Monday, October 7, 2019

Surfing the Flood (sutra)

Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson (eds.) based on Ven. Thanissaro (trans.), SN 1.1, Ogha-Tarana Sutra: "Crossing Over the Flood," Wisdom Quarterly; Surfing for Beginners

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A wave is coming, a great wave. A flood is coming, another one. We are inundated. All around is this flood. There are four "floods" or ogha, the four corruptions, cankers, taints, intoxicating biases.

NOTE: This sutra opens The Connected Discourses (Samyutta Nikaya, "Kindred Sayings") with a paradox. The Commentary informs us that the Buddha teaches this deva* using a paradox to subdue her pride.
  • *"Shining one," radiant light being, woodland fairy, or glowing space visitor.
To put this paradox in context, read other passages from the Pali canon that discuss right effort.

Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One (the Buddha) was staying near Savatthi in Jeta's Grove in the multi-millionaire's monastery.

Then a certain devi, when the night was far gone, her radiance lighting up the entire Jeta's Grove, went to the Blessed One.

When she arrived, she bowed, stood respectfully to one side, and said: "Tell me, dear sir, how you crossed over the flood."

[The Buddha replied:] "I crossed over the flood by neither pushing forward nor staying in place"* [in the way one rides a wave when surfing.]
  • *Or "unestablished." See Udana 8.1 and related references at SN 12.38 and SN 12.64.
"But how, dear sir, did you cross over the flood without pushing forward and not staying in place?"

"If I were to push forward, I whirled about. If I were to stay in place, I sank. So I crossed over the flood by neither pushing forward nor staying in place."

[The devi replied:]

At long last I behold
a Brahmin, fully awakened,
who without pushing forward,
without staying in place,
has crossed over
the entanglements
of the world.

That is what the deva said. The Teacher approved. Realizing "the Teacher has approved of me," she bowed, circumambulated him — respectfully keeping him on the right — then vanished right then and there.

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