Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Parable of the Raft (sutra)

Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly
A raft in search of safety in a world overwhelmed by disappointment (stepoutsidenow)

A raft crosses over (
The road to nirvana is paved with samsara. That is to say, it's flooded (ogha). 
The Buddha poses the problem we face with a parable. A person is trapped on one shore. Where we stand, there is great danger and uncertainty. There is a further shore, however, a stable place of safety, a secure refuge.
But there is no bridge or ferry for crossing over. What is one to do? A wise person gathers logs, branches, leaves, and vines and fashions together a hasty raft, sturdy enough to accomplish the goal.

Climbing aboard the raft and using one's strength with arms and legs to paddle, one crosses over to safety and security.
In a flooded field (Anekphoto/
The Buddha then asks, "What should one now do, having crossed over? This raft has served one so well, so what should be done with it -- carry it on firm land?"
His listeners replied that it would not be sensible to cling to the raft in this way.
The Buddha continues, "What if one were to lay the raft down with gratitude, reflecting that this raft has served one well? Now it is no longer of use and can be laid down on the shore."
His listeners replied that this would be the appropriate attitude.
The Buddha concluded by saying, "Just so with my teachings, which are like a raft for crossing over -- not for clinging to."
What does it all mean?
Neither rushing forward nor falling back
According to the historical Buddha, the Sage from the Shakya clan, if we want to cross over from this shore (samsara) full of dangers to the further shore beyond all danger (nirvana), we need to put together a "raft."

We gather just enough material then strive diligently and consistently. We exert just enough effort (viriya), paddling with every limb we have, to cross over to the beyond-beyond. 

Persistent balanced-effort (neither under- nor over-exerting) is the gradual path the Buddha taught from achievement to achievement to achievement. Or we exhaust oursevles and abandon the effort. Or we die trying by the legendary effort that gets all of the attention in spite of the fact that it does not work to overdo it.

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