ओं मणिपद्मे हूं
In a conversation I was having with Joe a few nights ago, we started talking about how many Buddhist teachings are related through a story, and how the visualisation, especially for someone with a developed imagination, can really help impact the meaning and create a sort of understand. There are basically two kinds of knowledge, conceptual understanding acquired through second hand experience and knowledge you acquire from directly experiencing something yourself. I think Jean-Paul Sartre had this same realization when he wrote about the rock in Nausea. I’ve heard a similar analogy in Buddhism, talking about a watermelon. No matter how you explain the vine, the leaves, the texture of the shell, the sweet, juicy taste, the only way to truly know a watermelon is to see it, pick it up, open it, and take a bite. No amount of words will explain it.
A lot of lessons in life can be taught through another person’s experience, although sometimes it takes learning something the hard way to really get through. For thousands of years people have been teaching through stories. Children’s stories usually have some moral in the end or some lesson. It reaches us on a deeper level than just saying, don’t do this or that. Is it that we relate to the characters on an emotional level that becomes personal? I don’t know, but I usually feel a good understanding of something even experiencing it through a story. It doesn’t take much to put my mind in that situation and it almost becomes ‘real’.
Joe told me a teaching Buddha had given to a contemporary king who often requested the Buddha’s council. On the topic of the importance of spiritual practice, the Buddha spoke…
“Majesty, suppose one day your trusted messenger brought news that there is a mountain, as high as the sky, approaching from the East, crushing every living thing in its path. Just as you begin to worry about this situation, another trusted messenger brings news that a mighty mountain is advancing from the West, also crushing everything in its path. Then messengers from the North and South arrive, bearing similar messages. Four mountains are advancing, crushing every living being in their paths. There is no way to escape, there is nothing you can do to prevent the mountains from coming. You have very little time left. Majesty, what do you do?”
The King thought, then responded, “I believe there is only one thing I could do. That would be to live my remaining hours in as worthy and serene a way as possible, following the true teaching.” The Buddha praised the king.
Yes, your Majesty! Those four mountains are the mountains of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Old age and death are closing in on us, and we can never escape.