Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Parable Of The Arrow

The Buddha was sitting in the park when his disciple Malunkyaputta approached him. Malunkyaputta had recently retired from the world and he was concerned that so many things remained unexplained by the Buddha. Was the world eternal or not eternal? Was the soul different from the body? Did the enlightened exist after death or not? He thought, 'If the Buddha does not explain these things to me, I will give up this training and return to worldly life'.
He put these questions to the Buddha who replied, "Now did I ever say to you that if you led a religious life you would understand these things? It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends, companions relatives were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know who wounded me, of what caste he is, what his name is, whether he is tall, short or of medium height, what colour his skin is, where he comes from, what kind of bow I was wounded with, what it was made of, whether the arrow was feathered with a vulture's wing or a heron's or a hawk's…..' Surely the man would die before he knew all this."
"Whether the view is held that the world is eternal or not, Malunkyaputta, there is still re-birth, old age, death, grief, suffering, sorrow and despair - and these can be destroyed in this life! I have not explained these other things because they are not useful, they are not conducive to tranquillity and Nirvana. What I have explained is suffering, the cause of suffering, the destruction of suffering and the path that leads to the destruction of suffering. This is useful, leading to non-attachment, the absence of passion, perfect knowledge."
Thus spoke the Buddha, and with joy Malunkyaputta applauded his words.  
What does this have to do with training? Here's the message from the parable: When the path is clear, questions about research, methodology, rationale, and systems cease to have relevance. Sometimes, we get caught up in the 'why' this or that works. We read article after article, abstract after abstract, looking for "answers" when we already know what must be done. Reflection must be coupled with action (sometimes A LOT of action) to be useful.


Jimmy said...

Thanks for the reminder Boris. Even if the stuff as to why is interesting, most people need to think less and do more. It's not how much knowledge you have, it's how much you apply.

Mark Reifkind said...

love it. great post and so true, imo. As Pavel has said," do you want to learn to swim or understand hydrodynamics?"

I'd rather swim now and understand ( maybe) later.

Boris said...

Thank you Jimmy.

Thanks Rif - exactly. Swim or hydrodynamics - great stuff!