The Blind Artist Makes
Beautiful Drawings But Cannot See Them: Learn the Dharma From Those
With Experience and Realization, Not Mere Scholarly Knowledge.
He who can extensively recite
Word of the Buddha,
But, being slothful, does not act accordingly,
Is like a cowherd protecting the cows that belong to others.
He does not partake of the Shramana's life.
Even if he recites but a little
the Word of the Buddha;
If he lives in accordance with Dharma,
Having given up greed, hatred, and delusion,
He possesses wisdom and his mind is liberated.
He does not cling to this world or another world.
He does partake of the Shramana's life.
These passages from the Dharmapada
(verses #19 and #20), were spoken by the Buddha concerning two close
friends, who pursued the teachings of the Buddha in quite different
ways. Both of them had heard the Buddha give an instructional talk to a
gathering of people and were so moved by his teaching that they decided
to renounce the life of a householder and become monks. After they had
undergone monastic training for five years, each chose a path of focus.
The younger friend decided he would pursue the path of study, whereas
the older of the two focused his energies on the path of practice,
developing skill in meditation. They then went their own separate ways.
Later, the younger monk became
adept at reciting from memory and lecturing on the Buddhist Canon. He
was the lecturer for a group of 500 monks and was the Preceptor for
eighteen large communities of monks. The older monk, after receiving
personal instruction from the Buddha, strove and struggled alone in the
forest, and became a Fourth Stage Arhat with the Six Superknowledges. A
group of monks went to the older friend to seek instructions on
meditation. By faithfully observing his instructions, the entire group
also became 4th Stage Arhats.
Then this group of enlightened
monks wanted to take their leave of their teacher to go and pay
respects to the Buddha who was staying in Shravasti in the Jeta Grove.
Their teacher told them to please convey his own respectful greetings
to the Buddha, the 80 Chief Disciples, and his younger friend. After
they arrived at the Jeta Grove they paid their respects to the Buddha,
his disciples, and the friend. The younger friend told the disciples of
his older friend, “What have you learned from your teacher? Have you
learned any sections of the Buddhist Canon?” And he thought to himself,
“This monk does not know a single four line verse from the Canon. As
soon as he became a monk, he took rags from a garbage heap, entered the
forest, and later gathered a great many pupils about him. When he
returns, it behooves me to ask him some questions.” Not realizing that
his older friend was already enlightened, he was very doubtful that his
friend had the ability to teach the Buddhadharma.
At a later time, the older monk
came to the Jeta Grove to pay his respects to the Buddha. He left his
robe and bowl with his friend while he greeted the Buddha and the 80
Chief Disciples. When he returned, his younger friend showed him the
customary attentions, providing him with a seat etc. and then sat down.
His intention was to question his older friend, so as to show that he
was not really qualified to teach. The Buddha, with his spiritual
powers was aware of what was about to take place. If the younger monk
were to carry out his intention and tried to trouble his friend, the
Buddha saw that it could result in being reborn in a lower state of
existence in his future life. Therefore, the Buddha intervened by going
to where the two monks were.
As was customary whenever monks
would meet together in their dwellings in the Jeta Grove, a seat for
the Buddha was prepared out of veneration, and also just in case the
Buddha happened to come to their dwelling. Therefore, when the Buddha
arrived he took the seat already prepared for him and then commenced to
question both of the monks. Upon questioning the younger monk on the
states of the Four Dhyana-meditations, as well as the states connected
with the Formless Realm attainments, he was able to answer each
question correctly. However, when the Buddha questioned him on the
lowest stages of Enlightenment, from the first stage of Stream-Winner
up to and including that of the Fourth Stage Arhat, he was unable to
answer any of the Buddha's questions. Then the Buddha asked his older
friend the same questions concerning the stages of Enlightenment. The
older friend was able to answer them all.
Then the Buddha applauded the
older monk, and offered not a single word of praise for the scholarly
younger monk. Thereupon, the pupils of the younger monk who witnessed
this were rather perplexed that the Buddha had showered lavish praise
upon the unscholarly older monk and not a single word of approval on
their learned teacher. To resolve their doubts the Buddha told them
that, although their teacher knew the Sacred Word by heart, he lacked
enlightened realization, so that “In my teaching he is like a man who
tends cows for hire. But the older monk is like the owner who enjoys
the dairy products of the cow at his own good pleasure.”
The principle expressed in this
verse and story has great relevance to the teachings of the Buddha as
they apply to our present modern time, particularly in America.
To be continued