What follows is a rough transcript of a Dhamma talk. One can listen to the talk here.
Homage to the Blessed One, Noble One, the Rightly Self-Awakened One
Welcome to all the monks and novice and blessings to all the laity.
Today we will learn Dhamma about a tale from the Mahayana tradition. Which is really worth learning and knowing about. This tale is called the Buddha doesn’t discriminate.
So let us listen together.
There was a group of children playing around in a certain village. Later, there was a man from the caste of Shudras (labourer). This Shudra caste is for manual labour, and is the lowest caste. They had to use their physical strength for labour. This man was carrying some dirty things going through that village. This group of children did not like the man who was working carrying these dirty things. Because he was of the low caste. And those dirty things had a disgusting smell. The kids were disgusted. A girl said that he was even making the beautiful flowers smell bad. The group of boys took stones and threw it at the male labourer who was carrying those dirty things. And it so happened that the Buddha and Ven. Ananda were carrying their alms bowls going for alms round in that village. They tried to stop the children from what they were doing.
And later, a woman who was one of the kids’ mothers, gave alms into their bowl. Two of the children saw this and got some faith and took some stones to put in their alms bowl. Ven. Ananda was about to stop them, but the Buddha said that it is good for them to take these things to put in our bowl (faa panang of ours (wall ceiling)). The Buddha had metta, kindness and compassion, and saw the faith of the kids. But Ven. Ananda wasn’t aware of it yet, and was about to damage the faith of the kids. But the Buddha said that this is a good start. The kids have faith and so he would receive it, even if it was stones they were putting into the bowl. We may remember in a past life of King Asoka, he had given mounds of dirt as alms to our Fully enlightened Buddha. And the Buddha received it. And later on King Asoka was one with a lot of spiritual development, who helped Buddhism to prosper and he protected Buddhism with his full strength and ability. So he got the name, Dhamma Ashoka. He had the highest faith in the Buddha.
Here we continue to listen to the story in this village. The Buddha saw the kids who were harming the Shudra who was carrying the dirty things. The Buddha used his body to protect him and the Buddha was hit by some of the stones thrown by the kids. Ven. Ananda was trying to stop it. But the Buddha called the Shudra and the children to come listen to his teaching. He wanted to tell them a story. The kids said that they had listened to many stories so they didn’t want to listen anymore. The Buddha had metta and the quality of patience. So he asked them if they had heard of this story about a very long snake. It was as long, from this house to that house. So the children were interested to listen to this story about this snake.
The Buddha told them that usually a snake has the head and the tail. The head has the eyes as we are aware of. Wherever it goes it will slither like this. But one day, the tail wanted to lead, because it had followed the head for a long time already. It didn’t want to follow behind anymore. Because it thought it was smart. It was intelligent. So it wanted to lead. But the head of the snake didn’t give in. But when it didn’t accept, the tail of the snake wrapped itself around a tree, and the head of the snake couldn’t go anywhere. So it had to let the tail of the snake lead in front. The tail of the snake got its way, which had been a long time before it could lead like this. So it kept walking, leading like this in front. When the tail of the snake was going forward, the head of the snake warned not to go that way because it was dangerous. There was danger up there.
But the tail did not listen anymore. And it couldn’t see anything as well. So it kept slithering forward , slithering on. And they fell into a volcano pit, and both the tail and the head of the snake lost their life. Because of being stubborn. The Buddha said that the Buddha was like the head of the snake, he had knowledge and understanding in everything. He knew the path to end suffering. The kids were like the tail of the snake, they didn’t know anything. But they thought they were smart. If they didn’t want to listen to this story, they would be someone stupid, and in the end they could lose their life. The kids slowly dropped away their ego and conceit. Some of the kids were very bad tempered and still didn’t want to listen.
The Buddha gave an example of one boy, who had a bad temper (มุทะลุ), and as he was walking there were adults who said that this was a good kid, but it’s too bad about his bad-temper. And this kid got angry and harmed both these 2 adults. But in the end, this kid found out that he really was hot-headed and bad tempered (มุทะลุ). So the Buddha asked the reckless kids that were bad tempered, whether they wanted to be like this kid. The kids likely had a bit of wisdom, so when they heard the Buddha say this, they didn’t want to be like this, and so they could put down their ego and conceit.
And there were some kids who had the conceit that they were very smart. They had heard many stories and they didn’t want to hear anymore stories. So the Buddha gave the example that there was a traveller who went to go tour on a river. He had a vessel of food and was eating and enjoying the scenery. He was probably enjoying it too much, as he let the food vessel slip out and fall into the river. But the traveller thought he was very smart. So he took out his knife and made a mark on the boat, that this was the place they had to go back to, the place where he had made this mark with his knife. This was when the food vessel fell. So when they reached the shore he had the boatman (head) look for it in the water. And the boat man asked where did the food vessel fall into the water? The traveller said it fell here where I made the mark .And the boatsman said, “you look like you are smart and intelligent, but actually you are stupid. When you made the mark, the boat was not still, it was being paddled all the time. You marked it like this, but how would I know where the vessel fell.” This made the child who was deluded that he was smart reduce his conceit and ego.
And some of the kids had conceit and ego, and were stubborn. But the Buddha could reduce the children’s conceit. Even the shudra had the view that he was lowly and inferior (dtum dtiao), and that he was not worthy (kuu kuan) at all. So the Buddha had the kids ask for forgiveness from the man. The kids didn’t want to apologise because they thought he was of low status, and he did dirty things, and worked with dirty things . And the Shudra accepted that he was the most lowly around this area, and he had received much criticism and blame. But the Buddha had kindness and compassion, and so he asked the children, “Why are you disgusted by this Shudra?”
They answered that, it was because he smelt, and was dirty and he worked in dirty places. He smelt bad and he ruined the atmosphere everywhere. Then the Buddha asked them, “who was the one who made these dirty things? Aren’t you the ones who made those dirty things? Will you clean it yourself? Will you organise to clean it yourself so that there are no more dirty things left. You have forgetten what you owe this man. This person has cleaned it for you, he has handled these dirty things for you. You forget the debt you owe to this person. This is not right.
So the Buddha told them a story of ones who forgot their debt of gratitude. There were some traders who were travelling in the sea, and there was a big storm that came and it capsized the boat in the middle of the sea. They were swimming and about to die. All the people screamed out and thought they would die for sure. But because of their merit or that their time was not up yet, there was a giant tortoise in the bottom of the sea, which likely had felt that there were people who had fallen into the sea screaming out, so he had the feeling and went to help and took the traders to the shore of an island. After the turtle had helped them , it was out of energy and so it slept.
Here, the traders were hungry and starving. They didn’t not know where they would find food, because it was an island and they didn’t have the strength to go anywhere else. And a wrong view arose. They had bad thoughts wanting to take the life of the turtle as food. And many others thought the same way, and there were some who disagreed. They had an argument. But they took the life of the turtle till it died. And later the results of karma arose, big elephants ran towards the traders, until they ran up the mountain and fell off it into the sea and ultimately lost their life and died. This was because of forgetting their debt of gratitude. The Buddha asked the children if they wanted to be like this? The children said they didn’t want to be like this. So everyone started to reduce their conceit and ego.
And the Shudra was listening, and the Buddha came up to him, but the Shudra didn’t want the Buddha to touch his dirty hands. But the Buddha said for them to listen , and the kids sat to listen.
The Buddha taught them that we people aren’t high or low according to our birth. This Birth, if we practice goodness, practice with sila dhamma, morality, then we can be high on the level of the mind. We aren’t high or low because of the exterior. The Buddha’s teachings are like a stream of water, and those who learn Dhamma, will gain coolness and happiness. Drinking this water, their thirst will disappear. This left a deep impression on each person. And the Shudra later became a disciple of the Buddha.
Ven. Ananda said that this teaching the Buddha gave, made him gain a lot of wisdom. So we can see that it’s just a tale, but it probably pulled some real parts from the suttas. The Buddha taught us to understand deeply. About the nature of the minds of people which is a mind that has Buddha-nature already. If we search for this Buddha nature, we train to reduce ego and conceit, we have harmony and unison, we have love and harmony then our lives can be lived well. Because even if we are in a high position, we still need to have those under us. And those under us need to have those under them that are on the level of cleaning – whether in the office or the house. If we didn’t have those cleaning the house then it would be difficult. We need to be supported by these housekeepers to do work in the kitchen and to clean, so that we can live well.
So everyone has worth and value. We should not look down on each other. Those trying to practice Dhamma, have siladhamma and goodness. We can see in India that the Shudra caste is the lowest caste, which have the Rulers, brahmins, Vaishyas (merchants), Shudras (labourers). Which still exists in the present day. They still hold onto the caste system like this . But when the Buddha attained, he set a new lineage, with no different castes. Everyone could develop this Buddha-nature. But in this present world, there still is something like the caste system, which is looking down on others based on nationality, ethnicity, or skin color, looking down and discriminating. Even people of the same nationality have prejudice. They look down, thinking ‘I have’ , ‘I am rich’ , those with everything look down on the poor and those with difficulties. These are some examples.
So the Dhamma of the Buddha teaches us to be fair, and not to discriminate. Because greed, hatred, delusion do not discriminate. They lead us to love, hate, disgust, fear. So may we learn and practice Dhamma . Then we will develop and prosper. So after we have heard this tale, may we understand it and take the principles to practice. May you all, have Dhamma in your hearts.