5 March 2011
Sariputta, Foremost in Wisdom
“Believe nothing on the faith of traditions, even though they have been held in honor for any generations and in diverse places. Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it. Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past. Do not believe what you yourself have imagined, persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests. After examination, believe what you yourself have tested and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.”
1) So what, according to Buddhism, is wisdom?
The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent, and not self. This understanding is totally freeing and leads to the great security and happiness which is called Nirvana.
However, the Buddha doesn't speak too much about this level of wisdom. It is not wisdom if we simply believe what we are told. True wisdom is to directly see and understand for ourselves. At this level then, wisdom is to keep an open mind rather than being closed-minded, listening to other points of view rather than being bigoted; to carefully examine facts that contradict our beliefs, rather than burying our heads in the sand; to be objective rather than prejudiced and partisan; to take time about forming our opinions and beliefs rather than just accepting the first or most emotional thing that is offered to us; and to always be ready to change our beliefs when facts that contradict them are presented to us.
A person who does this is certainly wise and is certain to eventually arrive at true understanding. The path of just believing what you are told is easy. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.
2) Sariputta, Foremost in Wisdom
The story begins at two brahmanical villages in India, called Upatissa and Kolita, which lay not far from the city Rajagaha. Before our Buddha had appeared in the world a brahman lady named Sari, living in Upatissa village conceived; and also, on the same day at Kolita village, did another brahman lady whose name was Moggalli. The two families were closely connected, having been friends with one another for seven generations. From the first day of their pregnancy the families gave due care to the mothers-to-be, and after ten months both women gave birth to boys, on the same day. On the name-giving day the child of the brahman lady Sari received the name Upatissa, as he was a son of the foremost family of that village; and for the same reason Moggalli's son was named Kolita.
If Sariputta was notable for his lasting sense of gratitude, he was no less so for his capacity for friendship. With Maha Moggallana, the friend and companion of his youth, he maintained a close intimacy, and many were the conversations they held on the Dhamma. Venerable Sariputta's devotion to his friend was fully reciprocated; we are told of two occasions when Sariputta was ill, and Maha Moggallana attended to him and brought him medicine.
Though Sariputta was an enthusiastic and effective Dharma teacher, he also knew that while people can be helped through being taught the Dharma, sometimes they need practical, material help also. And in this way he was always ready to lend a hand.
On one occasion large numbers of people were coming to the monastery where the Buddha was staying to invite monks to their homes for a meal. People were anxious to get the more well-known monks and these monks were particularly happy to go to the homes of the wealthy, knowing they would get fine food. All the monks except Sariputta had accepted invitations when a very poor woman appeared and asked if a monk would like to go to her home. The monastery attendant informed her that all monks except Sariputta were gone. Thinking that such an eminent monk would not wish to accept a humble meal from her, she was quite disappointed. But when the attendant informed Sanputta about the poor woman, he happily agreed to go to her home, to her delight. When King Pasenadi heard that Sariputta would be eating at the home of a very poor woman, he sent her a large amount of money, more than enough to provide Sariputta with a meal, with plenty left over to live comfortably for the rest of her life
3) The Five Hindrances of Buddhism
The five hindrances are negative states of mind that Buddha Shakyamuni taught about that impede your progress towards gaining wisdom and ultimately awakening. These five states are sensual desires, ill-will, torpor, restlessness, and skeptical doubt.
"All those that have been freed from delusion have done so by removing the five hindrances that defile the mind and weaken understanding."
- The Buddha
1) Sensual Desire
Sensual desire is straight forward. That is, desires of the senses. If you are consumed with this hindrance then you are misled from your path. Sensual desire is sexual desire but it is more than that. It is anything that appeases your senses. Remember that the Shakyamuni declared these hindrances for his monks and nuns. As a layperson the Middle Way is the best path.
Ill-will is that hostile feeling of malevolence and enmity. It is when you harbor any sort of animosity or hatred towards anyone. It can be described using any one of these words: hatred, hostility, animosity, antipathy, and unfriendliness.
Torpor is sluggish inactivity and apathy. It is the lack of effort that is required to move along on your path. It is the voluntary suspension of your activities and your physical powers.
Restlessness is the state of mind and body that is called unease or agitation. Remember it applies to both mind and body. You can overcome this state of mind by following Shakyamuni's teachings. That is, you can be settled in your mind and your heart when you practice the Eightfold Noble Path.
5) Skeptical Doubt
Skeptical Doubt is that which prevents you from seeing things as they are due to unnecessary skepticism. If you have discovered the truth for yourself and continue to doubt it your are putting off your attainment of wisdom.