We Eat Alone…Together

Sāriputta and Mahāmoggallāna, the Buddha’s chief disciples, were inseparable.  Not only did they spend most of their lives together during the Buddha’s time, the Pāli Canon tells us about the innumerable lifetimes they spent together.

Against this rich history of Dharmic friendship, the following cuts to the bone: “Even though during life the two had been almost inseparable, their deaths, like their attainment of arahantship, occurred at different places.”

Death and the attainment of arahantship occurred apart from one another for the chief disciples, closest perhaps of any two human beings.  What does this mean for us and our practice?

It reminds me of the following quote by Kusan Sunim, a Zen Master in the Korean tradition.  In his instructions for meditation, he says, “There is no one who can undertake this task for you.  The student’s hunger can never be satisfied by his teacher’s eating a meal for him.”

And yet this stark portrayal of the individual nature of our practice seems to be at odds with the vast interdependent and interpenetrating nature of the great matter.

How do we reconcile this in our practice?  Do I die alone?  Or do we die together?  Do I awaken alone?  Or do we awaken together?

Is there really a choice here?

Thank you for reading and investigating, both on your own and with all of us together!

(Note: The quote about Sāriputta and Mahāmoggallāna can be found in Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy, p. 100.  The quote from Kusan Sunim can be found in The Way of Korean Zen by Kusan Sunim, p. 62.)

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