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Those Who Can, Do—Those who Can’t, Teach

August 21, 2013

Q: The other day an academic visited our site, and dismissed it as a hoax. What do you think?

The Arahant: What were his grounds?

Q: He said that for a monk to declare himself enlightened to laypeople is a violation of the Vinaya.

The Arahant: That is true; but did I do that?

Q: No, your brother monks claim that you are an Arahant.

The Arahant: And you believe them?

Q: I take their word for it, out of respect.

The Arahant: We have been sitting together, some of us for as long as twenty years. And in my humble opinion, they are Arahants. What about you?

Q: Well I certainly don’t claim to be anything, but after sitting with you for two weeks, I had a very profound experience.

The Arahant: Yes, and judging by your symptoms it would appear to be non-return. But it is too early to be certain. Six weeks is hardly enough time; we shall have to observe you for much longer. How long did our academic friend take to reach his conclusion?

Q: According to our server logs, he was on the site for a little less than two minutes.

The Arahant: Two minutes?!?! [Laughs so hard he nearly falls off of his chair. Wipes his eyes and cleans his glasses before he can continue. — Ed.] I’m sorry, but that’s hardly long enough to say hello!

So Mister Bigwig Professor, a tenured chair at a major university, exposes us to the world as a hoax after two whole minutes of investigation. This is exactly why Lao Tzu said, “Those who know do not teach; those who teach do not know.” And the Buddha said:

“‘It’s through living together that a person’s virtue may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning’: Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

“‘It’s through dealing with a person that his purity may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning’.” — Thana Sutta (AN 4.192)

Properly evaluating someone’s state of enlightenment can take years; but this professor thinks he can do it in two minutes from a distance of thousands of kilometers. Who does he think he is, the Buddha?

Academics are invariably misled. Their job is to propagate ideas that please their sources of funding. If they don’t, suddenly some hidden affair with a student comes out, and they lose their position in disgrace. He is simply piling up publications that meet certain requirements, and among them is certainly the assumption that ‘no one can attain to Arahant in these times’. The academic establishment, even among Buddhists, is very fond of that idea because it gives them an excuse not to practice, to base everything on verbal knowledge instead of experience. Of course they don’t attain!

He is an authority, has a big title and a lucrative position, all kinds of benefits, a guaranteed audience, probably a family, house and so on, and he is miserable. Every word out of his mouth has to please his masters. One wrong move and he can lose everything. We are unknown, have next to nothing, completely dependent on gifts and the kindness of our friends, no one listens to us, and we are deliriously happy. We can do or say whatever we like, and no one can harm us.

He is piling up possessions and attachments to designations, position etc. that will lead to terrible suffering when he has to leave them at death; we are free from attachment and eagerly awaiting death to claim our reward. He is so busy with family, classes, lectures, research, traveling and playing the role of The Big Professor that he doesn’t have a minute for meditation; and here we are up in the woods, living simply, just sitting for hours a day, and maybe doing a little writing. And he can judge us in two minutes? What’s wrong with this picture?

Q: All I know is that in the last year or so, since I started seriously meditating and studying the Buddha’s teaching, I have changed so fast it has made my head spin. Now I see the whole world as empty; I can’t imagine cultivating all kinds of relationships or taking up some social role, even in a temple context. I’ve lost any motivation for working out in the world. I’m quite content to spend most of my time meditating, like you. Is that alright?

The Arahant: It is more than alright, it’s perfect. This contemplative existence is the life that the Buddha wanted his monks to lead. What a wonder that you, a westerner, have such a taste for it when even most of our monks get caught up in performing rituals for the benefit of householders. You are far more advanced than any professor or other so-called ‘authority’, who is so caught up in making propaganda that he has no time to look at the reality. You have seen the reality, and responded with calm, detachment and dispassion. That is the result of practicing the Eightfold Noble Path.

“And what is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma? Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.” — Maha-cattarisaka Sutta (MN 117)

“And what, monk, are the states to be cultivated with higher knowledge? They are calm and insight.

“And how does a monk who cultivates the Noble Eightfold Path, who assiduously practices the Noble Eightfold Path, comprehend… abandon… come to experience… cultivate with higher knowledge those states that are to be so comprehended, abandoned, experienced, cultivated?

“In this, monks, a monk cultivates Right View… Right Concentration that is based on detachment, dispassion, leading to maturity of surrender. In this way he comprehends… abandons… comes to experience… cultivates with higher knowledge those states that are to be so comprehended, abandoned, experienced, cultivated.” — Agantuka Sutta (SN 45.159)

From → Q&A

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