One should discern what is of the most
importance to oneself (Parable)
Suppose a man were pierced by a poisoned arrow, and his relatives and friends got together to call a surgeon to have the arrow pulled out and the wound treated.
If the wounded man objects, saying, “Wait a little. Before you pull it out, I want to know who shot this arrow. Was it a man or a woman? Was it someone of noble birth, or was it a peasant? What was the bow made of? Was it a big bow, or a small bow, that shot the arrow? Was it made of wood or bamboo? What was the bowstring made of? Was it made of fiber, or of gut? Was the arrow made of rattan, or of reed? What feathers were used? Before you extract the arrow, I want to know all about these things.” Then what will happen?
Before all this information can be secured, no doubt, the poison will have time to circulate all through the system and the man may die. The first duty is to remove the arrow, and prevent its poison from spreading.
When a fire of passion is endangering the world, the composition of the universe matters little; what is the ideal form for the human community is not so important to deal with.
The question of whether the universe has limits or is eternal can wait until some way is found to extinguish the fires of birth, old age, sickness and death; in the presence of misery, sorrow, suffering and agony, one should first search for a way to solve these problems and devote oneself to the practice of that way.
The Buddha’s teaching contains what is important to know and not what is unimportant. That is, it teaches people that they must learn what they should learn, remove what they should remove, train for what they should become enlightened about.
Therefore, people should first discern what is the most important, what problem should be solved first and what is the most pressing issue for them. To do all this, they must first undertake to train their minds; that is, they must first seek mind-control.
Be careful of your first steps
Those who seek Enlightenment must be careful of their each step. No matter how high one’s aspiration may be, it must be attained step by step. The steps of the path to Enlightenment must be taken in our everyday life.
Do not forget what you are seeking
Suppose a man goes to the forest to get some of the pith that grows in the center of a tree and returns with a burden of branches and leaves, thinking that he has secured what he went after; would he not be foolish, if he is satisfied with the bark, wood for the pith which he was after? But that is what many people are doing.
A person seeks a path that will lead him away from birth, old age, sickness and death, or from misery, sorrow, suffering and agony; and yet, he follows the path a little way, notices some little advance, and immediately becomes proud and conceited and domineering. He is like the man who sought pith and went away satisfied with a burden of branches and leaves.
Another man becoming satisfied with the progress he has made by a little effort, relaxes his effort and becomes proud and conceited; he is carrying away only a load of branches instead of the pith he was seeking.
Still another man finding that his mind is becoming calmer and his thoughts clearer, he, too, relaxes his effort and becomes proud and conceited; he has a burden of the bark instead of the pith he was looking for.
Then again, another man becomes proud and conceited because he notices that he has gained a measure of intuitive insight; he has a load of the woody fiber of the tree instead of the pith. All of these seekers, who become easily satisfied by their insufficient effort and become proud and over-bearing, relax their efforts and easily fall into idleness. All these people will inevitably face suffering again.
Those who seek the true path to Enlightenment must not expect any offer of respect, honor or devotion. And further, they must not aim with a slight effort, at a trifling advance in calmness or knowledge or insight.
First of all, one should get clearly in mind the basic and essential nature of this world of life and death.
To attain success in anything, one should
endure many a hardship (Story).
Once there was a person who sought the True Path in the Himalayas. He cared nothing for all the treasures of the earth or even for all the delights of heaven, but he sought the teaching that would remove all mental delusions.
The gods were impressed by the man’s earnestness and sincerity and decided to test his mind. So one of the gods disguised himself as a demon and appeared in the Himalayas, singing: “Everything changes, everything appears and disappears.”
The seeker heard this song which pleased him very much. He was as delighted as if he had found a spring of cool water for his thirst or as if a slave had been unexpectedly set free. He said to himself, “At last I have found the true teaching that I have sought for so long.” He followed the voice and at last came upon the frightful demon. With an uneasy mind he approached the demon and said: “Was it you who sang the holy song that I have just heard? If it was you, please sing more of it.”
The demon replied: “Yes, it was my song, but I can not sing more of it until I have had something to eat; I am starving.”
The man begged him very earnestly to sing more of it, saying: “It has a sacred meaning to me and I have sought its teaching for a long time. I have only heard a part of it; please let me hear more.”
The demon said again: “I am starving, but if I can taste the warm flesh and blood of a man, I will finish the song.”
The man, in his eagerness to hear the teaching, promised the demon that he could have his body after he had heard the teaching. Then the demon sang the complete song.
Everything appears and disappears,
There is perfect tranquility
When one transcends both life and extinction.
Hearing this, the man, after he wrote the poem on
rocks and trees around, quietly climbed a tree and hurled
himself to the feet of the demon, but the demon had disappeared
and, instead, a radiant god received the body of
the man unharmed.
Brace yourself, even in the face of
repeated failures (Story)
Once there was a prince who was skillful in the use of the five weapons. One day he was returning home from his practice and met a monster whose skin was invulnerable.
The monster started for him but nothing daunted the prince. He shot an arrow at him which fell harmless. Then he threw his spear which failed to penetrate the thick skin. Then he threw a bar and a javelin but they failed to hurt the monster. Then he used his sword but the sword broke. The prince attacked the monster with his fists and feet but to no purpose, for the monster clutched him in his giant arms and held him fast. Then the prince tried to use his head as a weapon but in vain.
The monster said, “It is useless for you to resist; I am going to devour you.” But the prince answered, “You may think that I have used all my weapons and am helpless, but I still have one weapon left. If you devour me, I will destroy you from the inside of your stomach.”
The courage of the prince disturbed the monster and he asked, “How can you do that?” The prince replied, “By the power of the Truth.”
Then the monster released him and begged for his instruction in the Truth. The teaching of this fable is to encourage disciples to persevere in their efforts and to be undaunted in the face of many set backs.
Do not let your mind be disturbed even
under unsatisfactory circumstances (Story)
Once there was a rich widow who had a reputation for kindness, modesty and courtesy. She had a housemaid who was wise and diligent.
One day the maid thought: “My mistress has a very good reputation; I wonder whether she is good by nature, or is good because of her surroundings. I will try her and find out.”
The following morning the maid did not appear before her mistress until nearly noon. The mistress was vexed and scolded her impatiently. The maid replied: “If I am lazy for only a day or two, you ought not to become impatient.” Then the mistress became angry.
The next day the maid got up late again. This made the mistress very angry and she struck the maid with a stick. This incident became widely known and the rich widow lost her good reputation.
Those who understand and follow the
Noble Path are like going into darkness
Following the Noble Path is like entering a dark room with a light in the hand: the darkness will all be cleared away and the room will be filled with light.
People who understand the meaning of the Noble Truths and have learned to follow the Noble Path are in possession of the light of wisdom that will clear away the darkness of ignorance.
One will find teachings for human life
wherever one goes (Story)
Once there was a boy named Sudhana who also wished for Enlightenment and earnestly sought the way. From a fisherman he learned the lore of the sea. From a doctor he learned compassion toward sick people in their suffering. From a wealthy man he learned that saving pennies was the secret of his fortune and thought how necessary it was to conserve every trifling gained on the path to Enlightenment.
From a meditating monk he learned that the pure and peaceful mind had a miraculous power to purify and tranquilize other minds. Once he met a woman of exceptional personality and was impressed by her benevolent spirit, and from her he learned a lesson that charity was the fruit of wisdom. Once he met an aged wanderer who told him that to reach a certain place he had to scale a mountain of swords and pass through a valley of fire. Thus Sudhana learned from his experiences that there was true teaching to be gained from everything he saw or heard.
He learned patience from a poor, crippled woman; he learned a lesson of simple happiness from watching children playing in the street; and from some gentle and humble people, who never thought of wanting anything that anybody else wanted, he learned the secret of living at peace with all the world.
He learned a lesson of harmony from watching the blending of the elements of incense, and a lesson of thanksgiving from the arrangement of flowers. One day, passing through a forest, he took a rest under a noble tree and noticed a tiny seedling growing near by out of a fallen and decaying tree and it taught him a lesson of the uncertainty of life.
Sunlight by day and the twinkling stars by night constantly refreshed his spirit. Thus Sudhana profited by the experiences of his long journey.
Indeed, those who seek for Enlightenment must think of their minds as castles and decorate them. They must open wide the gates of their minds for Buddha, and respectfully and humbly invite Him to enter the inmost chamber, there to offer Him the fragrant incense of faith and the flowers of gratitude and gladness.
Human beings tend to move in the
direction their mind directs them
Human beings tend to move in the direction of their thoughts. If they harbor greedy thoughts, they become more greedy; if they think angry thoughts, they become more angry; if they hold foolish thoughts, their feet move in that direction.
At harvest time farmers keep their herds confined, lest they break through the fences into the field and give cause for complaint or for being killed; so people must closely guard their minds against dishonesty and misfortune. They must eliminate thoughts that stimulate greed, anger and foolishness, but encourage thoughts that stimulate charity and kindness.
When spring comes and the pastures have an abundance of green grass, farmers turn their cattle loose; but even then they keep a close watch over them. It is so with the minds of people: even under the best of conditions the mind will bear watching.
Various states of the mind (Fable)
There is no one way to get free from the trap of worldly passions. Suppose you caught a snake, a crocodile, a bird, a dog, a fox and a monkey, six creatures of very different natures, and you tie them together with a strong rope and let them go. Each of these six creatures will try to go back to its own lair by its own method: the snake will seek a covering of grass, the crocodile will seek water, the bird will want to fly in the air, the dog will seek a village, the fox will seek the solitary ledges, and the monkey will seek the trees of a forest. In the attempt of each to go its own way there will be a struggle, but, being tied together by a rope, the strongest at any one time will drag the rest.
Like the creatures in this parable, people are tempted in different ways by the desires of their six senses, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch and mind, and is controlled by the predominant desire.
If the six creatures are all tied to a post, they will try to get free until they are tired out, and then will lie down by the post. Just like this, if people will train and control the mind there will be no further trouble from the other five senses. If the mind is under control people will have happiness both now and in the future.
The mind is not the ego-personality
If the mind were an ego-personality, it could do this and that as it would determine; but the mind often flies from what it knows is right and chases after evil reluctantly. Still, nothing seems to happen exactly as its ego desires.
Conquer your mind
“Oh my mind! Why do you hover so restlessly over the changing circumstances of life? Why do you make me so confused and restless? Why do you urge me to collect so many things? You are like a plow that breaks in pieces before beginning to plow; you are like a rudder that is dismantled just as you are venturing out on the sea of life and death. Of what use are many rebirths if we do not make good use of this life? ”
“Oh my mind! Once you caused me to be born as a king, and then you caused me to be born as an outcast and to beg for my food. Sometimes you cause me to be born in heavenly mansions of the gods and to dwell in luxury and in ecstasy; then you plunge me into the
“Oh, my foolish, foolish mind! Thus you have led me along different paths and I have been obedient to you and docile. But now that I have heard the Buddha’s teaching, do not disturb me any more or cause me further sufferings, but let us seek Enlightenment together, humbly and patiently.”
“Oh, my mind! If you could only learn that everything is non-substantial and transitory; if you could only learn not to grasp after things, not to covet things, not to give way to greed, anger and foolishness; then we might journey in quietness. Then, by severing the bond of desires with the sword of wisdom, being undisturbed by changing circumstances - advantage or disadvantage, good or bad, loss or gain, praise or abuse - we might dwell in peace.”
“Oh, my dear mind! It was you who first awakened faith in us; it was you who suggested our seeking Enlightenment. Why do you give way so easily to greed, love of comfort and pleasant excitement again? ”
“Oh, my mind! Why do you rush hither and thither with no definite purpose? Let us cross this wild sea of delusion. Hitherto I have acted as you wished, but now you must act as I wish and, together, we will follow the Buddha’s teaching.”
“Oh, my dear mind! These mountains, rivers and seas are changeable and pain-producing. Where in this world of delusion shall we seek quietness? Let us follow the Buddha’s teaching and cross over to the other shore of Enlightenment.”
Be the master of your mind
“My disciples, the teachings that I have given you are never to be forgotten or abandoned. They are always to be treasured, they are to be thought about, they are to be practiced. If you follow these teachings you will always be happy.
The point of the teachings is to control your own mind. Keep your mind from greed, and you will keep your behavior right, your mind pure and your words faithful. By always thinking about the transiency of your life, you will be able to resist greed and anger, and will be able to avoid all evils.
If you find your mind tempted and so entangled in greed, you must suppress and control the temptation; be the master of your own mind.
A man’s mind may make him a Buddha, or it may make him a beast. Misled by error, one becomes a demon; enlightened, one becomes a Buddha. Therefore, control your mind and do not let it deviate from the right path.”
The relation of mind and words
As to the suitability of words to be used there are five pairs of antonyms: words that are suitable to their occasions and those not so suitable to theirs; words that fit the facts and those that don’t fit; words that sound pleasant and those that sound rude; words that are beneficial
and those that are harmful; and words that are sympathetic and those that are hateful.
Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. If our minds are filled with sympathy and compassion, they will be resistant to the evil words we hear. We must not let wild words pass our lips lest they arouse feelings of anger and hatred. The words we speak should always be words of sympathy and wisdom.
This body is nothing but a borrowed thing
Once upon a time a man was traveling alone. He came to a vacant house toward the evening and decided to spend the night there. About midnight a demon brought in a corpse and left it on the floor. Shortly, another demon appeared and claimed the corpse as his and they quarreled over it.
Then the first demon said it was useless to argue about it further and proposed that they refer it to a judge to decide the possessor. The other demon agreed to this and, seeing the man cowering in the corner, asked him to decide the ownership. The man was terribly frightened, for he well knew that whatever decision he might make would anger the demon that lost and that the losing demon would seek revenge and kill him, but he decided to tell truthfully just what he had witnessed.
As he expected, this angered the second demon who grabbed one of the man’s arms and tore it off, but the first demon replaced the arm with one taken from the corpse. The angry demon tore away the man’s other arm, but the first demon immediately replaced that with the other arm of the corpse. And so it went on until both arms, both legs, the head and the body had been successively torn away and replaced with the corresponding parts of the corpse. Then the two demons, seeing the parts of the man scattered about on the floor, picked them up and devoured them and went away chuckling.
The poor man who had taken refuge in the deserted house was very much upset by his misfortunes. The parts of his body which the demons had eaten were the parts his parents had given him, and the parts that he now had belonged to the corpse. Who was he, anyway? Realizing all the facts, he was unable to figure it out and, becoming crazy, he wandered out of the house. Coming to a temple, he went in and told his troubles to the monks. People could see the true meaning of selflessness in his story.
Keep the body, mouth and mind pure
Those who seek the way of Enlightenment must always bear in mind the necessity of constantly keeping their body, speech and mind pure. To keep the body pure one must not kill any living creature, one must not steal or commit adultery. To keep speech pure one must not lie, or abuse, or deceive, or indulge in idle talk. To keep the mind pure one must remove all greed, anger and false judgment.
Be impartial and try hard (Story)
There was a young man named Srona who was born in a wealthy family but was of delicate health. He was very earnest to gain Enlightenment and became a disciple of the Blessed One. On the path to Enlightenment, he tried so hard that finally his feet bled.
The Blessed One pitied him and said, “Srona my boy, did you ever study the harp at your home? You know that a harp does not make music if the strings are stretched too tight or too loose. It makes music only when the strings are stretched just right.
“The training for Enlightenment is just like adjusting the harp strings. You can not attain Enlightenment if you stretch the strings of your mind too loosely or too tightly. You must be considerate and act wisely.”
Srona found these words very profitable and finally gained what he sought.