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Friday, July 16, 2010

What the Buddha cultivated !

What the Buddha cultivated !

Buddha’s dialogue with the farmer

By Dr. B G D Bujawansa

In Buddha’s time ploughing a paddy field was conducted in a ceremonial manner. In fact ploughing the field is the basic preparation of the land in the process of cultivation. Kasi Bharadvaja was a successful farmer and a contemporary of Buddha. He was no exception in conducting a ceremony before ploughing his paddy field. He had collected five hundred workmen and the cattle were ready for a customary ceremonial breakfast near the paddy field before commencing the big task. Kasi Bharadvaja was about to partake in the ceremonial meal surrounded by the five hundred workmen, when Lord Buddha who was on his alms round arrived there with the begging bowl. One does not need much imagination to picture the annoyance in Kasi Bharadvaja.

“Why can’t you cultivate like me and find your own food without begging?” asked Kasi Bharadvaja. “In fact Kasi Bharadvaja I do cultivate,” was Buddha’s calm response. It was typical of Buddha to make apparently absurd statements to provoke thinking when he confronts an intelligent person because his statements have latent and deeply profound messages. “Where is your land? Where are your cattle? Where are your utensils?” A barrage of queries came out from Kasi Bharadvaja. What transpired between Buddha and Kasi Bharadvaja has been recorded as a discourse known as ‘Kasi Bhardvaja Sutta’ and is frequently quoted by scholars in the Buddhist doctrine.

At this stage of course Buddha owed an explanation to the farmer. “I cultivate a seed called ‘saddha’,” said Buddha. “The irrigation of the land is the ascetic life style; wisdom is my plough; a cultured mind is the rope tying the bull to the plough; mindfulness is the blade of the plough; my mind and body are well disciplined; I use much restrain in my speech; I partake of food only to get rid of my hunger; I get rid of all pests known as fallacies; my courage is my cattle and I am on a journey to end all suffering.

Buddha in this situation drew a remarkable analogue between a farmer’s cultivation activities and his super mundane activities. This has been a typical technique Buddha used to make people comprehend the profound doctrine he had discovered. He always used to draw analogues between facts in the Buddhist doctrine and events in a person’s daily life.

However, an important difference exists between Buddha’s super mundane “cultivation” and Kasi Bharadvaja’s cultivation. Buddha has to “cultivate” only once whereas Kasi Bharadvaja has to cultivate repeatedly because what he harvests gets depleted. Buddha has drawn analogues to cultivation in many situations. He has said “kamma” is the plot of land and it is irrigated by craving and that a plant called “vinnana” (cognition) props up yielding a harvest called “suffering”. All of us engaged in mundane activities are in fact doing this kind of cultivation. We do not identify the harvest as “suffering” due to “avidya”(ignorance).The cultivation process never ends. Buddha calls upon us to engage in the type “cultivation” he and his disciples did. This was his exercise from the day he attained Buddha hood until his “parinibbana”.

Kasi Bharadvaja forgot about his ceremonial proceedings and calmly listened to Buddha after which he remarked that he has transformed a confusing state of mind to a lucid state and offered alms to Buddha. From that day he became a great follower of Buddha.

At the time of “parinibbana” Buddha remarked that after his demise his doctrine should serve as a teacher. His teaching fortunately has been preserved for us by the Maha Sangha sometimes at a cost of their lives. We are in an era of availability of facilities to disseminate information and have access to information as it was never before. We must find access to Buddha’s teachings and at the same time disseminate his teachings for the benefit of everybody. We must make an attempt to put a stop to this never ending cultivation which yields a harvest of suffering.

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