Buddhism begins with a man. In his later years, when India was afire with his message and kings themselves were bowing before him, people came to him even as they were to come to Jesus asking what he was. How many people have provoked this question – not “Who are you?” with respect to name, origin, or ancestry, but “What are you? What order of being do you belong to? What species do you represent?” Not Caesar, certainly. Not Napoleon, or even Socrates. Only two: Jesus and Buddha. When the people carried their puzzlement to the Buddha himself, the answer he gave provided an identity for his entire message.
“Are you a god?” they asked. “No.” “An angel?” “No.” “A saint?” “No.” “Then what are you?”
Buddha answered, “I am awake.”
His answer became his title, for this is what Buddha means. The Sanskrit root budh denotes both to wake up and to know. Buddha, then, means the “Enlightened One,” or the “Awakened One.” While the rest of the world was wrapped in the womb of sleep, dreaming a dream known as the waking state of human life, one of their number roused himself. Buddhism begins with a man who shook off the daze, the doze, the dream-like vagaries of ordinary awareness. It begins with a man who woke up…
To appreciate the force of [the Parable of the Ferryboat] we must remember the role the ferry played in traditional Asian life. In lands laced by rivers and canals, almost every considerable journey required a ferry. This routine fact underlies and inspires every school of Buddhism, as the use of the word yana by all of them attests. Buddhism is a voyage across life’s river, a transport from the common-sense shore of ignorance, grasping, and death, to the further bank of wisdom and enlightenment. Compared with this settled fact, the differences within Buddhism are no more than variations in the kind of vehicle one boards, or the stage one has reached on the journey.
What are these stages?
While we are on the first bank it is in effect the world for us. Its earth underfoot is solid and reassuring. The rewards and disappointments of its social life are vivid and compelling. The opposite shore is barely visible and has no impact on our dealings.
If, however, something prompts us to see what the other side is like, we may decide to attempt a crossing. If we are of independent bent, we may decide to make it on our own. In this case we are Theravadins; we follow the Buddha’s design for a sturdy craft, but we build ours ourself. Most of us, however, have neither the time nor the talent for such a project of such proportions. We are Mahayanists and move down the bank to where a ready-made ferryboat is expected. As the group of explorers clamber aboard at the landing there is an air of excitement. Attention is focused on the distant bank, still indistinct, but the voyagers are still very much like citizens of this side of the river.
The ferry pushes off and moves across the water. The bank we are leaving behind is losing its substance. The shops and streets and ant-like figures are blending together and releasing their hold on us. Meanwhile, the shore toward which we are headed is not in focus either; it seems almost as far away as it ever was. There is an interval in the crossing when the only tangible realities are the water, with its treacherous currents, and the boat, which is stoutly but precariously contending with them. This is the moment for Buddhism’s Three Vows: I take refuge in the Buddha, the fact that there was an explorer who made this trip and proved to us that is can succeed. I take refuge in the dharma, the vehicle of transport, this boat to which we have committed our lives in the conviction that it is seaworthy. I take refuge in the sangha, the order, the crew that is navigating this ship, in whom we have confidence. The shoreline of the world has been left behind. Until we set foot on the further bank, these are the only things in which we can trust.
The further shore draws near, becomes real. The craft jolts onto the sand and we step onto solid ground. The land, which had been misty and unsubstantial as a dream, is now fact. And the shore that we left behind, which was so palpable and real, is now only a slender horizontal line, a visual patch, a memory without substance.
Impatient to explore our new surroundings, we nevertheless remember our gratitude for the splendid ship and crew who have brought us safely to what promises to be a rewarding land. It will not be gratitude, however, to insist on packing the boat with us as we plunge into the woods. “Would he be a clever man,” the Buddha asked, “if out of gratitude for the raft that has carried him across the stream to safety he, having reached the other shore, should cling to it, take it on his back, and walk about with the weight of it? Would not the clever man be the one who left the raft, no longer of use to him, to the current of the stream and walked ahead without turning back to look at it? Is it not simply a tool to be cast away and forsaken once it has served the purpose for which it was made? In the same way the vehicle of the doctrine is to be cast away and forsaken once the other shore of Enlightenment has been attained.”
Here we come to the Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom sutras, which are widely considered to be the culminating texts of Buddhism. The Five Precepts and the Eightfold Path; the technical terminology of dukkha, karma, nirvana, and their like; the committed order and the person of the Buddha himself – all these are vitally important to the individual in the act of making the crossing. They lose their relevance for those who have arrived. Indeed, to the traveler who has not only reached the promised shore but who keeps moving into its interior, there comes a time when not only the raft but the river itself drops from view. When such a one turns around to look for the land that has been left behind, what appears? What of that land can appear to one who has crossed a horizon beyond which the river dividing this shore from that shore has vanished? One looks, and there is no other shore. There is no separating river: There is no raft, no ferryman. These things are not a part of the new world.
Before the river was crossed the two shores, human and divine, had to appear distinct from each other, different as life and death, as day and night. But once the crossing has been made, no dichotomy remains. The realm of the gods is not a distinct place. It is where the traveler stands; and if that stance happens to be in this world, the world itself is transmuted. It is in this sense that we are to read the avowals in The Perfection of Wisdom that “this our worldly life is an activity of Nirvana itself; not the slightest distinction exists between them.” Introspection having led to a condition described positively as nirvana and negatively as Emptiness because it transcends all forms, the “stream-winner” now finds in the world itself this same Emptiness that he discovered within. “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Emptiness is not different from form, form is not different from emptiness.” The noisy disjunction between acceptance and rejection having been stilled, every moment is affirmed for what it actually is. It is Indra’s cosmic net, laced with jewels at every juncture. Each jewel reflects the others, together with all the reflections in the others. In such a vision the categories of good and evil disappear. “That which is sin is also Wisdom” we read; and once again, “the realm of Becoming is Nirvana.”
This earth on which we stand
is the promised Lotus Land,
And this very body
is the body of the Buddha.
This new-found shore throws light on the bodhisattva‘s vow not to enter nirvana “until the grass itself be enlightened.” As grass keeps coming, does this mean that the bodhisattva will never be enlightened? Not exactly. It means, rather, that he (or she) has risen to the point where the distinction between time and eternity has lost its force. That distinction, drawn by the rational mind, is dissolved in the lightning-and-thunder insight that annihilates opposites. Time and eternity are now two aspects of the same experiential whole, two sides of the same coin. “The jewel of eternity is in the lotus of birth and death.”
From the standpoint of normal, worldly consciousness there must always remain an inconsistency between this climactic insight and worldly prudence. This, though, should not surprise us, for it would be flatly contradictory if the world looked exactly the same to those who have crossed the river of ignorance. Only they can dissolve the world’s distinctions – or, perhaps we should say, take them in their stride, for the distinctions persist, but now without difference. Where to eagle vision the river can still be seen, it is seen as connecting the two banks rather than dividing them.
* * * * *
For ten years, in the different Pavilions of Spring, Autumn and the Rainy Season, the Prince was immersed in rounds of music, dancing and pleasure, but always his thoughts returned to the problem of suffering of human life.
“The luxuries of the palace, this healthy body, this rejoicing youth! What do they mean to me?” he thought. “Some day we may be sick, we shall become aged; from death there is no escape. Pride of youth, pride of health, pride of existence – all thoughtful people should cast them aside.”
“If he looks in the right way he recognizes the true nature of sickness, old age and death, and he searches for meaning in that which transcends all human sufferings. In my life of pleasures I seem to be looking in the wrong way.”
Thus the spiritual struggle went on in the mind of the Prince until his only child, Rahula, was born when he was 29. This seemed to bring things to a climax, for he then decided to leave the palace and look for the solution of his spiritual unrest in the homeless life of a mendicant. He left the castle one night with only his charioteer, Chandaka, and his favorite horse, the snow-white Kanthaka.
His anguish did not end and many devils tempted him saying: “You would do better to return to the castle for the whole world would soon be yours.” But he told the devil that he did not want the whole world. So he shaved his head and turned his steps toward the south, carrying a begging bowl in his hand.
The Prince first visited the hermit Bhagava and watched the ascetic practices. He then went to Arada Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra to learn their methods of attaining Enlightenment through meditation; but after practicing them for a time he became convinced that they would not lead him to Enlightenment. Finally, he went to the land of Magadha and practiced asceticism in the forest of Uruvilva on the banks of the Nairanjana River, which flows by the Gaya Village.
The methods of his practice where unbelievably rigorous. He spurred himself on with the though that “no ascetic in the past, none in the present, and none in the future, ever has practiced or ever will practice more earnestly than I do.”
Still the Prince could not realize his goal. After six years in the forest, he gave up the practice of asceticism. He went bathing in the river and accepted a bowl of milk from the hand of Sujata, a maiden who lived in the neighboring village. The five companions who had been living with the Prince during the six years of his ascetic practice were shocked that he should receive milk from the hand of a maiden; they thought him degraded and left him.
Thus the Prince was left alone. He was still weak, but at the risk of losing his life he attempted yet another period of meditation, saying to himself, “Blood may become exhausted, flesh may decay, bones may fall apart, but I will never leave this place until I find the way to Enlightenment.”
It was an intense and incomparable struggle for him. He was desperate and filled with confusing thoughts, dark shadows overhung his spirit, and he was beleaguered by all the lures of the devils. Carefully and patiently he examined them one by one and rejected them all. It was a hard struggle indeed, making his blood run thin, his flesh fall away, and his bones crack.
But when the morning star appeared in the eastern sky, the struggle was over and the Prince’s mind was as clear and bright as the breaking day. He had, at last, found the path to Enlightenment. It was December eighth, when the Prince became a Buddha at thirty-five years of age.
From this time on the Prince was known by different names: some spoke of him as Buddha, the Perfectly Enlightened One, Tathagata; some spoke of him as Shakyamuni, the Sage of the Shakya clan; others called him the World-Honored One.
He went first to Mrigadava in Varanasi where the five mendicants who had lived with him during the six years of his ascetic life were staying. At first they shunned him, but after they had talked with him, they believed in him and became his first followers. He then went to the Rajagriha Castle and won over King Bimbisara who had always been his friend. From there he went about the country living on alms and teaching men to accept his way of life.
Men responded to him as the thirsty seek water and the hungry food. Two great disciples, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, and their two thousand followers, came to him.
At first the Buddha’s father, King Shuddhodana, still inwardly suffering because of his son’s decision to leave the palace, remained aloof, but then became his faithful disciple. Mahaprajapati, the Buddha’s foster mother, and Princess Yashodhara, his wife, and all the members of the Shakya clan began to follow him. Multitudes of others also became his devoted and faithful followers.
For forty-five years the Buddha went about the country preaching and persuading men to follow his way of life. But when he was eighty, at Vaisali and on his way from Rajagriha to Shrvasti, he became ill and predicted that after three months he would enter Nirvana. Still he journeyed on until he reached Pava where he fell seriously ill from some food offered by Chundra, a blacksmith. Eventually, in spite of great pain and weakness, he reached the forest that bordered Kusinagara.
Lying between two large sala trees, he continued teaching his disciples until his last moment. Thus, he entered into perfect tranquility after he had completed his work as the world’s greatest teacher.
. . .
Beneath the sala trees at Kusinagara, in his last words to his disciples, the Buddha said: Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself: do not depend upon anyone else. Make my teachings your light. Rely upon them: do not depend upon any other teaching.
Consider your body: Think of its impurity. Knowing that both its pain and its delight are alike causes of suffering, how can you indulge in its desires? Consider your ‘self’; think of its transiency; how can you fall into delusion about it and cherish pride and selfishness, knowing that they must all end in inevitable suffering? Consider all substances; can you find among them any enduring ‘self’? Are they not all aggregates that sooner or later will break apart and be scattered? Do not be confused by the universality of suffering, but follow my teaching, even after my death, and you will be rid of pain. Do this and you will indeed be my disciples.
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 transience of your life, you will be able to resist green 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.
You should respect each other, follow my teachings, and refrain from disputes; you should not, like water and oil, repel each other, but should, like milk and water, mingle together.
Study together, learn together, practice my teachings together. Do not waste your mind and time in idleness and quarreling. Enjoy the blossoms of Enlightenment in their season and harvest the fruit of the right path.
The teachings which I have given you, I gained by following the path myself… If you neglect them, it means that you have never really met me. It means that you are far from me, even if you are actually with me; but if you accept and practise my teachings, then you are very near to me, even though you are far away.
My disciples, my end is approaching, our parting is near, but do not lament. Life is ever changing; none can escape the dissolution of the body. This I am now to show by my own death, my body falling apart like a dilapidated cart.
Do not vainly lament, but realize that nothing is permanent and learn from it the emptiness of human life. Do not cherish the unworthy desire that the changeable might become unchanging.
The demon of worldly desires is always seeking chances to deceive the mind. If a viper lives in your room and you wish to have a peaceful sleep, you must first chase it out.
You must break the bonds of worldly passions and drive them away as you would a viper. You must positively protect your own mind.
My disciples, my last moment has come, but do not forget that death is only the end of the physical body. The body was born from parents and was nourished by food; just as inevitable are sickness and death.
But the true Buddha is not a human body: — it is Enlightenment. A human body must die, but the Wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truth of the Dharma, and in the practice of the Dharma. He who sees merely my body does not truly see me. Only he who accepts my teaching truly sees me.
After my death, the Dharma shall be your teacher. Follow the Dharma and you will be true to me.
During the last forty-five years of my life, I have withheld nothing from my teachings. There is no secret teaching, no hidden meaning; everything has been taught openly and clearly.
My dear disciples, this is the end. In a moment, I shall be passing into Nirvana. This is my instruction.
. . .
If one carefully considers all the facts, one must be convinced that at the basis of all suffering lies the principle of craving desire. If avarice can be removed, human suffering will come to an end.
From ignorance and greed there spring impure desires for things that are, in fact, unobtainable, but for which men restlessly and blindly search.
Because of ignorance and greed, people imagine discriminations where, in reality, there are no discriminations. Inherently, there is no discrimination of right and wrong in human behavior; but people, because of ignorance, imagine such distinctions and judge them as right or wrong.
In reality, therefore, it is their own mind that causes the delusions of grief, lamentation, pain and agony.
The whole world of delusion is nothing but a shadow caused by the mind. And yet, it is also from this same mind that the world of Enlightenment appears.
If everything in the last resort is in the hands of an unknowable God, or of blind chance, what hope has humanity except in submission? It is no wonder that people holding these conceptions lose hope and neglect efforts to act wisely and to avoid evil.
There are four truths in this world: first, all living beings rise from ignorance; second, all objects of desire are impermanent, uncertain and suffering; third, all existing things are also impermanent, uncertain and suffering; fourth, there is nothing that can be called an “ego,” and there is no such thing as “mind” in all the world.
Both delusion and Enlightenment originate within the mind, and every existence or phenomenon arises from the functions of the mind, just as different things appear from the sleeve of a magician.
An unenlightened life rises from a mind that is bewildered by its own world or delusion. If we learn that there is no world of delusion outside the mind, the bewildered mind becomes clear; and because we cease to create impure surroundings, we attain Enlightenment.
Since everything in this world is brought about by causes and conditions, there can be no fundamental distinctions among things. The apparent distinctions exist because of people’s absurd and discriminating thoughts.
In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.
Mathematical numbers from one to infinity are each complete numbers, and each in itself carries no distinction of quantity; but people make the discrimination for their own convenience, so as to be able to indicate varying amounts.
They make arbitrary distinctions between existence and non-existence, good and bad, right and wrong.
The world, indeed, is like a dream and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage.
The categories of everlasting life and death, and existence and non-existence, do not apply to the essential nature of things, but only to their appearances as they are observed by defiled human eyes.
Yet it can not be said that, apart from this world of change and appearance, there is another world of permanence and truth. It is a mistake to regard this world as either a temporal or as a real one.
To those who choose the path that leads to Enlightenment, there are two extremes that should be carefully avoided. First, there is the extreme of indulgence in the desires of the body. Second, there is the opposite extreme of ascetic discipline, torturing one’s body and mind unreasonably.
If in his search for Enlightenment he does not become contemptuous of delusion, nor fear it, such a person is following the Middle Way.
Enlightenment exists solely because of delusion and ignorance; if they disappear, so will Enlightenment. As long as people desire Enlightenment and grasp at it, it means that delusion is still with them; therefore, those who are following the way to Enlightenment must not grasp at it, and if they reach Enlightenment they must not linger in it.
When people attain Enlightenment in this sense, it means that everything is Enlightenment itself as it is; therefore, people should follow the path to Enlightenment until in their thoughts, worldly passions and Enlightenment become identical as they are.
This concept of universal oneness – that things in their essential nature have no distinguishing marks – is called “Śūnyatā.” Śūnyatā means non-substantiality, the un-born, having no self-nature, no duality. It is because things in themselves have no form or characteristics that we can speak of them as neither being born nor being destroyed.
Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. People make distinctions between good and evil, but good and evil do not exist separately. Those who are following the path to Enlightenment recognize no such duality, and it leads them to neither praise the good and condemn the evil, nor despise the good and condone the evil.
Therefore, all the words that express relations of duality – such as existence and non-existence, worldly-passions and true-knowledge, purity and impurity, good and evil – none of these terms of contrast in one’s thinking are expressed or recognized in their true nature. When people keep free from such terms and from the emotions engendered by them, they realize Śūnyatā’s universal truth.
Buddha teaches the Middle Way transcending these prejudiced concepts, where duality merges into oneness.
. . .
In the search for truth there are certain questions that are unimportant. Of what material is the universe constructed? Is the universe eternal? Are there limits or not to the universe? In what way is this human society put together? What is the ideal form of organization for human society? If a man were to postpone his search and practicing for Enlightenment until such questions were solved, he would die before he found the path.
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. 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.
[Upon suffering an injustice a woman shouted,] “Righteousness must have disappeared from the world… Now, we must have a funeral of this ‘righteousness’.” Like a mad woman she went to the cemetery to hold a funeral service.
Righteousness is never lost forever unless one casts it away oneself. Righteousness occasionally may seem to disappear, but, in fact, it never disappears. When it seems to be disappearing, it is because one is losing the righteousness of one’s own mind.
The world has no substance of its own. It is simply a vast concordance of causes and conditions that have had their origin, solely and exclusively, in the activities of the mind that has been stimulated by ignorance, false imagination, desires and infatuation. It is not something external about which the mind has false conceptions; it has no substance whatever. It has come into appearance by the processes of the mind itself, manifesting its own delusions. It is founded and built up out of the desires of the mind, out of its sufferings and struggles incidental to the pain caused by its own greed, anger and foolishness. Men who seek the way to Enlightenment should be ready to fight such a mind to attain their goal.
Those who really seek the path to Enlightenment dictate terms to their mind. Then they proceed with strong determination. Even though they are abused by some and scorned by others, they go forward undisturbed.
Sadaprarudita… [being an earnest seeker of the true path] sometimes… slept where night found him in a lonely field or in the wild mountains. At last Sadaprarudita reached the presence of the teacher himself and then he had a new difficulty. He had no paper on which to take notes and no brush or ink to write with. Then he pricked his wrist with a dagger and took notes in his own blood. In this way he secured the precious Truth.
[My disciples] must not argue with worldly people. The practice of Concentration helps one to control a wandering and futile mind. Offering and keeping Precepts make the foundation necessary to build a great castle on. Endurance and Endeavor are the walls of the castle that protect it against enemies from outside. Concentration and Wisdom are the personal armour that protects one against the assaults of life and death.
An evil mind is as hard to remove as letters carved in stone, and a right mind is as easy to lose as words written in water. Indeed, it is the most difficult thing in life to train oneself for Enlightenment.
If a man possesses a repentant spirit his sins will disappear, but if he has an unrepentant spirit his sins will continue and condemn him forever.
It is only the one who hears the true teaching rightly and realizes its meaning and relation to oneself who can receive and profit by it. If a man merely hears the true teaching but does not acquire it, he will fail in his search for Enlightenment.
Pain is only a reaction of the mind.
Faith is the fire that consumes all the impurities of worldly desires, it removes the burden, and it is the guide that leads one’s way.
Indeed, there is nothing more dreadful than doubt. It is, indeed, hard to be born in this world. It is hard to hear the Dharma; it is harder to awaken faith.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
If a man lives a pure life nothing can destroy him; if he has conquered greed nothing can limit his freedom.
One should forget oneself for the sake of one’s family; one should forget one’s family for the sake of one’s village; one should forget one’s village for the sake of the nation; and one should forget everything for the sake of Enlightenment.
A man who wishes to become my disciple must be willing to give up all direct relations with his family, the social life of the world and all dependence upon wealth.
The fact is there is only one world, not two worlds, one meaningless and the other full of meaning, or one good and the other bad. People only think there are two worlds, due to their discriminating faculty.
The life of a homeless brother is not an easy one; he ought not to undertake it if he can not keep his mind free from greed and anger or if he can not control his mind or his five senses.
. . .
There are two kinds of worldly passions that defile and cover the purity of Buddha-nature. The first is the passion for analysis and discussion by which people become confused in judgement. The second is the passion for emotional experience by which people’s values become confused.
Both delusions of reasoning and delusions of practice can be thought of as a classification of all human defilements, but really there are two original worldly predicaments in their bases. The first is ignorance, and the second is desire.
The delusions of reasoning are based upon ignorance, and the delusions of practice are based upon desire, so that the two sets are really one set after all, and together they are the source of all unhappiness.
If people are ignorant they cannot reason correctly and safely. As they yield to a desire for existence, graspings, clingings and attachments to everything inevitably follow. It is this constant hunger for every pleasant thing seen and heard that leads people into the delusions of habit. Some people even yield to the desire for the death of the body.
From these primary sources all greed, anger, foolishness, misunderstanding, resentment, jealousy, flattery, deceit, pride, contempt, inebriety, selfishness, have their generations and appearances.
Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law.
Greed rises from wrong ideas of satisfaction; anger rises from wrong ideas concerning the state of one’s affairs and surroundings; foolishness rises from the inability to judge what correct conduct is.
Human desires are endless. It is like the thirst of a man who drinks salt water: he gets no satisfaction and his thirst is only increased.
So it is with a man who seeks to gratify his desires; he only gains increased dissatisfaction and his woes are multiplied.
The gratification of desires never satisfies; it always leaves behind unrest and irritation that can never be allayed, and then, if the gratification of his desires is thwarted, it will often drive him “insane.”
Although the nature of Buddhahood is possessed by all people, it is buried so deeply in the defilements of worldly passion that it long remains unknown. That is why suffering is so universal and why there is this endless recurrence of miserable lives.
There are three other kinds of people. The first are those who are proud, act rashly and are never satisfied; their natures are easy to understand. Then there are those who are courteous and always act after consideration; their natures are hard to understand. Then there are those who have overcome desire completely; it is impossible to understand their natures.
It would be impossible for a son to repay his parents for their gracious kindness, even if he could carry his father on his right shoulder and his mother on his left for one hundred long years.
And even if he could bathe the bodies of his parents in sweet-smelling ointments for a hundred years, serve as an ideal son, gain a throne for them, and give them all the luxuries of the world, still he would not be able to repay them sufficiently for the great indebtedness of gratitude he owes to them.
But if he leads his parents to Buddha and explains the Buddha’s teachings to them, and persuades them to give up a wrong course and follow a right one, leading them to give up all greed and enjoy the practice of offering, then he will be more than repaying them.
A fool who thinks that he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man. The fool who thinks that he is wise is called a fool indeed.
Though he should conquer a thousand men in the battlefield a thousand times, yet he, indeed, who would conquer himself is the noblest victor.
In the spirit of these vows [the bodhisattva seeks to] cast away all worldly attachments and realize the impermanence of this world. And they devote their merits to the emancipation of all sentient life; they integrate their own lives with the lives of all others, sharing their illusions and sufferings but, at the same time, realizing their freedom from the bonds and attachments of this worldly life.
They know the hindrances and difficulties of worldly living but they know, also, the boundless potentialities of Buddha’s compassion. They are free to go or come, they are free to advance or to stop as they wish, but they choose to remain with those upon whom Buddha has compassion.
* * * * *
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are changed and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca [worthless]!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [material wealth]. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
But everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
And the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that he departed from there. When he had come to his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” So they were offended at him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Now he did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.
For even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
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When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. I die daily. If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
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“Understand the nature and purpose of teaching by way of myth and parable and allegory. Blessed are those with ears to hear and eyes to see beyond the literal word to the metaphorical and spiritual and moral meaning. Do not listen as the fool listens, for he hears only the literal word and it profits him not. It would be better for him to hear only the noise of words than to understand only the literal word and not the true teaching.“
– The Teaching of Joshua Synon