing one dead, know for sure: 'I shall never see him again in this existence.' And just as the fire of a burning house is quenched, so does the contemplative wise person scatter grief's power, expertly, swiftly, even as the wind scatters cotton seed.

"He who seeks peace should pull out the arrow lamentations, useless longings, and the self-made pangs of grief. He who has removed this unwholesome arrow and has calmed himself will obtain peace of mind. Verily, he who has conquered grief will always be free from grief - sane and immune - confident, happy, and close to Nirvana, I say."

Then Krsa Gautami won the stage of Entering-the-Stream, and shortly afterwards she became an Arhat [found Nirvana for herself]. She was the first woman to have attained Nirvana under the dispensation of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Releasing the Cows - Told by Master Thich Nhat Hanh

One day the Buddha was sitting in the wood with thirty or forty monks. They had an excellent lunch and they were enjoying the company of each other. There was a farmer passing by and the farmer was very unhappy. He asked the Buddha and the monks whether they had seen his cows passing by. The Buddha said they had not seen any cows passing by.

The farmer said, "Monks, I'm so unhappy. I have twelve cows and I don't know why they all ran away. I have also a few acres of a sesame seed plantation and the insects have eaten up everything. I suffer so much I think I am going to kill myself.

The Buddha said, "My friend, we have not seen any cows passing by here. You might like to look for them in the other direction."

So the farmer thanked him and ran away, and the Buddha turned to his monks and said, "My dear friends, you are the happiest people in the world. You don't have any cows to lose. If you have too many cows to take care of, you will be very busy.

"That is why, in order to be happy, you have to learn the art of cow releasing (laughter). You release the cows one by one. In the beginning you thought that those cows were essential to your happiness, and you tried to get more and more cows. But now you realize that cows are not really conditions for your happiness; they constitute an obstacle for your happiness. That is why you are determined to release your cows."

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Monkey King

There was once a king, a monkey king in fact, he has his kingdom in the deep deep forest and he was crowned king because of his size, kindness and being the wisest monkey in the forest. One sunny day, the monkey king was strolling by the riverside and he noticed a few huge mango trees. The king ordered the little follower monkeys to remove every single mango from the tree and said that, it would lead to disaster if it is not removed. The monkeys did remove all the mango as told and wondering what’s in the king’s mind. All mangos are removed except 1 which the monkeys failed to notice.

This mango grew big and the ripen and was ready to eat, one day the mango being too ripe, fell off the tree and washed away down stream as the river flows. It had flowed so far, until it reaches the front of the kingdom where the human king happens to pass through and notice it. The human king noticed that the delicious taste of the mango is seductive enough to crave for more.

On the next day, the human king together with all his troops and body guards, went all the way upstream in search for these delicious mango. The king then trespassed the monkey king’s kingdom and being the selfish him, he asked his troops to kill the monkeys in order not to share the mango with anyone.

Thousands monkeys killed and chased away to the edge of the forest, where there has a deep cliff that the monkeys need to pass in order to reach the other side. The monkey king noted that it is impossible for his little monkey to cross the cliff except for him of course due to his size.
By using his huge body, he used it to form a bridge for the little monkeys to cross over and thousands of monkeys stepped on him in order to crossover the cliff. One monkey who wanted to be on the throne of the king, saw this opportunity to step up the throne, as the monkey is crossing and stepping over the monkey king's body, he took a spear and pierced it through the monkey king's heart. The pain created was totally unbearable, just imagine the pain it cost, the monkey king screamed and screamed in pain but he had to endure all the pain until every single of all his subjects were on the safe side of the cliff before he collapsed.

The human king being shocked by witnessed the whole process of how the king sacrifice himself to help his subjects. He felt so touched and he ordered his troops to save the monkey king. When the Monkey King later recovered, the human king was so touched, from that day onwards he decided from to be a good and ordered the monkeys across the cliff to be protected from harm from that day onwards.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Relying on Joy - As told by Sogyal Rinpoche - The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

At the time of Buddha, there lived an old beggar woman called "Relying on Joy". She used to watch the kings, princes, and people making offerings to Buddha and his disciples, and there was nothing she would have liked more than to be able to do the same. So she went out begging, but at the end of a whole day all she had was one small coin. She took it to the oil-merchant to try to buy some oil. He told her that she could not possibly buy anything with so little. But when he heard that she wanted it to make an offering to Buddha, he took pity on her and gave her the oil she wanted. She took it to the monastery, where she lit a lamp. She placed it before Buddha, and made this wish:"I have nothing to offer but this tiny lamp. But through this offering, in the future may I be blessed with the lamp of wisdom. May I free all beings from their darkness. May I purify all their obstructions, and lead them to enlightenment."

That night the oil in all the other lamps went out. But the beggar woman's lamp was still burning at dawn, when Buddha's disciple Maudgalyayana came to collect all the lamps. When he saw that one was still alight, full of oil and with a new wick, he thought,"There's no reason why this lamp should still be burning in the day time," and he tried to blow it out. But it kept on burning. He tried to snuff it out with his fingers, but it stayed alight. He tried to smother it with his robe, but still it burned on. The Buddha had been watching all along, and said,"Maudgalyayana, do you want to put out that lamp? You cannot. You cannot even move it, let alone put it out. If you were to pour the water from all ocean over this lamp, it still wouldn't go out. The water in all the rivers and the lakes of the world could not extinguish it. Why not? Because this lamp was offered with devotion and with purity of heart and mind. And that motivation has made it of tremendous benefit." When Buddha had said this, the beggar woman approached him, and he made a prophesy that in the future she would become a perfect buddha, call "Light of the Lamp."

So it is our motivation, good or bad, that determines the fruit of our actions.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Urn with Butter and The Urn with Stones

Many years back, at one time, there was this priests that were charging money for ritual prayers and he promised that all the rituals that he performed will release the soul of a dead relative from hell and would be able to reach the stairs to heaven.

In the ritual, the priests are supposed to strike an urn filled with stones with a hammer and if the urn broke, the stones will fell out and it was suppose to be a sign that these soul was released from the hell realm, according to the priests. Frankly speaking, how can a clay urn withstand the blow of a heavy metal hammer?

A young Buddhist, sad over his uncle's recent death, went to Lord Buddha and asked him for similar ritual which can release his poor uncle's soul from hell. Lord Buddha asked him to get two ritual urns from the priests, one to be filled with butter and the other urn with stones.
The young Buddhist believed that he was getting a far more powerful ritual, was very happy and excited and did as Lord Buddha requested.

He then returned with the two urns from the priests, Lord Buddha asked him to carefully place both the urns in the river, and the rim of both the urn has to be just below the surface. Lord Buddha also instructed him to recite the prayer that the priests recite during rituals, and strike both the urns under the water with a metal hammer, at the usual point in the ritual and the young man must go back and describe to Lord Buddha on what happen.

The young Buddhist being tremendously excited as he will be the first person to be taught this powerful new ritual, did exactly as he instructed by Lord Buddha. After the ritual, on his return, Lord Buddha asked him to describe what happened and what did he saw.

The young man replied, “Nothing unusual, when I struck the urns with the metal hammer, the stones fell out from the broken urn and sank to the bottom of the river and when I hit the urn filled butter, the butter floated on the surface of the river and was washed away."

Lord Buddha said, you must ask the priests to come and pray so that the butter will sink to the bottom of the river and the stones shall float to the surface! The young man, was shocked by ridiculousness of the request answered, "But Lord, no matter how good the priests is, it is impossible for the stones to float and the butter to sink."

Lord Buddha replied, "Exactly! And will be the same with your uncle.” Whatever good deeds and loving actions that he did during his lifetime will ensure him to rise to heaven, and whatever bad and selfish actions he has made this lifetime will make him sank towards hell realm.

There is no such prayer or rituals of anyone can do to alter even small a tiny part of the results of his actions on this lifetime!