WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS

420

 

 


 

 

Ī 87. The Value of Training in Religion

Translated from the Milindapañha (264.29.)

"Bhante Nāgasena, you priests say, 'If a layman reach saintship, there are two courses open to him, and none other: on the self-same day he either retires from the world or passes into Nirvana; he cannot wait until the morrow.'[fnmo1] Now if, bhante Nāgasena, he should not succeed in obtaining either professor or preceptor, or bowl and robes on that day, would that man who had reached saintship retire from the world without any assistance? or would he wait until another day? or would some other saint come by magical power and receive him into the Order? or would he pass into Nirvana?"

"Your majesty, this layman who had attained to saintship, would not retire from the world without assistance, or if he did so, he would be guilty of theft, nor could he wait for another day; and whether anyone who had attained to saintship came or not, he would pass into Nirvana that self-same day."

"In that case, bhante Nāgasena, saintship has forfeited all claim to be a quiet haven, if it slaughters its possessor."

"Your majesty, inferiority is characteristic of a layman; and it is through this characteristic inferiority and weakness that a householder, when he has attained to saintship, on the self-same day either retires from the world or passes into Nirvana; and this weakness, your majesty, is not a fault of saintship, it is a fault belonging to the lay state. Just as food, your majesty, sustains the vital force, and preserves the life of all beings, but kills, through its indigestibility, anyone who has a poor stomach and a slow and weak digestion, yet this weakness of digestion is not the fault of the food, but the fault of the stomach; in exactly the same way, your majesty, it is through his characteristic weakness and inferiority that a householder, when he has attained to saintship, on the self-same day either retires from the world or passes into Nirvana; and this characteristic weakness, your majesty, is not a fault [421] of saintship, it is a fault belonging to the lay state. Or, again, your majesty, as a small stalk of grass will break and double over if a heavy stone be placed upon it; in exactly the same way, your majesty, a layman who has attained to saintship, cannot, so long as he remains a layman, sustain saintship, but on the self-same day he either retires from the world or passes into Nirvana. Or, again, your majesty, just as a man who is weak, feeble, of low extraction, and of few meritorious works, if he succeeds to a large kingdom, falls at once, perishes, and breaks down, and proves unable to sustain princely power; in exactly the same way, your majesty, a layman who has attained to saintship, cannot, so long as he stays a layman, sustain saintship. For this reason, then, on the self-same day he either retires from the world or passes into Nirvana."

"Well done, bhante Nāgasena! Thus it is, and you have my assent."[fnmo1]


[fnmo1]This is completely without support in the suttas, and I do not find Nagasena's explanation convincing. How does he explain Silent Buddhas? Making statements not found in the suttas is reasonable, but they must align well, not badly. This statement does not align well with the various encouragements we find to get as far with this system as we can; bhikkhu or layman. Imagine, also, what must be going on here in the mind of the individual telling us this. A lay king approves the unorthodox statement of a Bhikkhu and we are supposed to be finding this assuring!

 


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