if you could ask the Buddha one question

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:56 pm

Peter wrote:Oh well, there goes your one question. :shrug:


:jumping: Oh, thank goodness, I'm not the only one who feels that way. When I read that answer, somehow I thought it was wasting a golden opportunity, but then saw the praises left by others so kept quiet. :embarassed: Now I see Peter answered pretty much the same way I wanted to. It reminds me of when Homer (The Simpsons) went all the way to the Himalayas with Apu to see the master and he could only ask 3 questions. Here they are:

Apu: He is the benevolent and enlightened president and C.E.O. of
Kwik-E-Mart -- and in Ohio, Stop-O-Mart. He is the one we must
ask for my job back.
Master: Approach, my sons. [they do] You may ask me three questions.
Apu: That's great, because all I need is one --
Homer: Are you _really_ the head of the Kwik-E-Mart?
Master: Yes.
Homer: Really?
Master: Yes.
Homer: You?
Master: Yes. I hope this has been enlightening for you.
Apu: But I must --
Master: Thank you, come again.
Apu: But --
Master: Thank you, come again.
-- The master speaks, "Homer and Apu"

The two of them leave, disappointed.

Homer: Well, _that_ was a big bust. Is he _really_ the head of the
Kwik-E-Mart?
Apu: [growls, reaches towards Homer]
Homer: No need to apologize, Apu: it was as much my fault as it was
yours.
Apu: [grabs Homer by the throat and squeezes]
Homer: OK, Apu: I accept your apology!

:rofl:
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 08, 2009 11:06 pm

Greetings TheDhamma,

Classic reference!

I agree that I too need more help than the Buddha would. :tongue:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:11 am

the buddha got people to wake up by simply teaching them to sweep the floor so i guess the right question wouldnt be the philosphical ones we think we should ask but rather the simple one we probably dont want to ask

"a little help please?"
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jul 09, 2009 4:26 am

Peter,

Peter wrote:Really? Do you really see it as selfish to ask the greatest teacher to ever walk the earth to teach you something?
Your question is worded awkwardly, so that it presupposes an answer. But to try to answer what I assume you meant to ask, Yes, I really meant what I wrote in my post. When I saw Kare's question, I felt as if my own question was selfish in comparison.
Peter wrote:Funny but I was struck quite the opposite, To ask the Buddha how you can help him, he who has gone beyond all need of help, strikes me as empty and hollow.

I have no idea why you might consider it "empty and hollow" to offer support to the Buddha. I guess I'm taking Ghatikara as a kind of role model here. The Buddha had supporters and patrons, and it was great merit to be one of them. Why do you think that type of generosity is "empty and hollow"?

"How can I help you?"
"You can not help me."
So that's what you imagine the Buddha's answer would be?

You don't think the Buddha would have any better response to an offering made to him other than to reject it brusquely?

Oh well, there goes your one question.
I would have more faith than that in the Buddha's ability to turn my question -- whatever it is -- into a teaching moment.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 09, 2009 5:23 am

Jechbi wrote:I have no idea why you might consider it "empty and hollow" to offer support to the Buddha. I guess I'm taking Ghatikara as a kind of role model here. The Buddha had supporters and patrons, and it was great merit to be one of them. Why do you think that type of generosity is "empty and hollow"?

The Buddha's supporters offered him things - food, clothing, shelter, medicine - they did not ask him what he needed. It is a worthwhile distinction I think.

You don't think the Buddha would have any better response to an offering made to him other than to reject it brusquely?

It depends. If he thought you were receptive to being taught then he would attempt to teach you. If he didn't think you receptive then he wouldn't try to teach you. If one knows one only gets one question and then makes it something unrelated to the Path, what does that say about such a one's receptiveness? To me it says "Here I have the rarest of opportunities, but I do not have the humility to accept it. I have no need of the Buddha's help, but in my ego I presume he needs my help." This to me does not seem the mind of one receptive to being taught.

I would have more faith than that in the Buddha's ability to turn my question -- whatever it is -- into a teaching moment.

We might say that it doesn't matter what we ask; the Buddha will look into our minds and respond to us in the best way possible. There are such cases in the scriptures. Still, I think what we ask says something about our minds.

I suppose it comes back to the inherent problem with hypothetical questions. They are ultimately unrealistic. How would you know it is the Buddha? How would you know you only have one question? It doesn't make sense. In preparing to ask my one big question I could innocently ask "Can I offer you some tea?" and whoops! there goes my one question.

I suppose for the purposes of this thread I take as my model Bahiya of the bark-cloth. He heard there was a Buddha, he dropped everything to find him, on finding him he immediately went up to him and asked to be taught the Dhamma. Even after the Buddha put him off saying "This is not the time, Bahiya. We have entered the town for alms," Bahiya replied "But it is hard to know for sure what dangers there may be for the Blessed One's life, or what dangers there may be for mine." The Buddha taught Bahiya right there and not long after Bahiya was killed by a cow. But in that short time he had attained Nibbana. It seems to me he truly understood how fleeting this life is and how rare it is to meet a Buddha.
- Peter

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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:09 am

I agree, asking the Buddha "how can i help" if you only have one question does seem a little bit of a waste
Open your mind and see, open your mind and rise. Shine the light of wisdom and see, don't wait till the end of time.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:00 am

I agree with peter- (maybe the question was meant in jest)- but here is a man who spent extra aeons so that he could help other beings out of samasara, the greatest being to tame the untameable, to bring out the dhamma from people, a teacher to davas and men. One instruction from him after he has scanned your mind and you will be on your merry way to nibbana. All his hard work will be in vain otherwise.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:56 pm

Here's another thought...

Let's say the question "How may I help you?" was meant totally legit, mind full of generosity, putting the other first. The Buddha teaches this to indeed be wholesome, leading at best to rebirth in heaven. If this is what one values, then it is indeed a good question. :twothumbsup:

On the other hand, for one who understands the Buddha's teachings on the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, this then is seen to not be the best question one could ask. The Buddha also teaches us that to put others before ourselves is not as wise as to put oneself before others. Acting for the benefit of both oneself and others together is of course the best of all.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby Kare » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:59 pm

Well, my first impulse was to kill him ... or rather to kill the hallucination of being able to put a question to a guy who has been dead for more than 2000 years. But then I thought that one should treat even one's hallucinations with some kind of metta ... so therefore I would just ask: "How can I help you, my friend?" ... hoping my Buddha-hallucination would be so surprised and taken off-guard that it would just vanish by itself.

If I ever should try to put questions, in full seriousness, to people long dead and gone, I hope someone will show me some metta and guide me to a hospital. :mrgreen:
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:06 pm

I see. So it was not in fact a serious answer to the question. Oh well. You sure did confuse a bunch of us. :rofl:
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:35 pm

Peter,
Peter wrote:
You don't think the Buddha would have any better response to an offering made to him other than to reject it brusquely?

It depends. If he thought you were receptive to being taught then he would attempt to teach you. If he didn't think you receptive then he wouldn't try to teach you. If one knows one only gets one question and then makes it something unrelated to the Path, what does that say about such a one's receptiveness? To me it says "Here I have the rarest of opportunities, but I do not have the humility to accept it. I have no need of the Buddha's help, but in my ego I presume he needs my help." This to me does not seem the mind of one receptive to being taught.

This is truly a pointless discussion. I'm not sure what you're trying to say, other than that IF we had the kamma to encounter a Buddha and IF we could ask only one question, then the Buddha would ONLY help us IF we were smart enough to come up with a question that somehow reflected what we needed to learn, as if we know best what we need to learn. I do not agree with your view regarding how learning takes place. Sometimes we don't even know what question to ask in order to learn that thing along the path which we most need to learn.

The question we ask will reflect our kamma. Personally, I think a question focused on how to help others reflects more skillful kamma than a question focused on how to help oneself. I know you disagree with this outlook, since you have argued in other threads how helping others in an active way isn't something that you view as skillful kamma. I recall you arguing that skillful action is described in the Suttas as a form of inaction, and so you are suspect of the viewpoint that positive, active engagement with others is helpful along the path. I think you have this viewpoint because you misunderstand the 10 perfections. I'm sure you'll disagree with my assessment of your viewpoints.

Nevertheless, this quote that you offer DOES NOT reflect my mindstate: "Here I have the rarest of opportunities, but I do not have the humility to accept it. I have no need of the Buddha's help, but in my ego I presume he needs my help." You appear to be trying to argue that anyone who hold my viewpoint must lack humility. This comment could (and has been) taken as a thinly veiled personal attack. Please try to avoid suggesting that I lack humility because I think it's a good idea generate the kamma of dana if one encounters the Buddha. I don't want to be in the position of having to defend my degree of humility in this discussion with you. And please also try to avoid suggesting that I lack "the mind of one receptive to being taught," as you put it.

I'm astonished that this simple observation I offered -- that offering dana to the Buddha would be a wonderful way to use this one question -- has become such a contentious issue with you, Peter. I feel you are putting this in the worst possible light.

If and when the time comes that you have a chance to ask the Buddha a single question, go ahead and ask him something philosophical or whatever you want. That will reflect your kamma in that moment, and it will bear the appropriate fruit.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:42 pm

I'd like to add that I'm uncomfortable being put into the position of defending what I thought was a pretty straighforward, positive and personal observation. What about my post was so objectionable? Here it is again, pasted below. Very weird, Peter, that you found it so objectionable. I was talking about myelf, not you.

Jechbi wrote:
Kare wrote:"How can I help you, my friend?"

I think that's the best question possible.

I was going to say, "May I sit with you, Bhante?" But Kare's question snaps into focus just how selfish my question would be.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:47 pm

Peter wrote:On the other hand, for one who understands the Buddha's teachings on the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, this then is seen to not be the best question one could ask. The Buddha also teaches us that to put others before ourselves is not as wise as to put oneself before others. Acting for the benefit of both oneself and others together is of course the best of all.

:roll:

I see. Your viewpoint is that you believe you have incredibly good understanding.
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Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:51 pm

Is it selfish to seek nibbana?
Open your mind and see, open your mind and rise. Shine the light of wisdom and see, don't wait till the end of time.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:56 pm

I have a question that I would phrase in one of two ways:

What is the one thing I need to be doing to work towards awakening? What one thing can I focus on most?
or
What is the one thing that is holding me back the most from awakening?

I don't mean the obvious answers like craving or clinging, but a personalized answer. Particular to my mind-habits, my history, and my current practice. If I got to ask two questions, first I would ask him what would be best to ask. The idea of meeting the Buddha is such a happy idea, thanks for the question :)

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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 09, 2009 5:26 pm

Jechbi wrote:I'm not sure what you're trying to say

That does seem to be the case. Your recent batch of responses to me contain so many misinterpretations of what I said that I'm not sure it would be fruitful for me to try to address them all. Suffice it to say that, yes, I think you misunderstand the Buddha's teachings.

In short, a] an offer of generosity is indeed taught to be good, but it is not taught to be the best and b] to ask a Buddha how one might work towards Nibbana is not taught to be selfish, but rather is taught to be the best. To think generosity is the best or that to strive for Nibbana is selfish seems to me to show misunderstanding of the teachings, misunderstandings I felt worthwhile to point out and correct.

I still do find one point you've made to be very interesting: Maybe it doesn't matter at all what we ask? The scriptures seem to suggest the Buddha would simply ignore our question if it was a bad one and instead teach us something more appropriate.

"Enough, Subhadda. Put this question aside. I will teach you the Dhamma. Listen, and pay close attention. I will speak." - DN 16
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:45 pm

Jechbi, let me add: I am sorry my answers aren't clear to you and that they appear to be causing you distress. Hopefully in the future my answers will be better formed.
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby Kare » Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:28 pm

Friends, this is a futile and pointless exercize. Fantasizing about posing a question to a person we never are going to meet will only lead into a tangle and a thicket of views.

Let us put intelligent and penetrating questions to ourselves, to our teachers, to our kalyanamittas and to the Tipitaka. And let us listen attentively to whatever answers we get. But this discussion of putting questions to a person who died a long time ago, is a waste of time and energy.

:anjali:
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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:06 pm

Greetings Kåre,

Well said... there is nothing to be gained from disputing a hypothetical situation like this.

:buddha2:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: if you could ask the Buddha one question

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:35 pm

It doesn't take much to turn the OP into a realistic question:

"What do you think is the single most important question you could ask a wise teacher?"

Far from being a useless question I have found it to be very relevant. When I get an opportunity to talk with Bhikkhu Bodhi I have time enough for one direct question. As much as I'd like to sit and chat with him for an hour or three I am simply not given that opportunity. Or if a monk is traveling giving lectures to a crowd I am lucky if I get called on during the question & answer period. Again, no chance for lots of back and forth or multiple questions. I have a single opportunity and I have to make it count.

In these situations, if I had asked "How may I help you?" I would have squandered a precious and rare opportunity to learn Dhamma from very wise people. On the other hand, when Bhikkhu Dhammaratana was visiting my town for a week I asked him if there was anything special he needed while he was travelling. He let me know of a few things and I happily got them. But when we were doing a meditation retreat I kept my questions focused on the path and practice.

That is how I roll. I guess others roll differently. :rofl:
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