Seven Similes (podcast)

download

The Buddha was a master of imagery. Here are some of his most vivid.

Once the Buddha was teaching to the layman Potaliya. He said to him, “Imagine a weak, hungry dog once came across a slaughterhouse. And the butcher threw him some bones that were thoroughly scraped clean of flesh but covered with blood. Would that dog be able to satisfy his hunger with those bones?”

Potaliya replied, “No”

“Why is that?”

“Because there is no flesh on the bone. The dog would only get tired and frustrated.”

“Well, Potaliya, having desire for pleasures of the senses is like desiring those bones. In the end they will only get you tired and frustrated. You will be worse off in the end. If you can truly see this with wisdom, you will avoid the false satisfaction that comes from fleeting pleasures. Instead, you will find the satisfaction of oneness, when desire for fleeting pleasures fade without a trace.

“Now imagine a vulture grabbed a chunk of flesh and took off with it. Then a group of other vultures began to tear at it with their beaks and claws. If that vulture refused to quickly drop that chunk of flesh, would he be injured or even killed?”

Potaliya replied, “Yes”

“Well, Potaliya, having desire for pleasures of the senses is like desiring that chunk of flesh. If you can truly see this with wisdom, you will avoid the false satisfaction that comes from fleeting pleasures. Instead, you will find the satisfaction of oneness, when desire for fleeting pleasures fade without a trace.

“Now imagine a man was carrying a rough torch made of straw when suddenly the wind whipped up. If he refused to quickly drop that torch, would he burn his hand or arm, be injured, or even killed?”

Potaliya replied, “Yes”

“Well, Potaliya, having desire for pleasures of the senses is like that rough straw torch. If you can truly see this with wisdom, you will avoid the false satisfaction that comes from fleeting pleasures. Instead, you will find the satisfaction of oneness, when desire for fleeting pleasures fade without a trace.

“Now imagine a deep pit full of glowing hot charcoal. An ordinary man comes along, and two strong men grab him and drag him toward this pit. Wouldn’t he writhe and struggle?”

Potaliya replied, “Yes”

“Why is that?”

“Because he realizes that if he is thrown into the pit he would have a horrible death.”

“Well, Potaliya, having desire for pleasures of the senses is like that pit. If you can truly see this with wisdom, you will avoid the false satisfaction that comes from fleeting pleasures. Instead, you will find the satisfaction of oneness, when desire for fleeting pleasures fade without a trace.

“Now imagine having a dream of beautiful parks, woods, and lakes. But when you wake up, there is nothing. Well, Potaliya, having desire for pleasures of the senses is like that lost dream. If you can truly see this with wisdom, you will avoid the false satisfaction that comes from fleeting pleasures. Instead, you will find the satisfaction of oneness, when desire for fleeting pleasures fade without a trace.

“Now imagine someone riding around in the city center in a borrowed carriage wearing borrowed jewelry. Everyone would see him and say, ‘They are so rich! Look at that beautiful carriage and jewelry!’ But the real owners could see them at any time and take back what is theirs. Could he object?”

Potaliya replied, “No”

“Why is that?”

“Because the owners are just taking back what is theirs.”

“Well, Potaliya, having desire for pleasures of the senses is like those borrowed things. If you can truly see this with wisdom, you will avoid the false satisfaction that comes from fleeting pleasures. Instead, you will find the satisfaction of oneness, when desire for fleeting pleasures fade without a trace.

“Now imagine that in a forest near a village there was a tree full of delicious fruit. Along comes a man, sees this fruit, but realizes that none has yet fallen. So he climbs the tree and begins to eat the fruit and fill his pockets full of fruit.

“While he eats, a second man comes along and sees the tree. This many thinks, ‘Hm, no fruit has fallen from this tree. I think I’ll just take an axe and chop it down to get to the fruit.’

“Now, if the first man doesn’t quickly climb down the tree, will be be injured or even killed?”

Potaliya replied, “Yes”

“Well, Potaliya, having desire for pleasures of the senses is like desiring that fruit. If you can truly see this with wisdom, you will avoid the false satisfaction that comes from fleeting pleasures. Instead, you will find the satisfaction of oneness, when desire for fleeting pleasures fade without a trace.

-Potaliya Sutta MN 54 (M i 359)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s