Friday, October 11, 2013

Comedy: "Festival Supreme" (sutra)

Ashley Wells, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; Jack Black (; Nyanaponika Thera, The Life of Sariputta (edited by Dhr. Seven);
( with Tenacious D, Sarah Silverman, Bob Odenkirk...)
Mr. Show with Bob and David (Cross)
Tenacious D, the Greatest Band in the World, is proud to present "Festival Supreme." This is the first of its kind one-day comedy-and-music festival set to take place on Saturday, October 19 on the Santa Monica Pier in beautiful Southern California. The incredible lineup includes 25 of the best comedians around. A dream many years in the making, Jack Black and Kyle Gass are the curators of this spectacular set of comedy rock stars who will take over the pier for one special night. We’ve been trying to put this thing together for years, explains Tenacious D. It is the comedy and music event of the century, so we call it Festival Supreme! It will shake the heavens and bring this tinsel town to its knees…in a good way.

How Sariputra and Moggallana became ascetics
Nyanaponika Thera (trans.), The Life of Sariputta (edited by Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly)
Maha Moggallana and Sariputra, the Buddha's two chief male disciples (
Sariputra, foremost in wisdom
The story begins at two Brahmin villages in India called Upatissa and Kolita, which lay not far from the royal mountain-ringed city of Rajagaha
Before the Buddha appeared in the world a Brahmin lady named Sari, living in the village of Upatissa, conceived.

[According to the Cunda Sutta (in the Satipatthana Samyutta) and its Commentary, the name of Sariputra's birthplace was Nalaka, or Nalagama, which may be an alternative name. It was probably quite close to the more famous Nalanda. Sariputta's father was a Brahmin named Vaganta. (Commentary to Dhammapada, v. 75).]
On the same day, in the village of Kolita, another Brahmin lady named Moggalli also conceived. The two families were closely connected, friends for seven generations. From the first day of their pregnancy the families gave due care to the mothers-to-be, and after ten [lunar] months both women gave birth to boys on the same day.

Later on the celebratory name-giving day, the child of Sari received the name Upatissa, as he was a son of the foremost family of the village. For the same reason Moggalli's son was named Kolita. When the boys grew up they were well educated, acquiring mastery of all the arts and sciences of the day. Each of them had a large following ("500") of Brahmin youths. Whenever they went to the river or park for sport and recreation, Upatissa used to go with a large number of palanquins, and Kolita with a large number of carriages.

Ancient Comedy Music Festival
"India" was once a vast empire.
Now at Rajagaha there was an annual event called the Hilltop Festival [which is still held in modern Rajgir]. Seats were arranged for both youths and they sat together to witness the celebrations. When there was occasion for laughter, they laughed. When the spectacles were exciting, they were excited. And they paid fees for extra shows. 

In this way they enjoyed the festival for a second day, but on the third day their understanding was awakened and they could no longer laugh or get excited, nor did they feel inclined to pay for extra shows as they had done on the first two days. 
Each of them had the same thought: "What is there to look at here? Before these people have reached 100 years, they will all have come to death. What we ought to do is to seek for a teaching [dharma] of liberation [from samsara, the round of rebirth and disappointment]."

It was with such thoughts in mind that they took their seats at the festival. Then Kolita said to Upatissa: "How is this, dear Upatissa, that you are not as happy and joyous as you were on the other days? You seem now to be in a discontented mood. What is on your mind?"

"Dear Kolita, to look at these things here is of no benefit at all. It is utterly worthless! I ought to seek a teaching of liberation for myself. That, Kolita, is what I was thinking seated here. But you, Kolita, seem to be discontented, too."  Kolita replied: "Just as you have explained, I also feel."

When he knew that his friend had the same inclinations, Upatissa said: "That was a good thought of ours! But for those who seek a teaching of liberation there is only one thing to do: leave home and become ascetics. But under whom shall we live the ascetic life?"

Seeking a Teacher
The Brahmin wanderers meet the Buddha
At that time, there lived in Rajagaha an ascetic of the sect of wanderers (paribbajaka) called Sañjaya, who had a great following of pupils. Deciding to get ordination under him, Upatissa and Kolita went to him, each with his own following of many Brahmin youths. All of them received ordination from Sañjaya. And from the time of their ordination under him, Sañjaya's reputation and support increased abundantly.

Within a short time the two friends learned Sañjaya's entire doctrine (dharma) and asked him: "Master, does your doctrine go only so far, or is there something beyond?"
Sañjaya replied: "Only so far does it go. You now know it all."
Hearing this, they thought to themselves: "If that is the case, it is useless to continue the ascetic life under this teacher. We have gone forth from home to seek a teaching of liberation. Under Sañjaya we cannot find it. But India is vast! If we wander through villages, towns, and cities, we shall certainly find a master who can show us the teaching of liberation." 

After that, whenever they heard that there were wise wandering ascetics or Brahmins at this or that place, they went and discussed with them. But there was none who was able to answer their questions, yet they were able to reply to anyone who questioned them. Having traveled through the whole of [the portion of] India they turned back, and arriving at their old place they agreed between them that he who should attain to deathlessness [enlightenment, liberation from samsara] first should quickly inform the other.
The Buddha, who was younger than Sariputra and Maha Moggallana, is depicted here on alms round in ancient India, which enjoyed a wonderful dana system of hospitality (WQ)
It was a pact born of the deep friendship between the two. Some time after they had made that agreement, the Buddha, [at that time referred to as] the Blessed One, came to Rajagaha. For it was when he had delivered the "Fire Sermon" at Gaya Peak that the Buddha remembered his promise, given before his enlightenment to King Bimbisara: He had promised the king that he would come to Rajagaha again when he had attained his goal.

The Buddha, a wandering ascetic (shraman)
So in stages the Blessed One journeyed from Gaya to Rajagaha, and having received from King Bimbisara the Bamboo Grove Monastery (Veluvana, just outside the main entrance to Rajagaha) he resided there.
Among the 61 arhats (enlightened disciples) whom the Buddha had sent forth (as missionaries) to proclaim to the world the virtues of the Triple Gem, there was the "Elder" (Thera) Assaji, who belonged to the original group of five ascetics, the Buddha's erstwhile companions before his enlightenment, who afterwards became his first monastic disciples.

Assaji returned to Rajagaha from his missionary wanderings. One morning, as he was going for alms in the city, Upatissa saw him. Upatissa was on his way to the monastery of his school of wandering ascetics. But struck by Assaji's serene and dignified appearance, Upatissa thought: "Never before have I seen such a ascetic! He must be an arhat or at the very least on the way to arhatship. 

"I should approach him and ask, 'Under whom have you been ordained? Who is your teacher, and what teaching do you profess?'" But then he thought: "It is not the proper time for putting questions to this venerable, as he is going for alms through the streets. I had better follow behind him, after the manner of supplicants." And he did so. 
Buddha, Kabul, National Museum (Ninara)
Then, when the elder had gathered his alms food and Upatissa saw him going to another place intending to sit down and eat his meal, he prepared for him his own ascetic's seat which he carried with him and offered it to the elder. 
Elder Assaji took his meal, after which Upatissa served him water from his own water-container, and in that way performed towards Assaji the duties of an Indian pupil to a teacher. After they had exchanged courteous greetings, Upatissa said: "Serene are your features, friend. Pure and bright is your complexion. Friend, under whom have you gone forth as an ascetic? Who is your teacher, and what teaching do you profess?"

Assaji replied: "There is, O friend, the Great Recluse, the son of the Sakyas [a family clan far to the northwest], who has gone forth from the Sakya clan. Under that Blessed One I have gone forth. That Blessed One is my teacher, and it is his Dharma that I profess."

"What does the venerable one's master teach, what does he proclaim?"
The heart of wisdom: anatta (impersonal)
Questioned thus, Assaji thought to himself: "These wandering ascetics are opposed to the Buddha's dispensation. But I shall show him how profound this dispensation is." So he said: "I am but new to the training, friend. It is not long since I went forth from home, and I came but recently to this teaching and discipline. I cannot explain the Dharma in detail to you."
The wanderer replied: "I am called Upatissa [the future Sariputra], friend. Please tell me according to your ability, be it much or little. It will be my task to penetrate its meaning by way of a hundred or a thousand methods." He added: 

"Be it little or much that you can tell, 
The meaning only, please proclaim to me!
To know the meaning is my sole desire;
Of no avail to me are many words."
In response, Elder Assaji uttered this stanza:

"Of all those things that arise from a cause,
The Tathagata [Buddha] the cause thereof has told;
And how they cease to be, that too he tells,
This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse."
[The exact ancient Pali words recorded are: "Ye dhamma hetuppabhava tesam hetum tathagato aha, tesañca yo nirodho evamvadi mahasamano 'ti." This verse was later to become one of the best-known and most widely spread Buddhist stanzas, standing as a reminder of Sariputra's first contact with the Dharma and also as a worthy memorial to Assaji, his great arahat teacher. Spoken at a time when the principle of karmic causality was not accorded the prominence it enjoys today in philosophical thought, its impact on the minds of early Buddhists must have been revolutionary.] 

EDITORIAL NOTE: How could these few lines ever lead anyone to stream entry? Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw explained to us that implicit in this brief statement of the Buddha's teaching are the Four Noble Truths, the Dharma in a nutshell. Sariputra (Upatissa) was of such brightness, quickness, sharpness, and clear perception that he immediately cut through to the heart of the teaching. For he, like Maha Moggallana (Kolita) and the Buddha's two chief female disciples, Khema Theri and Uppalavanna Theri, had been cultivating and waiting for a buddha to arise so as to be his chief disciples for aeons. First truth: there is this. Second truth: it has a cause. Third truth: there is liberation (from suffering). Fourth truth: that, too, has a cause -- namely one to be developed with the Noble Eightfold Path.
Upon hearing the first two lines, Upatissa became established in the path of stream-entry [the first of the various stages of enlightenment], and hearing the ending of the last two lines he listened in the fruition of a stream-winner. More

So remember, kids, you too can become disenchanted and set off on a quest for truth and liberation. It all starts with Festival Supreme! Ask your parents for money.

1 comment:

Lindsey H. said...

Wow! The line-up for that show looks awesome. I haven't listened to Tenacious D in a long time. How could I have forgotten them?! And I just listened to a great podcast on Fred Armisen with Alec Baldwin's This Is the Thing. Have you heard it?