SEVERAL MIDDLE WAYS II

Buddha tended to interiorise the natural elements and so takes away their godliness and the need to venerate them.
(In the Pāli Middle Discourses 140, The Analysis of the Elements, it says:

This person has six elements.’ … There are these six elements: the elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness.”
Buddha goes on to explain how these six constitute a being and how they are inseparable. Take one away and all other disappear, i.e. the being dies. That is to say that in one stroke of the pen – as it were – he discarded the practice of certain ascetics who strove to “free” the mind from the body in order to a pure mind enter total liberation (moksha).

As for the separate elements. The Rgveda author may have lived in a climate zone where WIND (vayu) was a very important factor in the climate of his region because centuries later wind is all but absent in the early Buddhist teachings, it seems to have been transformed into “air” as one of the above-stated six elements that constitute a being.

But on FIRE and WATER Buddha had his thing to say.
Surrounded by raw recruits who previously followed a fire worshipper Buddha and his monks stand on top of a hill and look down on an enormous wildfire in de woods below. The former fire worshippers are restless; their world view is caving in right before their feet. Buddha perceives the disarray and says, according to the early Pāli Fire Sutta:

“(Man’s mind is) Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion. Aflame, I say, with birth, ageing and death, with sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair.”

This turning concepts around, this reverting the gaze back from the external world to the inner world, will become one of the main traits of Buddha’s teachings for in the equally Pāli Sutta the “Uda-kárahada sutta” it says: “There are four kinds of sheets of WATER: (1) flat (uttāna) but deep in appearance (obhāsa); (2) deep but flat in appearance; (3) flat and flat in appearance; (4) deep and deep in appearance. So also, there are four classes of people: handsome in appearance but shallow in mind; not handsome in appearance but deep in knowledge; neither handsome nor wise; both handsome and wise.”
(tr. Gunapála Piyaséna Malála-sékera)

Elsewhere we find a passage where Buddha makes fun of ascetics who in the near freezing cold spend an entire night in jumping in and climbing out a river: you only get ill, this way.

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