THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
P5 The place of the body and touches.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ and object.
“Ananda, early every morning you rub your head with your hand.
Buddhist monks are supposed to rub their heads three times every morning, to see if they have any hair. If not, why not? Oh, they are monks. They are people who have left the home life. This practice was adopted because when Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, the adherents of a lot of externalist sects took refuge with the Buddha. Afterward, the Buddha taught the monks to rub their own heads three times every day in order to help them remember that they were monks. Ananda was very attentive to the teachings, and so he faithfully put this instruction into practice every day at daybreak without fail. Ananda, early every morning you rub your head with your hand. You rub your monk’s head with your hand in order to help you remember why you haven’t any hair. It is done to teach people not to forget what they are all about. The Buddha asks Ananda about it in order to begin his explanation of the two places of the body and the defiling objects of touch - the ninth and tenth of the twelve places.
Q2 Questions whether the awareness of touch is dual.
“What do you think? When there is a sensation of the rubbing, where does the ability to make contact lie? Is the ability in the hands or is it in the head?
Where does the sensation of contact lie? Ananda, I’m asking you a question. When you rub your head, a sensation of contact arises. What do you think? When there is a sensation of the rubbing, where does the ability to make contact lie? Your hand is aware of the rubbing, and so is your head. Which is the one that is able to do the touching? Which is the one that is touched? Is the ability in the hands or is it in the head? Does the ability to make contact lie in the hands or in the head? Speak up.
“If it were in the hands, then the head would have no knowledge of it, and how could that be what is called touch? If it were in the head, then the hands would be useless, and how could that be what is called touch?
If it were in the hands, then the head would have no knowledge of it. If you say the touch lies in the hands, then the head would not know when you rubbed it. And how could that be what is called touch? If the head does not know, it cannot be a case of touch. If it were in the head, then the hands would be useless. If you say the power of touch lies in your head, then your hands would not be aware of any sensation. And how could that be what is called touch? Ananda, you explain it for me.
When the monks rub their heads three times, they recite a very meaningful verse, which I will recite for you.
Guard your mouth, collect your mind,
and do not commit transgressions with your body.
Do not bother any sentient being.
Stay far away from non-beneficial ascetic practices.
One who cultivates like this can save the world.
"Guard your mouth” means do not just say whatever you feel like. “Collect your mind” means keep your thoughts from wandering about. Don’t engage in false thinking. Don’t continually seek advantage from circumstances. “And do not commit transgressions with your body.” Make sure you don’t commit offenses with your body.
When the mouth is guarded, it is free of the four evils: it does not engage in abusive language, in lying, in profanity, or in gossip. With a collected mind, one has no greed, hatred, or stupidity. When no transgressions are committed with the body, one does not engage in killing, stealing, or sexual misconduct. Even thinking of such things is not permissible.
"Do not bother any sentient being.” Don’t cause any person or any living being whatever that you come in contact with to give rise to affliction. Don’t give living beings trouble. Even less should you bother the people you are cultivating with. Sometimes you unintentionally make a mistake and cause someone else to be upset. In such a case you should find an opportunity to explain yourself and not just let the problem escalate.
"Stay far away from non-beneficial ascetic practices.” These are bitter practices which are of no benefit, such as the way some people in India imitate the behavior of cows and dogs, sleep on beds of nails, or roll in ashes to cover their bodies with filth. What meaning is there in such practices? What aid is that in cultivating the Way? The filthier you are, the dirtier your mind is. When the outside gets dirty and you are always thinking about filth, your mind is also filthy. These are what are called “non-beneficial ascetic practices.” Do not engage in them. You should do things which are of benefit to people. Do not do things which are of no benefit to people. Stay far away from non-beneficial ascetic practices.
"One who cultivates like this can save the world.” “Like this” means that you do not bother any sentient being, do not engage in non-beneficial ascetic practices, and do not practice the dharmas of externalist sects.
What is meant by the dharmas of externalist sects?
Shakyamuni Buddha practiced the Middle Way. According to his method of cultivation, he taught his disciples to eat vegetarian food, not to eat meat. Or, if they ate meat, to eat the three kinds of pure meat:
According to the Buddha’s teaching, it is permissible to eat these three kinds of pure meat if one’s body is not strong.
Thus, the Buddha taught his disciples to eat vegetarian food, and what do you suppose Devadatta did, with his deviant knowledge and deviant views? He thought, “Huh. You teach your disciples to eat vegetarian food, do you? I teach my disciples not to eat salt. They don’t even eat salt.” This practice also exists in Taoism, and is referred to as superior pure vegetarianism. Actually, it is not in accord with the Middle Way. But, that’s the way Devadatta did it. The Buddha taught his disciples to not eat after noon. In the morning they ate rice gruel and at noon they had a full meal. Every day they ate twice, although the Buddha himself ate only once a day, at noon. He did not eat in the morning, and he did not eat at night. What did Devadatta teach his disciples to do? He taught them to fast for a hundred days. “You eat once a day? I eat once every hundred days. See how much higher I am than you? You eat vegetarian food? I don’t even eat salt. I’m always a bit higher than you.” He constantly wanted to compete with the Buddha. He kept wanting to pit his dharmas against the Buddha’s, and he always said that the Buddha could not compare with him. So Devadatta provoked King Ajatashatru into killing his father and mother and then told Ajatashatru to become the new king, saying that he himself would become the new Buddha, that Shakyamuni Buddha was the old, decrepit Buddha - Devadatta wanted to overthrow the Buddha so he could become the new Buddha. But, in the end he messed things up so badly that he fell alive into the hells. He just took his flesh body right along with him to hell. He was intent upon doing things differently from the Buddha, different from the way it is done in Buddhism. This is how externalist sects are. You could also say that Devadatta was battling to be number one. He wanted to be first. He wanted this and wanted that - and in the end his retribution was to fall into the hells! So it is useless to cultivate non-beneficial ascetic practices.
The ancients said about eating meat:
The pots of stew simmered
during hundreds of thousands of years,
Have brewed oceans of deep resentment
into hatred that’s hard to contain.
If you want to know the reason
for the disaster of weapons and troops,
Try listening at the door of a slaughterhouse
to the haunting midnight cries.