LESSON 118 Adhipataka Sutta Like Moths to the Flame 26 12 2010 FREE ONLINE eNālandā Research and Practice UNIVERSITY
Traditionally the are 84,000 Dharma Doors - 84,000 ways to get Awakeness. Maybe so; certainly the Buddha taught a large number of practices that lead to Awakeness. This web page attempts to catalogue those found in the Pali Suttas (DN, MN, SN, AN, Ud & Sn 1). There are 3 sections:
The discourses of Buddha are divided into 84,000, as to separate addresses. The division includes all that was spoken by Buddha.”I received from Buddha,” said Ananda, “82,000 Khandas, and from the priests 2000; these are 84,000 Khandas maintained by me.” They are divided into 275,250, as to the stanzas of the original text, and into 361,550, as to the stanzas of the commentary. All the discourses including both those of Buddha and those of the commentator, are divided into 2,547 banawaras, containing 737,000 stanzas, and 29,368,000 separate letters.
PTS: Ud 57
Adhipataka Sutta: Like Moths to the Flame
translated from the Pali by
Alternate translation: Thanissaro
One time the Buddha was staying near Savatthi, in Jeta’s grove, at the garden of Anathapindika. At that time he was seated under the open sky, on a night of blinding darkness, while oil lamps were burning. And also at that time a great number of winged insects were flying around and falling into those oil lamps, thus meeting with misfortune, meeting with ruin, meeting with both misfortune and ruin. The Buddha saw those great number of winged insects flying around and falling into those oil lamps… And then the Buddha, understanding the meaning of this, gave utterance — at that moment — to this profound utterance:
Rushing up but then too far, they miss the point;
Only causing ever newer bonds to grow.
So obsessed are some by what is seen and heard,
They fly just like these moths — straight into the flames.
This is a wonderful example of the Buddha using whatever situation presents itself as an opportunity for teaching, and his remarks, as usual, can be taken on many different levels.
The insects are drawn irresistibly in the dark night to the shining lamps, but in their zeal to approach the light they go too far and only meet their doom. Humans likewise are drawn to the pleasures of the senses, to what is seen and heard, not realizing the dangers involved. When we get too close — when we hold on with too much attachment — we get burned by suffering. The senses can still be enjoyed, as the moth can stay circling the flame, but only when one holds the proper distance. This quality of “stepping back” or “standing off” from obsession with the senses is something that is cultivated with the practice of mindfulness meditation.
But the fire can also be taken as a symbol of wisdom. We are naturally drawn to the light of truth, to the teachings of the Buddha for example, but must take care not to over-shoot the mark. Getting too attached to views, even if these views are correct, can also lead to harm and the strengthening of bondage. The word translated here as “point” issara, which can mean the heart, the essence or the crux of something. The subtle idea that seems to be expressed is that rushing or running will never reveal what is essential — the pith can never be approached headlong. What is needed is the tranquility of mind that meditation brings, and the ability to keep even wisdom in proper perspective.
The passage is in the form of an Udana, a solemn utterance, and is in the tristubh meter of eleven syllables per line. The order of the last two lines has been re-arranged in translation to better reflect the syntax of English
BUDDHA (EDUCATE)! DHAMMA (MEDITATE)! SANGHA (ORGANISE)!
WISDOM IS POWER
Awakened One Shows the Path to Attain Ultimate Bliss
Using such an instrument
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The teachings of Buddha are eternal, but even then Buddha did not proclaim them to be infallible. The religion of Buddha has the capacity to change according to times, a quality which no other religion can claim to have…Now what is the basis of Buddhism? If you study carefully, you will see that Buddhism is based on reason. There is an element of flexibility inherent in it, which is not found in any other religion.
§ Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar , Indian scholar, philosopher and architect of Constitution of India, in his writing and speeches
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