Saturday, September 09, 2006

Araka


In the Anguttara Nikaya, Buddha Gotama tells us of the story of Araka.

"Long ago, O monks, there lived a religious teacher named Araka, who was free of sensual lust. He had many hundreds of disciples, and this was the doctrine he taught to them:

"Short is the life of human beings, O brahmins, limited and brief; it is full of suffering, full of tribulation. This one should wisely understand. One should do good and live a pure life; for none who is born can escape death.

Araka then gives many examples to his disciples to give them a sense of this short life.

"Just as a line drawn on water will quickly vanish and will not last long; even so, brahmins, is human life like a line drawn on water. It is short, limited, and brief; it is full of suffering, full of tribulation. This one should wisely understand. One should do good and live a pure life; for none who is born can escape death.

"Just as a mountain stream, coming from afar, swiftly flowing, carrying away much flotsam, will not stand for a moment, an instant, a second, but will rush on, swirl and flow forward; even so, brahmins, is human life like a mountain stream. It is short.... for none who is born can escape death.

"Just as, when a cow is to be slaughtered is led to the shambles, whenever she lifts a leg she will be closer to slaughter, closer to death; even so, brahmins, is human life like cattle doomed to slaughter. It is short.... for none who is born can escape death.

It was after this lesson that Buddha Gotama revealed the most interesting secret of Araka and his group.

"But at that time, O monks, the human lifespan was 60,000 years, and at 500 years girls were ready for marriage. In those days people had but six afflictions: cold, heat, hunger, thirst, excrement, and urine. Though people lived so long and had so few afflictions, that teacher Araka gave to his disciples such a teaching: 'Short is the life of human beings....'

Then Buddha Gotama calculated the number of summers and winters, and the number of meals that a centenarian could expect. How short is just 100 years compared to that of 60, 000. It is clear that in our time we have more afflictions and less time. We are fortunate to live in an age where the words have not been forgotten and we can still free ourselves from this suffering. To do this, we must not always put off our practice and mindfulness until tomorrow, for even in the time of Araka, the time was too short.

"Whatever should be done by a compassionate teacher who, out of compassion, seeks the welfare of his disciples, that I have done for you. These are the roots of the tree, O monks, these are the empty huts. Meditate, monks, do not be negligent, or else you will regret it later. This is our instruction to you."

(Anguttara Nikaya 7:70; IV 136-39)


Sutra from:
Bodhi, Bhikkhu In The Buddha's Words Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2005

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