Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Story of the Elder Protector of Vision (part 2)

     At the end of the first part of this tale our hero, the venerable Elder Protector of Vision (Cakkhupālatthera), by the extremity of his spiritual efforts, and particularly by his refusal to sleep more than just a few hours per night, and that in a sitting position, had just become fully enlightened and completely blind simultaneously. On with the story…

     The bhikkhus, coming at the time for going for alms, said “Time to walk for alms, Venerable Sir.” 
     “It is morning, friends?”
     “Yes, Venerable Sir.” 
     “Well then, you go.”
     “And what about you, Venerable Sir?”
     “My eyes are lost, friends.” 
     Taking a look at his eyes, their own eyes became filled with tears. “Venerable Sir, don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.” Having made the Elder comfortable, and having performed the various duties required of them, they entered the village for alms food. 
     When people didn’t see the Elder they asked, “Venerable Sirs, where is our gentleman?” and having heard the news they had rice broth sent, and took alms food and went to the Elder themselves; and paying respect to him, and rolling at his feet and crying, they said “Venerable Sir, we will take care of you. Don’t worry,” and after helping him to feel comfortable they went away. From then on they regularly sent rice broth and cooked rice to the monastery. 
     And the Elder constantly exhorted the other sixty bhikkhus. And they, standing firm in his exhortations, at the approach of the concluding invitation ceremony every one of them attained Arahantship with mastery of the discriminative knowledges. And having completed the rains residence, and having become desirous of seeing the Teacher, they said to the Elder, “Venerable Sir, we desire to see the Teacher.”
     The Elder, hearing their words, thought, “I am not strong, and along the way there is a wilderness inhabited by inhuman beings. They will all be exhausted with me going with them, and they won’t be able to get alms food. I’ll send them along before me.” Then he said to them, “My friends, you go ahead.” 
     “And what about you, Venerable Sir?”
     “I am not strong, and along the way there is a wilderness inhabited by inhuman beings. You will all be exhausted by me going with you. You go ahead.” 
     “Don’t do like this Venerable Sir; we will go only with you.” 
     “My friends, please don’t favor such a course. Your being like this will make me troubled. When my younger brother meets you he will ask about me; then tell him about the loss of my eyesight. He will send someone to me with whom I can come back. With my words, please pay respect to Him of the Ten Powers and to the eighty Great Elders.” With that he sent them off. 
     After asking the Elder’s pardon, they entered the village. The people, upon seeing them, had them sit down, and after offering them alms food asked, “What, Venerable Sirs, is there some reason for the gentlemen to go away?” 
     “Yes, lay disciples. We are desirous of seeing the Teacher.” 
     After pleading with them again and again, and realizing that they still intended to go, they followed after them and, finally, lamenting, turned back. 
     Eventually they arrived at Jetavana and paid respect, with the Elder’s words, to the Teacher and to the eighty Great Elders, and on the next day they entered the lane where the Elder’s younger brother was living, for alms food. Recognizing them, the landowner had them sit down, and after attending to them hospitably asked, “Venerable Sirs, where is my dear brother the Elder?” Then they told him the news. 
     Upon hearing this, he rolled at their feet and cried, asking, “Now, Venerable Sirs, what is to be done?” 
     “The Elder is waiting for someone to come from here. When he has arrived there, he will come here with him.”
     “This, Venerable Sirs, is my sister’s son, called Protected (pālita). Send him.” 
     “To send him like this is not possible; there are dangers lurking on the road. It is better to send him after he has made formal renunciation.” 
     “Then do it thus and send him, Venerable Sirs.” Then, having ordained him as a novice, after training him for half a month with regard to handling his bowl and robes and so on, and after explaining the road to him, they sent him off. 
     Eventually arriving at that village, and seeing an old man at the village gate, he asked, “Is there some forest monastery dependent upon this village?”
     “There is, Venerable Sir.” 
     “Who lives there?”
     “He is the Elder Protected, Venerable Sir.” 
     “Show me the way.”
     “Who are you, Venerable Sir?”
     “I am the Elder’s nephew.” 
     Then, taking him in hand, he led him to the monastery. After paying respect to the Elder and performing various duties and properly tending to the Elder for the span of half a month, he said, “Venerable Sir, the landowner, my mother’s brother, is waiting for you to come back with me. Come on, let’s go.” 
     “Well then, take hold of the end of my staff.” 
     Taking hold of the end of his staff, he went into the village with the Elder. The people had the Elder sit down, and asked, “What, Venerable Sir, is there some reason for you to go away?” 
     “Yes, lay disciples, I am going to the Teacher and will pay respect to him.” Pleading with him in various ways but not getting their way, they saw the Elder off, going the first part of the way with him, and then turned back, crying. 
     The novice, going along holding the end of the Elder’s walking stick, along the way arrived at a village in the wilderness called Kaṭṭhanagara, near which the Elder had stayed before; and as they came out of the village, in the forest, a woodcutter girl was lustily singing a song. Hearing the sound of a woman singing, he was captivated by her voice. There is no other sound able to suffuse a man’s entire body and abide there like the sound of a woman. Thus the Blessed One said: 
Bhikkhus, I am not aware of any other sound that takes hold of a man’s mind and abides there as does, bhikkhus, the sound of a woman. (—from the second Sutta of the Aṅguttara Nikāya)
     The novice, captivated at that point, let go of the end of the staff and said, “Please wait, Venerable Sir. I have something to do.” Then he went near her. Upon seeing him, she became silent. Then he accomplished the downfall of his morality with her. 
     The Elder thought, “Just now I heard the sound of singing, and then the sound of that woman suddenly stopped. And the novice is taking a long time. It must be that he has fallen to breaking his precepts with her.”
     And that one, having finished his own business, returned and said, “Let’s go, Venerable Sir.”
     Now the Elder asked him, “Have you gone bad, novice?” He became silent; and questioned by the Elder again and again, he didn’t say anything. Then the Elder said to him, “Holding the end of my stick is no business for a bad one like you.” 
     Struck with dread, he took off the yellow-brown robes and, dressing himself in the manner of a householder, said “Venerable Sir, before I was a novice; now I have become a householder again. It was not from faith that I renounced worldly life—I renounced it on account of fear of the dangers of the journey. Come, let’s go.” 
     “Friend, a bad householder and a bad novice are both bad. Even when living as a novice you were unable to keep your morality intact; having become a householder what good will you do? Holding the end of my stick is no business for a bad one like you.”
     “Venerable Sir, the road is a menace of inhuman beings! And you are blind and without anyone to guide you! How will you live here?” 
     Now the Elder said to him, “Friend, don’t be worried like this. Even with this befalling me right now, whether I die or wander lost from place to place, there is no going with you.” And having said that, he spoke these verses: 

     “Oh, my eyesight is gone, and I have come to a desolate path;
     Let me lie down and go no farther; there is no companionship with a fool.

     “Oh, my eyesight is gone, and I have come to a desolate path; 
     I will die; I will not go; there is no companionship with a fool.”

     Having heard him, the other, with dread arisen within him, exclaimed, “Oh, a grievous, horrible, monstrous deed have I done!” flung out his arms and, wailing, dived into a jungle thicket and thus disappeared. 
     And by the blazing intensity of the Elder’s virtue, the Paṇḍukambala Stone Seat of Sakka, King of the Devas—sixty yojanas long, fifty yojanas wide, fifteen yojanas high, the color of a red China-rose blossom, which at the times of sitting down on it or standing up, automatically descends or rises up—manifested signs of heat. Sakka wondered, “Who is it that wants to drive me from my place?” and looking around with the Divine Eye he saw the Elder. Thus it was said by the ancients:

     The Thousand-Eyed One, the Lord of Devas, purified the Divine Eye;
     While this Protector, censuring the bad, completely purified his way of life.

     The Thousand-Eyed One, the Lord of Devas, purified the Divine Eye;
     While this Protector, taking Dhamma to heart, sat delighting in the Doctrine.

Then it occurred to him: “If I do not go to such a gentleman as this, who censures the bad and takes Dhamma to heart, my head would split into seven pieces. I will go to him.” Thus: 

     The Thousand-Eyed One, the Lord of Devas, bearing glorious sovereignty over the gods,
     Coming at that moment, approached Protector of Vision.

And approaching the Elder, from not far away he made a sound with his foot. Now the Elder asked “Who is that?” 
     “I am a traveller, Venerable Sir.” 
     “Where are you going, lay disciple?” 
     “To Sāvatthi, Venerable Sir.” 
     “Carry on, friend.” 
     “And where is the gentleman going, Venerable Sir?”
     “I also am going there.” 
     “Well then, Venerable Sir, let’s go together.” 
     “I am not strong, friend. You will be hindered (papañco) by traveling with me.” 
     “I have no urgent business. And of the ten opportunities for earning merit, I will gain one of them by traveling with the gentleman. Let’s go together, Venerable Sir.”
     The Elder, considering, “He must be a good man,” said “Well then, I will go with you. Take hold of the end of my staff, lay disciple.” 
     Sakka did as requested, and by contracting the ground he arrived at Jetavana by evening time. The Elder, hearing the sound of conch horns, drums, and so on, asked, “Where is that sound coming from?”
     “We are in Sāvatthi, Venerable Sir.” 
     “Previously when we traveled here, the going took a long time.” 
     “I know a shortcut, Venerable Sir.” 
     At that moment the Elder realized: “This is no human being. It must be a god.” 

     The Thousand-Eyed One, the Lord of Devas, bearing glorious sovereignty over the gods,
     Shortened the road, and came quickly to Sāvatthi. 

     Leading the Elder, he conducted him to a shelter made of leaves that his younger brother the landowner had constructed just for the Elder’s residence; and having seated him on a bench, assuming the appearance of a dear companion, he went to the other and called out, “My dear friend Little Protector!”
     “What is it, dear friend?” 
     “Do you know of the Elder’s arrival?” 
     “No, I don’t know. What, has the Elder come?”
     “Yes, dear friend—Just now I went to the monastery, and seeing the Elder sitting in the leaf shelter you had built for him, I’ve come here.” Having said this, he went away.
     So the landowner went to the monastery, and seeing the Elder he rolled on the ground at his feet and cried, saying, among other things, “Foreseeing this, Venerable Sir, I did not give my consent for you to renounce the world!” Then he made arrangements by having two slave boys set free, sending them to the Elder, and having them ordained as novices, telling them, “Bring rice broth, cooked rice, and so on from the village and attend to the Elder.” The novices performed their various duties and took care of the Elder. 
     Then one day some bhikkhus living in the outer districts, resolving “We will see the Teacher,” came to Jetavana and, after paying respects to the Tathāgata and paying respects to the eighty Great Elders, while walking the rounds they arrived at the dwelling place of the Elder Protector of Vision; and they thought, “We’ll see this one too.” At that moment a great storm cloud arose. Thinking, “Now it’s very late, and a storm cloud has arisen; let’s go see him tomorrow morning,” they turned back. 
     The rain god sent down rain through the first watch of the night, and during the middle watch he went away. The Elder, being one of steadfast energy, was in the habit of doing walking meditation; therefore during the last watch of the night he went down to his walking meditation path. At that time, with the earth freshly rained upon, many ground mites (called “Indra’s cowherds”) came out; and with the Elder doing walking meditation, quite a lot of them were crushed. The Elder’s attendants did not sweep the place for walking meditation early in the morning. The other bhikkhus came, thinking, “Let’s see the Elder’s dwelling place,” and seeing the killed creatures, asked “Who does walking meditation here?”
     “Our preceptor, Venerable Sirs.”
     They vented their indignation, saying, “Look, friends, at the work of a philosopher! Lying down and sleeping at the time of day when things can be seen, not accomplishing anything, now when no one can see he says, ‘I’ll do walking meditation’ and kills so many living beings! Thinking ‘I’ll do what is right,’ he does what is not right!”
     Then they went to the Tathāgatha and informed him of it: “Venerable Sir, the Elder Protector of Vision, thinking ‘I will do walking meditation,’ has killed many living beings.”
     “What, and was he seen by you while he was killing them?” 
     “He wasn’t seen, Venerable Sir.” 
     “And just as you did not see him, even so, he did not see the living beings. For those whose encumbering influences are destroyed (khīṇāsavānaṁ), bhikkhus, there is no volition to kill.”
     “Venerable Sir, being so capable of full enlightenment, how did he become blind? 
     “By the power of his own deed that he had done, bhikkhus.” 
     “And what, Venerable Sir, was done by him?” 
     “Well then, bhikkhus, listen:

     “Long ago, when the King of Kāsi was reigning in Varanasi, a healer was traveling among the villages and towns, practicing his healing art; and he saw a woman with an eye affliction. ‘What is your ailment?’ he asked her. 
     “‘I cannot see with my eyes.’
     “‘I will make some medicine for you.’ 
     “‘Make it, Master.’ 
     “‘What will you give me?’
     “‘If you are able to make my eyes healthy, I will become your slave, along with my sons and daughters.’ 
     “‘Very good,’ he said; and he prepared the medicine. With one dose of the medicine her eyes became healthy. 
     “She considered, ‘I promised I will become his slave along with my sons and daughters, but he won’t treat me gently and justly. I will deceive him.’ When she was visited by the healer and was asked, ‘How are you, good lady?’ she said, ‘Before my eyes troubled me a little, but now they trouble me much more.’
     “The healer thought, ‘She’s lying to me because she doesn’t want to give anything. I have no need of her payment. I will make her blind.’ Then he went home and told his wife about the matter. She remained silent. Concocting a different medicine, he went to the woman, saying, ‘Dear lady, apply this medicine,’ and had her apply it. At this, both her eyes went out like the flame of a lamp. That healer was Protector of Vision.

     “Bhikkhus, that deed done by my son then followed close behind him. Truly, this evil deed came after him like a cartwheel following the foot of a draught ox pulling a load.” And after telling this story and reaching its conclusion, as though stamping with the royal seal a document after the soft clay has been affixed, The King of Dhamma spoke this verse: 

     Ways of being are preceded by mind; they have mind as chief; they are mind-made;
     If with a defiled mind one speaks or acts, 
     Then unease follows that person like the wheel follows the foot of the beast of burden.  

(The word by word commentarial exegesis to the verse, plus an anticommentary by myself, as well as some of my subcommentarial comments on the story, will be the substance of the next installment.)

(Ha, I couldn't resist this one)

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed it, thanks. Looking forward to your commentary in the next edition.