Monday, July 22, 2013

Crossing the Wilderness (sutra)

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, Bhante Chanda, Wisdom Quarterly; based on Ken and Visakha Kawasaki translation (, Apannaka Jataka (Jataka 1,
The Buddha and a small fraction of his fathom long aura (Santhosh Kumar/
While the Buddha was staying at Jetavana Monastery near Savatthi, the wealthy [multi-millionaire] banker, Anathapindika, went one day to pay his respects. His servants brought masses of flowers, perfume, ghee, oil, nectar, molasses, cloth, and robes.

Anathapindika paid respects to the Buddha, presented the offerings he brought, and sat respectfully to one side. At that time, he was accompanied by a large number of friends who were followers of other teachers. His friends also paid their respects to the Buddha and sat close to the banker.
The Buddha (Stud3o Munkey/flickr)
The Buddha's face appeared like a full moon, and his body was surrounded by a radiant aura. Seated on the red stone seat, he was like a young lion roaring with a clear, noble voice as he taught them a discourse full of sweetness and beautiful to the ear.

After hearing the Buddha's teaching, the friends gave up their diverse practices and asked for guidance from the Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the (enlightened) Sangha. After that, they went regularly with Anathapindika to offer flowers and incense and to hear the teaching.

They gave liberally, kept the precepts, and faithfully observed the Lunar (Eight Precept) Observance Day [which falls on the new, full, and half moon days of the month]. Soon after the Buddha left Savatthi to return to Rajagaha. However, these friends abandoned their new confidence in the Triple Gem and reverted to their previous beliefs.

Seven or eight months later, the Buddha returned to Jetavana. Again, Anathapindika brought his friends to visit the Buddha. They paid their respects, but Anathapindika explained that they had forsaken the guidance they had previously sought and had resumed their former practices.
The Buddha asked, "Is it true that you have abandoned guidance from the Triple Gem for guidance from other doctrines?" The Buddha's voice was incredibly clear and lucid because throughout myriad aeons he had always spoken truthfully.
When the friends heard it, they were unable to conceal the truth. "Yes, Blessed One," they confessed. "It is true."
Golden Buddha (
"Disciples," the Buddha said, "nowhere between the lowest hells below and the highest heavens above, nowhere in all the innumerable worlds that stretch right and left, is there the equal, much less the superior, of a (samma sam) buddha. Incalculable is the excellence which springs from adhering to the precepts and from other virtuous conduct."

Then he declared the virtues of the Triple Gem. "By seeking guidance in the Triple Gem," he told them, "one escapes from rebirth in [four] states of suffering." He further explained that meditation on the Triple Gem leads through the four stages of enlightenment.
"In forsaking such guidance as this," he admonished them, "one has certainly gone astray. In the past, too, people who foolishly mistook what was not a guide for a real guide, met with disaster. Actually, they fell prey to harmful spirits (yakkhas) in the wilderness and were utterly destroyed.

In contrast, those who clung to the truth not only survived, but actually prospered in that same wilderness."

Story of the Past
Yakkha, Thailand (Andy Wright/flickr)
Anathapindika raised his clasped hands to his forehead, praised the Buddha, and asked him to tell that story of the past.

"In order to dispel the world's ignorance and to conquer suffering," the Buddha proclaimed, "I practiced the Ten Perfections for countless aeons. Listen carefully, and I will speak."

Having their full attention, the Buddha made clear -- as though he were releasing the full moon obscured by clouds -- what rebirth had concealed from them.
Long, long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta (future Buddha) was born into a merchant's family and grew up to be a wise trader. At the same time, in the same city, there was another merchant, a very foolish fellow with no common sense.

"Evil" spirit (yakkha) tries to mislead the Bodhisat (
One day it so happened that the two merchants each loaded a large number of carts with costly wares from Benares and prepared to leave in the same direction at exactly the same time. The wise merchant thought:

"If this silly young fool travels with me and if our many carts stay together, it will be too much for the road. Finding wood and water for the workers will be difficult, and there will not be enough grass for the oxen. Either he or I must go first."
"Look," he said to the other merchant, "the two of us can't travel together. Would you rather go first or follow after me?"
The foolish trader thought, "There will be many advantages if I take the lead. I'll get a road which is not yet cut up. My oxen will have the pick of the grass. My workers will get the choicest wild herbs for curry. The water will be undisturbed. Best of all, I'll be able to fix my own price for bartering my goods." Considering all these advantages, he said, "I will go ahead of you, my friend."

(SKS) Sri Lankan animated version of the Apannaka Jataka in Sinhalese. What is being said? The story of the past (jataka) continues:

The Bodhisatta was pleased to hear this because he saw many advantages in following after. He reasoned:

"Those carts going first will level the road where it is rough, and I'll be able to travel along the road they have already smoothed. Their oxen will graze off the coarse old grass, and mine will pasture on the sweet young growth which will spring up in its place. My workers will find fresh sweet herbs for curry where the old ones have been picked. Where there is no water, the first caravan will have to dig to supply themselves, and we'll be able to drink at the wells they have dug. Haggling over prices is tiresome work. He'll do that work, and I will be able to barter my wares at prices he has already fixed."
"Very well, my friend," he said, "please go first."
"I will," said the foolish merchant, and he yoked his carts and set out. After a while he came to the outskirts of a wilderness. He filled all of his huge water jars with water before setting out to cross the 60 yojanas [ancient Indian unit of distance, each yojana estimated to be about seven miles] of desert which lay before him.

Crossing the Wilderness in Thai (
The yakkha (djinn, "demon," genie, shapeshifting ogre) who haunted that wilderness had been watching the caravan.
When it had reached the middle, he used his magic power to conjure up a lovely carriage drawn by pure white young bulls.
With a retinue of a dozen disguised yakkhas carrying swords and shields, he rode along in his carriage like a mighty lord. His hair and clothes were wet, and he had a wreath of blue lotuses and white water lilies around his head. His attendants also were dripping wet and draped in garlands. Even the bulls' hooves and carriage wheels were muddy.
As the wind was blowing from the front, the merchant was riding at the head of his caravan to escape the dust. The yakkha drew his carriage beside the merchant's and greeted him kindly. The merchant returned the greeting and moved his own carriage to one side to allow the carts to pass while he and the disguised yakkha chatted.
"We are on our way from Benares, sir," explained the merchant. "I see that your workers are all wet and muddy and that you have lotuses and water lilies. Did it rain while you were on the road? Did you come across pools with lotuses and water lilies?"
"What do you mean?" the yakkha exclaimed. "Over there is the dark-green streak of a jungle. Beyond that there is plenty of water. It is always raining there, and there are many lakes with lotuses and water lilies." Then pretending to be interested in the merchant's business, he asked: "What do you have in these carts?"
"Expensive merchandise," answered the merchant.
"What is in this cart which seems so heavily laden?" the yakkha asked as the last cart rolled by.
"That's full of water."
"You were wise to carry water with you this far, but there is no need for it now, since water is so plentiful ahead. You could travel much faster and lighter without those heavy jars. You'd be better off breaking them and throwing the water away. Well, good day," the yakkha said suddenly as he turned his carriage. "We must be on our way. We have stopped too long already." He rode away quickly with his workers. As soon as they were out of sight, he turned and made his way back to his own city.
The merchant was so foolish that he followed the yakkha's advice. More

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