Sunday, February 3, 2013

I am under no obligation to teach you...

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The Cula-Malunkyovada Sutra

or Poisoned Arrow Sutra






Once upon a time the Buddha and a number of his disciples and followers were staying at a monastery, and the venerable Malunkyaputta was with him, training very diligently. As he was sitting in meditation the following thoughts came to him :

The Buddha has left quite a few important questions unanswered :
  • Is the Universe eternal, or is it not ?”
  • is the Universe infinite or finite? “
  • Are soul and body the same thing, or are they different ? “
  • After death does one exist, or does one not exist, or does one exist and does not exist at the same time, or does one neither exists nor does not exist ?”

I really do not approve that he does not take a clear position on these questions, and I'm going to ask him about these matters !
If he actually takes a clear position on these, then I will keep training under him. But if he does not take a clear position, then, I'm out of there !


So that evening, Malunkyaputta came out of his retreat. He went to the Buddha, bowed to him, sat beside him, and he asked : “Lord, as I was sitting in Meditation, that is what came to me :

I am not happy with the fact that you do not take position about a number of questions. So if you give me a clear answer about the question of the eternity of the Universe, or about existence or non-existence after death, then I will keep training under you. But if you don't, I'll quit and leave.

Lord, if You know whether the Universe is eternal or not, then tell me. But if you don't know, be straightforward about it and admit 'I don't know, I don't see'...
If you don't know whether there is a life after death or not, then be straightforward about it and tell me 'I don't know, I don't see.'”


The Buddha answered :

"Malunkyaputta, did I ever tell you, 'Come, and train with me, and I will tell you whether the Universe is or is not eternal or finite, and also whether there is life or not, or both, or neither, after death ?

"No, lord."


"And did you ever say to me, 'Lord, I'll train under you and in return you will tell me whether the Universe is or is not eternal or finite, and also whether after death there is existence, or not, or both, or neither ?

"No, lord."

"Well if that is the case, what possesses you moron to think you are entitled to demand anything from anyone ?

"Malunkyaputta, if anyone were to say, 'I won't train under the Buddha until he tells me that the Universe is eternal, or not... or that after death there is a life – or not;” this person would die before the Buddha would answer those questions.

Imagine that a man is wounded by a poisoned arrow and a surgeon is called to extract the arrow. And imagine that this man does not want the arrow removed until he knows everything about the man and the weapon that wounded him : the caste his aggressor belongs to, his given & clan names, his size, the color of his skin, his home town; whether he used a long bow or crossbow, the exact material of the bowstring, the nature of the arrow's shaft and feathers, the exact shape of the arrow head, and the way it is mounted... Well then ! This man would just die before he'd learn anything about these matters !

"In the same way, if anyone were to say, 'I won't train under the Buddha as long as he does not tell me whether the Universe is eternal or not, and if after death one's soul goes on or not, ' this man would die before the Buddha would answer these questions !

"Malunkyaputta, You don't have to know whether the universe is eternal or not in order to practice. No matter the answer to this question, there are still birth, aging and death, there are sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair & distress, and my teaching is about ending them.

And it is also true for the other questions : Whether the Universe is finite or not, whether soul and body are the same or different, whether there is existence or not, or both, or neither after death. No matter the answers to these questions, there is birth, aging and death, there is sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair, & distress and my teaching is about ending them.

"So, Malunkyaputta, keep in mind which questions I left unanswered, and which ones I answered. I did not say anything about the infinity or the eternity of the Universe, I did not say whether Soul and Body are or are not the same, and I did not say anything about a continuation of existence or lack of it, or both, or neither, after death.

And the reason I did not say anything about these things is that it would not help. Knowing about these things would not free you. And this is why I did not say anything about this.

And what is it that I teach ? I teach about suffering, about the cause of suffering, about the cessation of suffering, and about the path that leads to this cessation of suffering. And the reason I teach about this is that these teachings are fundamental to achieve our goal and realize our practice. These teachings and practice will free you.

"So, Malunkyaputta, remember which things I did not speak about, and which things I did.

Malunkyaputta was delighted and went back to his cushion.



Comments :

Beside the parabola of the poisoned arrow, which does not need any comment, as it is very eloquent, I see 2 important points made by the Buddha in this sutra.

When the Buddha asks : "Malunkyaputta, did I ever tell you, 'Come, and train with me, and I will tell you whether the Universe is or is not eternal or finite, and also whether there is life or not, or both, or neither, after death ? “ He is basically asking him if he ever asked him to become his student.

When he later asks him : "And did you ever say to me, 'Lord, I'll train under you and in return you will tell me whether the Universe is or is not eternal or finite, and also whether after death there is existence, or not, or both, or neither ? “, He is basically asking him if Malunkyaputta ever asked him to become his teacher.

To both questions, the answer is “No Lord”.

So basically, Malunkyaputta is under no obligation to be Buddha's student, and Buddha is under no obligation to be his teacher.

And this is important. Practically, back to our 21st century, this means that when you do your best to teach Zen or Martial Arts, or anything else, put you r heart in it, give of your time and energy for this, students should have the decency to follow your directions without questioning you too much. And if they don't, I suggest you remind them that you are under no obligation to teach them, and that they are under no obligation to stay.


Said in a different way : “The door is open. “





I did not say that, the Buddha did ! 



 

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