Buddha at the Gate

On one occassion, Uttiya went to the Buddha and sat down at one side.  He asked a serious of questions concerning the earth, the soul and the body, and life after death for Perfect Ones.  To each of his questions the Buddha responded, “That is not answered by me, Uttiya.”

Then Uttiya asked, “Master Gotama, does [the] Dhamma provide an outlet from suffering for all the world, or for half, or for a third?”

When this was said, the Blessed One remained silent.

Worried that Uttiya might think the Blessed One unable to answer his question on the Dhamma, the venerable Ānanda went to him and gave him this simile.  Suppose a king had a city with strong ditches, a single gate to enter through, and a sagacious gate-keeper who stopped those whom he did not know and admitted only those whom he knew.  Since this gate-keeper had inspected the walls surrounding the city and saw no holes or cracks for things to pass through, he concluded that living beings must go in and out through the gate if they wanted to enter the city.

The venerable Ānanda continued:

So too, friend Uttiya, a Perfect One’s concern is not that “All the world shall find an outlet by this, or a half, or a third,” but rather that “Whoever has found or finds or will find an outlet from the world of suffering, that is always done by abandoning the five hindrances (of desire for sensuality, ill will, lethargy-and-drowsiness, agitation-and-worry, and uncertainty), defilements that weaken understanding, and by maintaining in being the seven factors of enlightenment with minds well established on the four foundations of mindfulness.”  Your question which you put to the Blessed One was framed in the wrong way; that was why the Blessed One did not answer it.”

I am intrigued by this exchange and the simile offered by Ānanda, especially because of its relevance towards understanding the cares and concerns of the Buddha.  On a first reading, I came off thinking that this paints a very self-centered view of the Buddha’s concerns.  After paraphrasing the story for this post, I no longer think this…but I cannot exactly say why.

Why does come to mind is this: as we tend our gates, are we being sagacious gate-keepers and using our Buddha-eye to take note of what passes through?  How else can we tend to the three poisons within ourselves?  How else can we help all sentient beings to realize their Buddhahood?

(Note: The simile of the gate-keeper can be found in Bhikkhu Nānamoli’s The Life of the Buddha, pages 208 – 209.)

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