Wednesday November 27, 2013
A little more on the raft parable -- I occasionally bump into someone saying the raft parable tells us we can ignore dharma teachings as we like, because we're supposed to ditch them, anyway. This is an un-serious interpretation, seems to me.
However, in his comments on this parable, Thanissaro Bhikkhu said something that I don't believe is true --
"Many a casual reader has concluded from the simile of the raft simply that the Dhamma is to be let go. In fact, one major Mahayana text -- the Diamond Sutra -- interprets the raft simile as meaning that one has to let go of the raft in order to cross the river."
Let's look at this --
Tuesday November 26, 2013
Most of you probably know the Buddha's raft simile -- that the dharma is like a raft that you can abandon once you are on the other shore. Recently I decided to check out exactly where the raft story originated.
The search led me to the Alagaddupama Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 22), also called the Water Snake Simile Sutta. There's a water snake parable that comes right before the raft parable, and apparently the organizers of the Sutta-pitaka found the water snake story more compelling and named the sutta after the snake and not the raft. Go figure.
It turns out there is some disagreement as to exactly what the raft parable is trying to tell us, and the water snake story ties into that. In the snake story, a man picks up a water snake by the tail instead of by the proper way, by the head, the way the wildlife experts on the Discovery Channel always do. Of course, the snake gives the man a venomous bite, and he was very sorry and probably died. The moral of this story is that if we "grasp" the dharma improperly, we could fall into all kinds of spiritual dangers.
Monday November 25, 2013
A team of archeologists have found the remains of what might have been a Buddhist shrine in Lumbini, Nepal -- thought to be the birthplace of the Buddha -- that dates to 550 BCE. If this is accurate, it pushes the time of the life of the Buddha back a century or so.
The archeologists have been excavating beneath the Mayadevi temple, thought to mark the exact place where the Buddha was born. As I understand it, the ruins of the oldest part of the temple are brick structures dating to the 3rd century BCE What the archeologists discovered under that was evidence of a wooden structure that had been laid out in exactly the same way as the brick.
It appears the brick temple was built to replace a wooden one. It also appears the shrine had been built around a tree. No evidence of sacrifices have been found, which suggests the shrine was Buddhist and not tended by the Brahmins of that period. However, other archeologists say that shrines built around trees were common in early Indian religions before the time of the Buddha. They want to see more evidence before they connect the shrine to Buddhism.
Thursday November 21, 2013
In reading over the comment to the last post, I think there is some confusion between goals and commitments. A goal, by definition, is "the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result." That's directly out of an online dictionary. A goal is the object of effort, not effort itself. In many Mahayana schools, it is taught that holding on to any idea of goal in practice is a fetter to realization.
The same dictionary defines commitment as "the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc." Dedicating yourself to a spiritual discipline is a commitment, not a goal.
In Mahayana Buddhism, ultimately, "goal" is a delusion. The Heart Sutra, which says that in prajna paramita there is "no ignorance, no end to ignorance; no old age and death, no cessation of old age and death; no suffering, no cause or end to suffering; no path, no wisdom and no gain." In short, without self-reference, without the "I," there is no cause of suffering and no Path as explained in the Four Nobe Truths.