The Teachings of the Buddha

                      Lumbini: Photo Yeshe Dorje.

A double-edged question.

The local ruler, called Abhaya, went to Nataputta, a monk who belonged to a community hostile to the Buddha.  Nataputta said to Abhaya: ‘If you were to defeat Gautama, whom they call the Buddha, in public debate, your reputation would be hugely enhanced,’  Abhaya said: ‘How can I defeat Gautama in debate?  His power is too great, and his ability is too vast.’

Nataputta said:  ‘Go to Gautama, and ask him this question:  “Would an enlightened person ever utter words which were disagreeable and unpleasant to others?”   If he replies that an enlightened person would speak in such a way, say to him:  “Then there is no difference between an enlightened  person and an ordinary person;  ordinary people frequently utter words which are disagreeable and unpleasant to others.”  But if he replies that an enlightened person would never speak in such a way, say to him:  “Then you cannot be enlightened; you said that our cousin and enemy Devadutta will suffer for an aeon, and your words made him angry.”‘

Nataputta continued: ‘Thus, when you ask this double-edged question, Gautama will be unable either to spew it out or to swallow it.  It will be as if a piece of barbed iron were stuck in his throat.

Abhaya agreed to this plan; and he immediately went to the Buddha.  He invited him for a meal the following day, with the intention of asking the question afterwards.

Abhayarajakumara Sutta:  Majjhima Nikaya 1.393-395

The Buddha’s principles for speech.

The Buddha came to Abhaya’s palace the following day; and the prince served the Buddha himself, giving him the finest food.  Then after the meal Abhaya asked the Buddha; ‘Would an enlightened person ever utter words which were disagreeable and unpleasant to others?’  The Buddha said, ‘Is not this question double-edged?’  Abhaya exclaimed:  ‘Nataputta and his community are already defeated.’  The Buddha asked: ‘Why do you say that?’  Abhaya told the Buddha that Nataputta had urged him to ask that question, in order to defeat him in debate.

A little boy was lying beside Abhaya, with his head on the ruler’s knee.  The Buddha said:  ‘If that little boy had a stone stuck in his throat, what would you do?’  Abhaya replied: ‘Out of compassion for the boy, I should put my finger down his throat and pull the stone out – even if I drew blood.’

The Buddha said: ‘I never utter falsehood.  If I know something to be true, but nobody would benefit from hearing it, and some would be hurt, I do not utter it.  If I know something to be true, and some would benefit from hearing it, and others would be hurt, I wait for the right time to utter it.  If I know something to be true, but nobody would benefit from hearing it, though some would find it pleasant, I do not utter it.  If I know something to be true, and some would benefit from hearing it, and some would find it pleasant, I utter it.’

Abhayarajakumara Sutta:  Majjhima Nikaya  1.393 – 395

From 366 Readings From Buddhism:  Jaico Publishing House.  Mumbai

 

 

 

 

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