Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taking is bondage; discarding is freedom

From a collection of stories about nuns:

Four pratyekabuddhas were staying together in the house of a potter. Thus begins not a bad buddhist joke, but a spectacularly tight narrative in a collection of stories about nuns. It is drawn from the vinaya but retold here by the great Tibetan polymath Bu ston. The potter sees the four pratyekabuddhas meditating at night, and is inspired to ask them how they came to ordain. Here is their exchange:

"Where and why did you ordain?"

“Have you heard of King rNa lag can of the Kalinga country?”

“Yes, I have heard of him.”

“That was me. After seeing the shortcomings of kingship, I ordained.”

"What did you see?”

“A bird was carrying meat. as it was flying in the sky, many other birds attacked it. It flung the meat away, and another bird took it. Then they surrounded the one who had taken it, and stole it from him. Seeing that, I had the thought, ‘Taking is bondage; discarding is freedom,’ and I ordained."