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Volume 6 no 2

Feature

Seize The Day

In the Noble Eight-fold Path[1] taught by Buddha, the Right Action[1] advocates practitioners of Buddhism to pursue all that are virtuous with zeal and a commitment to progress. Such should be the correct attitude whether in our career or in pursuit of the ultimate truth. The following short story may help to illustrate Buddha's teaching more clearly.

Early one morning Buddha and one of his chief disciples, Ananda, set out from Jetavana to seek alms. They came to the city of Sravasti. As they entered the city gate and were walking along a path by the city wall, they saw an aged couple.

Their backs were crooked and they could neither straighten themselves nor move about. They were dressed in rags, appearing unhygienic and well worn with age: frail, toothless, grey hair, hard of hearing and poor eyesight. They lived next to a pile of rubbish by the derelict wall of a sleazy alley. They crouched close to each other, facing a small fire for warmth. With eyes only for each other, they resembled a pair of old swans that cannot bear to part.

The Buddha turned his head and asked Ananda, "Did you see that aged couple by the wall and the warmth of the burning cow dung?"

Ananda replied, "World Honoured One, I see them."

The Buddha continued, "If this old couple had been determined and diligent when they were young and strong, regardless of the nature of their work as long as it is legitimate, perhaps at this age they are already amongst the wealthiest class of people in Sravasti. On the other hand, if they had chosen to renounce their worldly life to learn and cultivate the right path with diligence, perhaps they would have already attained the Arhat [2] by now.

Even if they were not that determined when they were young, but are ambitious and diligent only at a later age and they work with the Right Action, perhaps they are already amongst the second wealthiest class of people in Sravasti. Similarly, if on the other hand, they had chosen to renounce their worldly life to learn and cultivate the right path with diligence, perhaps they would have already attained the Anagami [2].

Worse still, should they only realise about diligence and progress when they are already at their middle age, and only then began to work with the Right Action, perhaps they are already amongst the third wealthiest class of people in Sravasti. If they had chosen to renounce their worldly life to learn and cultivate the right path with diligence, perhaps they would have already attained the Sakrdagamin [2].

However, they did none of the above. Instead, they spent their life times loving and possessing each other, and wasted the most useful time of their lives. That is why today they are helpless and have no way out of their predicament. They live in poor conditions, are penniless and there is nothing that they can do. For them it is a living death, having to face the retribution of their own doing, and nobody took any pity on them. What meaning is there in a life like this?"

In order to encourage people not to fall into the same predicament, the Buddha said, "Ananda, always remember to advise and guide people:

In youth, be determined, diligent, and thrifty and strive to acquire knowledge.

Maintain a mind that is distant and unchained from desire and be focused on building a career during the prime of life.

In middle age, realise a stable career that is based on diligence, zeal, progress and Right Action.

Always use the wealth meaningfully to benefit self and others.


Do not wait till old age and rely on the people's benevolence like the aged swan."

The above incident demonstrates the compassion of the Buddha in caring for sentient beings and encouraging people to be determined in striving for progress, regardless of whether one is concerned with building a career, or one who has renounced the worldly life to learn and cultivate the right path. His only wish was for all sentient beings to be distant from suffering and attain happiness in life.

Notes:
[1] Noble Eight-fold Path:
1. Right Speech
2. Right Action
3. Right Livelihood
4. Right Effort
5. Right Mindfulness
6. Right Concentration
7. Right Views
8. Right Thought


[2] The four stages in Hinayana sanctity:
- 1st stage - srota-apanna
- 2nd stage - sakrdagamin
- 3rd stage - anagami-phala
- 4th stage - arhat, the highest stage
 
 
 


Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre