Author Topic: The Water-Snake Simile  (Read 7606 times)

Ensapa

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The Water-Snake Simile
« on: June 26, 2012, 11:16:02 AM »
this is a very interesting sutra that the Buddha had taught, warning against the danger of intellectualizing the Dharma rather than practicing it. With a qualified teacher, we are in no danger of this but do contemplate for a moment, if we would end up in this trap if we were to have no teacher. To intellectualize the Dharma, or to misinterpret it according to our whims, lack of knowledge and delusions, the Buddha said, is the same as grasping a water snake by the tail and will only bring about more suffering than happiness. The same can be applied to advice from our Gurus as well and as a reminder of how to listen to the Dharma.

Quote
The Water-Snake Simile
"Monks, there is the case where some worthless men study the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, question & answer sessions [the earliest classifications of the Buddha's teachings]. Having studied the Dhamma, they don't ascertain the meaning (or: the purpose) of those Dhammas [5] with their discernment. Not having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they don't come to an agreement through pondering. They study the Dhamma both for attacking others and for defending themselves in debate. They don't reach the goal for which [people] study the Dhamma. Their wrong grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term harm & suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the Dhammas.

"Suppose there were a man needing a water-snake, seeking a water-snake, wandering in search of a water-snake. He would see a large water-snake and grasp it by the coils or by the tail. The water-snake, turning around, would bite him on the hand, on the arm, or on one of his limbs, and from that cause he would suffer death or death-like suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the water-snake. In the same way, there is the case where some worthless men study the Dhamma... Having studied the Dhamma, they don't ascertain the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment. Not having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they don't come to an agreement through pondering. They study the Dhamma both for attacking others and for defending themselves in debate. They don't reach the goal for which [people] study the Dhamma. Their wrong grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term harm & suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the Dhammas.

"But then there is the case where some clansmen study the Dhamma... Having studied the Dhamma, they ascertain the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment. Having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they come to an agreement through pondering. They don't study the Dhamma either for attacking others or for defending themselves in debate. They reach the goal for which people study the Dhamma. Their right grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term welfare & happiness. Why is that? Because of the right-graspedness of the Dhammas.

"Suppose there were a man needing a water-snake, seeking a water-snake, wandering in search of a water-snake. He would see a large water-snake and pin it down firmly with a cleft stick. Having pinned it down firmly with a forked stick, he would grasp it firmly by the neck. Then no matter how much the water-snake might wrap its coils around his hand, his arm, or any of his limbs, he would not from that cause suffer death or death-like suffering. Why is that? Because of the right-graspedness of the water-snake. In the same way, there is the case where some clansmen study the Dhamma... Having studied the Dhamma, they ascertain the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment. Having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they come to an agreement through pondering. They don't study the Dhamma either for attacking others or for defending themselves in debate. They reach the goal for which people study the Dhamma. Their right grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term welfare & happiness. Why is that? Because of the right-graspedness of the Dhammas. [6]

"Therefore, monks, when you understand the meaning of any statement of mine, that is how you should remember it. But when you don't understand the meaning of any statement of mine, then right there you should cross-question me or the experienced monks.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.than.html

As with reference to questioning a guru, this is also the way it should be done.

Vajraprotector

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Re: The Water-Snake Simile
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2012, 08:53:09 PM »
There is a theory of cosmic cycles in which a Buddha appears to show others how to attain enlightenment. Then, as time goes on, this Buddha's teachings deteriorate, leading eventually to a long period of general misery and social unrest. Then, a new Buddha appears to start another cycle.

The Latter Day of the Law, called mappo in Japanese or ‘mofa’ in Chinese literally means something like "end of the Dharma".  It is the last of the three temporal stages Buddhism mentioned earlier: the true Dharma, the semblance Dharma and the last Dharma.

According to the theory of cosmic cycles, the age of the true Dharma is characterized by three qualities:
1) theory or teachings
2) the practice of those teachings, and
3) true insight capable of leading to enlightenment.

In the age of the semblance Dharma, Buddhists go through the motions of practice , but without benefiting from them owing to worldly corruption. Therefore, they will not attain true insight.  So in the semblance age, #1 and #2 are present, but not #3.

In the final age, even the practice of the teachings is also gone. Though some may claim to be practicing Buddhism, they do not even go through the motions correctly, and disputes between monks and religious factions become heated. The teachings themselves remain, but nobody really understands them, much less putts them into practice.

bambi

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Re: The Water-Snake Simile
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2012, 06:25:33 AM »
One can choose to practice or not as we cannot be forced to do something we can't truly apprehend. In the end, Buddha taught us ways to be happy and the benefits of it which is something we can bring to in all lives. If we practice according to what have been taught, there will be no wrong unless our we practice the opposite of what Buddha taught and start using it for the wrong reasons. Practicing Dharma the correct way will help us eliminate the doubts and wrong view hence also leading to happiness. Yes, Dharma is to help people and ourselves, it is not for looking good or attacking people or else why practice?

I found a teaching by His Holiness Song Rinpoche :

The purpose of Dharma is to subdue your mind, to correct the actions of your daily life so that they become beneficial. So, Dharma teachings are a mirror that clearly reflects the actions of your body, speech and mind so that you can judge whether they are beneficial—the cause of happiness—or harmful—the cause of suffering.

Since beginningless previous lives, we have been under the control of disturbing negative thoughts, which have forced us to constantly create, without choice, harmful actions, negative karma, the cause of suffering. As a result, since beginningless time, we have been experiencing the various sufferings of samsara and, even in this life, we continue to do so. From the time of our birth, we’ve not had one day free of problems.

In other words, we’re sick; we’re patients. We’re suffering from the disease of the disturbing negative thoughts, which cause us to create mistaken actions, which bring the result of suffering. What can cure this illness? What can alleviate our suffering? What treatment do we need? It’s Dharma. Dharma is the only medicine that can help.

Now, the thing about medicine is that it has to be taken. The patient who has the right medicine but doesn’t take it doesn’t get cured. Similarly, if we don’t practice the Dharma teachings we receive, we can’t put an end to the problems of our daily life or escape from suffering.

That which we call Dharma is medicine to treat the mind, to change it from its unsubdued, pre-Dharma state to a better one. From beginningless time our mind has been stained, foggy, polluted and disturbed by the three poisons of ignorance, attachment and anger because we have either not understood or practiced the teachings. Dharma is medicine to change that kind of mind for the better.

VivianChin

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Re: The Water-Snake Simile
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2012, 06:30:41 AM »
Those who intellectualize Dharma should be aware that, by studying the text without contemplation can easily misinterpret the meaning of the teaching. We are still unable to get rid of our delusions, the very same sentence studied under different kind of emotion can lead to different understanding of the sentence. Even some words is having different meaning in different time and different culture. Study Dharma without a qualified teacher is dangerous in terms of this. In Buddhism it is essential to realize that the teacher is ultimately important because he/she can lead us to our own inner wisdom - our own 'inner guru'. We need to develop our own wisdom and insight to become a teacher and in the end, even a Buddha ourselves. In that sense, a guru is like our spiritual mother; in the beginning of the path, we are pretty helpless and need much help and guidance; but in the end, we should be able to stand on our own feet and be self-sufficient. Before you decide to follow a spiritual teacher, it is extremely important to check him or her as there are quite a number of cheats around... In the old Indian tradition, teachers were often checked for 12 years or more before a student fully entrusted a teacher the spiritual guidance. It is easy to follow people blindly; especially the ones who are smooth talkers and are good salespeople.

These are the qualities we should look for on a qualified teacher
1.  Proper ethical behaviour - a guru should not harm others but try to help
2.  Single pointed concentration
3.  No self-grasping or egoistic thoughts
4.  Having love and compassion as main motivations to teach
5.  Realised emptiness, at least have a proper intellectual understanding
6.  Perseverance in teaching
7.  Wealth of scriptural knowledge
8.  More learned and realised than student
9.  Skilled speaker
10. Given up disappointment in the performance of the students

biggyboy

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Re: The Water-Snake Simile
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2012, 07:55:03 AM »
Many people till to date does not fully comprehend the true essence of internalising and integrating teachings into daily life.   Just by listening dharma talks and reading dharma talks are not dharma practice.  The real practice takes place when the mind encounters a sense object. When people say things we don't like there is resentment, if they say things we like we experience pleasure. If we just run around chasing after mundane “happiness” and run away from actual “suffering” all the time, no matter how much we say we practise by not understanding and internalising it we will never see the true dharma practice.
 
There’s a saying “Where there is confusion is where peace can arise. When confusion is penetrated with understanding what remains is peace.” ....that’s the beauty of practising and internalising dharma.

Practising and internalising dharma is a choice.  It’s up to each individual.  If there’s a seeking nature in wanting to know the truth they will.   Having that wish it is important to practise whether with or without a Teacher.  On the contrary, having a Teacher around is the best condition one could ever have to guide one’s spiritual practice to enlightenment.

Big Uncle

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Re: The Water-Snake Simile
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2012, 04:33:16 PM »
That's why you have great Geshes, who are awarded with that title after 20 years of intense study and debate on the Buddha's teachings. And they still go to the 3 lower realms when they pass on.

It is obvious that dry knowledge of the Dharma cannot bring any spiritual transformation. It is really after all that study, one should contemplate the meaning deeply and combine it with certain practices to enhance our understanding and realisation.

Dorje Shugden is excellent for this purpose and because he is Manjushri, his practice if done well can open up the causes for us to gain realisation faster. That's the special quality of Manjushri's blessings and in order to tap into that quality, one must have Guru devotion. That's the most crucial for that special blessing of Dorje Shugden to manifest within us.

That's why many of the Geshes enter into deep contemplative retreats after their studies. On the other hand, lay people are encouraged to enter retreats as well. Dorje Shugden retreats are special because it removes a lot of obstacles and obscurations so that we perceive our situation in a much clearer light which will give us the wisdom to go the right way.
 

Vajraprotector

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Re: The Water-Snake Simile
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2012, 06:42:22 PM »
I have read what was posted by Bambi before, which I believe is a teaching given in the USA in May 1978.  Below is what I feel relevant from the transcripts as well. The importance is not only listen to and understand, but meditate. Song Rinpoche also explained the 'difference' between just listening/ studying and practising.
 

What should you do when you encounter Dharma? First you should listen, then try to understand the meaning and, finally, meditate. If you practice in that way, you can attain enlightenment.

There are two reasons for listening to [or reading] teachings: one is simply to gain intellectual understanding, the other is to know how to practice. If you practice Dharma, it will get rid of disturbing negative thoughts and transform your mind; change it for the better. This brings you happiness in this and future lives.

If you listen to [or read] the Dharma to gain an intellectual understanding but don’t put the teachings you hear into practice, you don’t benefit your mind that much. However, since what you’re listening to is Buddhadharma, there is some benefit—hearing the teachings leaves imprints on your consciousness; it plants seeds in your mind. Then, in a future life, you’ll more easily be able to understand and realize the Dharma.

Therefore, if you are listening to [or reading] the teachings in order to understand and meditate on them, that’s excellent, but even if you’re simply trying to gain an intellectual understanding, that, too, creates extensive merit and is a cause for rejoicing. Whatever your motivation for thinking about the Dharma, you should feel, “How greatly fortunate I am.”
 
Since we have met the Dharma in these degenerate times, it’s extremely important that we do not waste this opportunity. Once you’ve begun to practice, it’s essential that you not only continue to do so but that you also complete your practice. First try to understand the teachings; then try to make what you’ve understood as beneficial as possible for other sentient beings.