Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Ananda Talk

For those who've asked, here are the notes from Sunday's dharma talk:

Ananda was a member of the caste of warrior-nobles in the City of Rajagritha; his father was Lord Kokuhan (“He Who Is As A Valley Stream”). Ananda was, in fact, the World-Honored One’s cousin and he was born on the night that the Tathagatha realized enlightenment. His name means “He Who Is A Delight” or “He Who Is A Joy.” His classically handsome form and face were without equal in any of the Sixteen Nations of India and everyone who saw him was filled with joy and delight, whence came his name. If you were casting a movie of his life, you'd have to choose, say, Jude Law to play Ananda.

He was unsurpassed in learning as well as quick in memory and bright, to say nothing of being highly esteemed for his broad learning. For twenty years he was the Buddha’s attendant; there was nothing that the Buddha had preached which he could not repeat for he constantly studied how the Buddha deported himself. Ananda had heard all of what the Buddha had taught and was quite erudite; many were the times when the Buddha personally expressed his approval of him even though he had not clarified what the foundation of his mind was.

The other disciples all said, “As the Buddha’s attendant, Ananda heard more of what the Buddha said than any other and has thoroughly retained it; it is just as if it were water that has been poured from one vessel into another without a drop being spilt." After the Buddha’s death, upon the request of the other disciples, Ananda recited all of the sacred teachings, beginning, “Thus have I heard: once when the Buddha was residing at. . ." After he had repeated all the teachings from the Buddha’s lifetime, the other disciples said that his proclamations did not differ from what the Tathagatha had taught even by as much as a single word. They were all in agreement that they could not tell whether it was the Tathagatha come back again or Ananda preaching. What Ananda proclaimed is, even now, the flowing forth and passing on of what the Tathagatha had preached.

However, one day Ananda bowed down to the feet of the Buddha and admitted, “I have not yet attained perfect Emancipation from arbitrary conceptions of phenomena since becoming a disciple is because of my pride in being known as thy favorite cousin and because of my exceptional learning."

One day, a non-Buddhist visited the congregation and said to the Buddha, “I do not ask for words; I do not ask for silence.” The Buddha just sat quietly.

The non-Buddhist said admiringly, “The compassion of the World-Honored One has opened the clouds of my delusion and has enabled me to enter the Way.” Making his salutations, he departed. Ananda, who as always was standing nearby, then asked the Buddha, “What was it this non-Buddhist realized, that he so praised you?”

The World-Honored One replied, “A good horse moves even at the shadow of the whip.”

On another occasion, Ananda said: “Today when we left town, I saw a most unusual thing.”

The World-Honored One asked, “What unusual thing did you see?”

Ananda said, “When we entered the town, I saw a bunch of musicians dancing. Upon leaving the town, I saw that they had all vanished.”

The World Honored One said, “Yesterday, I also saw an unusual thing.”

Ananda said, “I wonder what unusual thing the World-Honored One saw.”

The World-Honored One said, “When I entered the town I saw musicians dancing. Leaving the town, I again saw musicians dancing.”

The World-Honored One and Ananda both saw the unusual. Although the musicians were the same, their existence and disappearance were different. Zen Master Dogen once said that if someone were to ask him, “Teacher, do you also see an unusual thing or not?,” he would answer, "I do not leave or enter the town, and I do not see musicians dancing, but I also see that there is an unusual thing." If someone were to ask, “Teacher, what unusual thing do you see?,” he would have said, "Yesterday there was leaving and entering of inhaling and exhaling. This morning as well, there is this leaving and entering."

The World Honored One said to Ananda, “It is getting close to mealtime. You should go to town with the begging bowl.” Ananda accepted his request.

The World-Honored One said, “When you go begging with the bowl, you follow the manner of the Past Seven Buddhas.” Ananda asked, “What is the manner of the Past Seven Buddhas?”

The Buddha said, “Ananda!”

Ananda said, “Yes, Master.”

The Buddha said, “Go begging.”

On another occasion, Ananda asked Mahakasyapa, “Senior brother, besides the golden brocade robe you have received, have you received anything else?”

Mahakasyapa called out, “Ananda!”

“Yes, Master.”

Mahakasyapa said, “Take down the flagpole in front of your temple gate.”

Ananda had a great realization.

Later, Mahakasyapa asked Ananda, “Which single verse gave rise to the thirty-seven elements and all the teachings of the Buddha?”

Ananda said, “Not performing any evil, respectfully practicing all good, purifying one’s own mind, this is the teaching of all Buddhas.”

Mahakasyapa agreed.

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