Reminder from last Issue: An explanation of eternalism and annihilationism.
Now King Prasenajit is in a similar sort of quandary. That's because those annihilationists had told the king, "When you die, it's like a lamp going out. It's all over. If you do good, there's no reward received. If you do evil, there is no retribution to undergo. There is no rebirth.” That is a blatant denial of cause and effect.
But now the King has come to believe in the Buddha and to listen regularly to the Buddha's teaching. He has learned that if you do good, you will reap a reward; and if you do evil, you will have to undergo retribution. Those annihilationists regard human life as not different from the life of grass or trees—they get born, live out their life, die, and that's it. When one human being dies, another gets born; but there is no rebirth of any specific individual being. One dies and another takes its place, that's all. What dies is forever dead; what is born is born anew. They don't believe in the law of cause and effect, of karma and retribution, and of the cycle of rebirth. And they have managed to confuse the King.
The Buddha uses the eyes and seeing to convince the King that there is something in us that is not only not subject to old age and death, but that also will not become annihilated. That “something” is our inherent nature. We can get glimpses of it at the gates of our six sense organs. The Buddha gives us a glimpse of the nature at the eye organ as it reveals itself in sight by asking the King how old he was when he first saw the Ganges River. The King replies that he was only three years old when he first saw it, but he knew it was the Ganges. Then the Buddha asks the King if the sight of the Ganges had changed between the time when he had seen it at age three and later when he saw it at age thirteen. The King replies that not only was the Ganges the same Ganges he had seen when he was three, it is still the same Ganges now in his declining years.
- To be continued