Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tending water buffaloes: Buddha

Photo: Copyright Allan Montaine, 1998

Today I wish to tell you about the work of tending water buffaloes – what a good buffalo boy must know and what he must be able to do. A boy who cares well for water buffaloes is a boy who easily recognises each buffalo under his care, knows the characteristics and tendencies of each one, knows how to scrub them, care for their wounds, chase mosquitoes away with smoke, find safe paths for them to walk, love them, find safe and shallow places for them to cross the river, seek fresh grass and water for them, preserve the grazing meadows, and let the older buffaloes serve as good models for the younger ones.

Listen monks, just as a buffalo boy recognises each of his own buffaloes, a monk recognises each of the essential elements of his own body. Just as a buffalo boy knows the characteristics and tendencies of each buffalo, a monk knows which actions of body, speech, and mind are worthy and knows which are not. Just as a buffalo boy scrubs his animals clean, a monk must cleanse his mind and body of desires, attachments, anger and aversions.

Just as a buffalo boy cares for his buffaloes’ wounds, a monk watches over his six sense organs – eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind – so that they do not become lost in dispersion. Just as a buffalo boy protects his buffaloes from mosquito bites by building fires to create smoke the monk uses the teaching of becoming awake to show those around him how to avoid the afflictions of body and mind. Just as the boy finds a safe path for the buffaloes to walk, the monk avoids those paths that lead to desire for fame, wealth and sexual pleasure – places such as taverns and theatres. Just as a buffalo boy loves his buffaloes, the monk cherishes the joy and peace of meditation. As the boy finds a safe, shallow place in the river for the buffaloes to cross, the monk relies on the Four Noble Truths to negotiate his life. As the boy find fresh grass and water for his buffaloes, the monk knows that the Four Establishments of Mindfulness are the nourishment leading to liberation. As the boy reserves the field by not overgrazing them, the monk is careful to preserve the relationship with the nearby community as he begs offerings. As the boy lets the older buffaloes serve as models for the younger ones, the monk depends on the wisdom and experience of their elders.

O monks, a monk who follows these eleven points will attain liberation in the span of six years of practice.

From: Old Paths White Clouds - Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha, by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Four Noble Truths: suffering; the cause of suffering; the cessation of suffering; and the eight-fold path that leads to the cessation of suffering.

Eight-fold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

The four establishments of mindfulness: the establishment of mindfulness of body as body; the establishment of consciousness as consciousness; the establishment of feelings as feelings; the establishment of mental objects as mental objects.


irving said...

A wonderful post :) This buffalo boy has been tending his herd for 15 years, and still is struggling to learn the points :)

Ya Haqq!

Yves said...

Thank goodness I am not a buddhist. I can visit tavern and theatre when I wish, and need not worry about avoiding the other things mentioned - fame, wealth and sexual pleasure. I can trust my own instincts as a wonderful creation of nature and not be enslaved to some false promise of a fussy monkmaster.

rama said...

Hullo! Thank you Irving! Yves - I'm sure the Buddha himself would have been the first to commend your spirit and wish you well in your pursuits. More, discerning your make-up and sensibility, he is likely to have seen you as a friend! He had taught about the raft being only a means for crossing the river, not something to cling to after reaching the bank. One can also choose to interpret "tavern", "theatre",
"fame", "wealth" etc in one's own terms, in the context of one's own self-defined quest or being. Best, rama