Crossing over

Few are the people
Who reach the other shore.
Many are the people
Who run about on this shore.

Dhammapada, v.85, translated by Gil Frondsdal

The image of crossing to the far shore of a river is a well-known metaphor for going from ignorance to complete awakening. But as the verse above points out, most of us are less interested in crossing over than we are with rearranging worldly conditions.

Through the eyes of an awakened one, we look like chickens scrambling about in a closed pen, with the fencing entirely made up of our wrong ideas about how things are. Through stillness, clarity can come; we can fly right over the fence. But we have to look with a different perspective from most of the people around us every day.

Words of the Buddha:
[The Buddha was asked:] “Tell me, dear sir, how you crossed over the flood.”
“I crossed over the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place.”
“But how, dear sir, did you cross over the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place?”
“When I pushed forward, I was whirled about. When I stayed in place, I sank. And so I crossed over the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place.”
SN1:1, translate by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

This quote is like a Zen koan – not to be intellectually grasped, but held as a question. In my understanding, it starts with not forcing things and not withdrawing from them; always seeking the balance point of listening and acting with wisdom.

Do we really want to cross over to complete understanding? If yes, then we have to discover how, with hints but no clear map.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
This entry was posted in Dhammapada. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Crossing over

  1. dominic724 says:

    Some good hints lie in the liberation stories of Rahula and of Bihaya, which share a common technique of close, intense examination to clearly see that every identifiable element of body and mind is not self.

    Here’s Bihaya’s liberation story:

    Here’s Rahula’s liberation story:
    [ Cula-Rahulovada Sutta: The Shorter Exposition to Rahula ]

    Maps are made by the mind that we step away from.
    Maps we don’t really need.
    Seeing clearly and simply is what does it.


    P.S. – Love this blog.

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