Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Buddhist millionaire's ENLIGHTENMENT

Hellmuth  Hecker (Anathapindika: The Great Benefactor); Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero, Amber Larson, CC Liu (editors), Wisdom Quarterly
Yearning for enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India (glosackmd/flickr)
6. When Anathapindika was sick and dying
The [multi-millionaire] householder Anathapindika [Sudatta the banker from prosperous Savatthi, who was called Anāthapindika, "giver of alms to the needy"] became sick a third time with very strong pains which were getting worse and not easing.

Again the multi-millionaire Anathapindika asked Venerable Sariputra and Ven. Ananda for assistance. When Ven. Sariputra -- the male disciple foremost in wisdom -- saw him, he knew that Anathapindika was nearing death, so he gave him in detail the following instructions (only outlined here):

Enlightenment instructions

  1. First, practice freeing yourself from clinging to the six sense faculties without attaching to them;
  2. Second, practice releasing yourself from dependence on the six [external sense] objects and do not attach to them either.
  3. Third, relinquish clinging to the connecting link between the six senses and the six sense objects, as well as to the six sense contacts, the six feelings, the six elements, the Five Aggregates, and the four formless [immaterial] realms, as well as to all that is seen, heard, thought, perceived, and investigated* in the mind.
  • *The expression "what is seen, heard, or otherwise sensed" is an expression famously found in the discourse to Bahiya of the Barkcloth (Daruciriya), who was quick to understand and was the fastest to ever become enlightened when being taught by the Buddha with the least amount of instruction: "Do not look long, do not look short. In the seen, let there be only the seen. In the heard, only the heard. In the otherwise sensed, only the otherwise sensed."
Knowledge cannot rival experience (Stivers).
Anathapindika must have followed these detailed instructions with his heart so that even as he was listening, he was already practicing in the way the wise and enlightened Ven. Sariputra had instructed him. At the end of the presentation, tears came from Anathapindika's eyes.

Ven. Ananda turned to him compassionately and asked him to calm himself and to be at peace. Anathapindika replied: "I cannot calm myself and be at peace, O worthy Ananda. I have served the [Buddha] and the spiritually accomplished monastics (nuns and monks) for a long time, and yet I have never heard such a profound discourse."
Ven. Sariputra said: "Such profound talk, O householder, will not be clear enough for white-clad followers [lay Buddhists]; it is clear enough for ascetics."
Anathapindika answered: "Ven. Sariputra, let such talks on the Dharma be given to white-clad laypeople, too! There are those with just a little dust in their eyes [a small coating of delusion]. If they do not hear such teachings, they will be lost. If they do hear such teachings, some may be able to understand!"

The ultimate
The difference from the previously presented teaching of the Buddha is significant. Here we are concerned with ultimate questions, with the highest deliverance of mind/heart from all suffering, not just on a theoretical basis but as a practice.
Anathapindika, full of faith as a stream enterer, famously gives as many gold coins as it takes to cover the ground to buy Jeta Grove to donate it to the Buddha and the Sangha.
Anathapindika was aware, as a disciple who possessed the fruit of stream-entry (the first stage of enlightenment), of the transitory nature the Five Aggregates of Clinging, and he himself had expressed the fact that he knew the Three Characteristics of Existence: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self.

But there is a great difference as to whether one merely hears these things and ponders them, or whether one actually practices, directly perceives them, and applies their relevance. In this distinction lies the essential difference between the methods the Buddha used to teach householders and he used to teach monastics.
Laypeople vs. monastics
Enlightenment does not come about by clinging to mere rules or rituals, as Binky finds out after reading yoga books and saying om 108,000 times (Matt Groening/"Life in Hell").
For laypeople, insight into the true nature of existence was presented as a matter of knowledge, and this teaching was given at first to the monastics as well. But for the many monastics who had progressed further, the Buddha introduced the practice that would lead to complete liberation (full enlightenment) in this very life.

Only if one sees that Ven. Sariputra's exposition was a practical step-by-step approach to directly experiencing nirvana, can one understand that Anathapindika had never heard the core of the Teaching presented in quite such a manner.

Inner light (
In his dying hour he was already far removed from his worldly concerns (about money, business, and craving all his enjoyments) and, while reflecting on the Dharma, he had renounced and abandoned attachment to worldly possessions and even to this decrepit body revealed as unstable and liable to disappoint. So he found himself in a situation comparable to that of the most advanced monastics.

Under these circumstances, Ven. Sariputra was able to effectively give him instructions that would have the most far-reaching effects.
After advising Anathapindika in this way, Ven. Sariputra and Ven. Ananda left. Shortly thereafter, the householder Anathapindika passed away and was reborn in Tusita, a blissful celestial world, where his youngest daughter had been reborn.

The Buddha's aura, colorful and streaming.
Yet he was so genuinely devoted to the Buddha and the [Noble] Sangha [the community of accomplished practitioners whether they be lay Buddhist householders or ordained monastics] that he appeared in the Jeta Grove as a deva [a shining one, a light being], filling the entire grove with his luminosity. He went to the Buddha and, after paying respects, spoke the following verses.

"O, blessed is this Jeta Grove,
frequented by the enlightened community,
Where the Dharma King resides,
the fount of all my happiness!
By deeds, by knowledge, by uprightness,
By virtue, by the sublimest life,
By these are mortals purified,
and not by lineage nor by wealth.
A wise person, therefore,
seeing one's own good,
Wisely will one choose the Dharma,
so that one may thus be purified.
in his virtue, and in highest peace,
At best an ascetic who has crossed
beyond, can only equal him."
(MN 143; SN 2.20) More

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