Monday, July 28, 2014

Crossing over to freedom (sutra)

Amber Larson, Seth Auberon (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; John D. Ireland (trans.), "The Simile of the Boat" (Nava Sutra, Sn 2.8)
Buddha, I'm lost in this flood (ogha), this sea of samsara, far from the further shore. How shall I cross over, by waiting for Maitreya? (Thailand flooding/
Samsara= wheel of rebirth and death
"One from whom a person learns the Dharma [the Buddha's teachings] should be venerated the way the devas venerate Inda, their leader [Sanskrit Indra, another name for Sakka, the king of the devas.] A teacher of great learning, thus venerated, will explain the Dharma, being well-disposed towards a learner (hearer).

"Having paid attention and considered it, a wise person, practicing according to Dharma, becomes learned, intelligent, and accomplished by associating diligently with such a skilled teacher.
"But by following an inferior and foolish teacher who has not gained (fine) understanding of the Dharma and is envious of others, one will approach death without having comprehended the Dharma and unrelieved of doubt.
Boats crossing, U Bein Bridge, Amarapura, Mandalay (Platongkohphoto/flickr)
"If a person going down into a river, swollen and swiftly flowing, is carried away by the current -- how can that person help others across?
"Even so, one who has not comprehended the Dharma, has not paid attention to the meaning as expounded by the learned, being without knowledge and unrelieved of doubt -- how can one make others understand?
"But if (the person at the river) knows the method and is skilled and wise, by boarding a strong boat equipped with oars and a rudder, can, with its help, set others across.

"Even so, one who is experienced and has a well-trained mind/heart, who is learned and dependable [Commentary: has a character which remains unperturbed by the vicissitudes of life], clearly knowing, can help others to understand who are willing to listen and ready to receive [possessing the supporting conditions for attaining the Paths and Fruits of stream-winning, once-returning, non-returning, and final sainthood (arhatship)].
"Surely, therefore, one should associate with a good person who is wise and learned.

"By understanding the meaning of what one has learned and practicing accordingly one who has Dharma-experience [Commentary: one who has fully understood or experienced the truth, the dharma, by penetrating to its essence through the practice taught by a wise teacher] attains (supreme) happiness [the transcendental happiness of the Paths, Fruits, and of nirvana]."

Crossing Over the Flood
Amber Larson and Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Thanissaro (trans.), "Discourse on Crossing over the Flood" (Ogha-tarana Sutra, SN 1.1)
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove in Anathapindika's monastery. Then a certain deva, in the third watch of the night, filled the grove with her radiance as she went to the Blessed One.

Arriving, she bowed, stood respectfully to one side, and said to him, "Tell me, dear sir, how you crossed over the flood."
"I crossed over the flood without pushing forward and without staying in place" [without overexertion, without slacking, but persistently striving for balance or "unestablished," see Ud 8.1 and related references at SN 12.38 and SN 12.64].
  • Translator's note: This discourse opens the Connected Discourses with a paradox. The Commentary states that the Buddha teaches the deva in terms of the paradox in order to subdue her pride. To give this paradox some context, read other passages from the Pali canon that discuss right effort.
"But how, dear sir, did you cross over the flood without pushing forward and without staying in place?"
"When I pushed forward, I was whirled about. When I stayed in place, I sank. So I crossed over the flood without pushing forward and without staying in place."

"At long last see I a true Brahmin, fully liberated, who without pushing forward and without staying in place has crossed over the entanglements of the world."
This is what that deva said. The teacher approved. And realizing that "the teacher has approved of me," she bowed, respectfully circumambulated him -- keeping him to her right -- and vanished then and there.

Crossing the Flood
Translated by U Tin U (Myaung), Rangoon, and edited by Wisdom Quarterly and the Editorial Committee, Burma Tipitaka Assn., 1998, Oghatarana Sutta (SN I.01)
Deva spirit (smithymeerkat/flickr)
Thus have I heard: Once the Bhagava [the Bhagwan, the Blessed One, the Buddha] was residing at Anathapindika's Jeta's Grove Monastery in Savatthi. Then, soon after the middle watch of the night, a certain deva of exceeding beauty approached him, illuminating the entire grove. After paying homage, she stood at a suitable place, and addressed him:
"Sir, how did you cross the flood?" [Note 1]
"Friend, by not remaining still and by not putting forth strenuous effort, I crossed the flood."
"But, sir, in what way did you cross over while neither remaining still nor putting forth strenuous effort?"
"Friend, if I remain still, I sink [2]; if I put forth strenuous effort, I drift [3]. Thus, by neither remaining still nor putting forth strenuous effort, I crossed the flood."
"In the sentient world, only after a long time do I see one in whom defilements are extinct [4], one in whom defilements have been extinguished, who neither remaining still nor putting forth strenuous effort crossed the ocean of craving."
Thus said the deva. The teacher approved. Having noted the approval of the teacher, the deva paid respect then respectfully withdrew and vanished form there.
FOOTNOTES 1. the flood (ogha), metaphorically, the deluge of craving, wrong views, and ignorance which keep one submerged in the round of rebirth, death, and suffering (samsara). The four floods are: (i) kama-ogha: strong attachment to the five sensual pleasures; (ii) bhava-ogha: strong attachment to rebirth in the Fine Material Sphere, in the Immaterial Sphere, or to the attainment of meditative absorptions (jhanas), strong karma that leads to rebirth in these spheres; (iii) ditthi-ogha: the 62 wrong views (See Brahmajala Sutta, DN 1); (vi) avijja-ogha: ignorance of the liberating Truth.
2. If I remain still, I sink: Staying in the midst of sensual pleasures, making no efforts to break free of them, one sinks to the tower realms. Or in another sense, making no effort to get rid of demerit, one sinks to the depths of the four miserable states of rebirth.
3. If I put forth strenuous effort, I drift: Striving on the path purification from defilements through self-mortification/severe austerities sends one adrift in samsara. Or in another sense, even if one performs meritorious deeds while craving for rebirth in the higher realms of existence, such efforts merely bring mundane merit and one drifts along in samsara.
4. One in whom defilements are extinct is a true "Brahmin" meaning either a buddha or an arhat. The brahma, although designated as a deva in this discourse, had known Kassapa Buddha. Since the passing of Kassapa Buddha many aeons passed before Gautama Buddha appeared in this world.

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