Scriptural Reference for this?

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manjusri
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Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby manjusri » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:15 pm

I came across this the other day in an email from a friend:

When the Buddha was asked, "How many will attain enlightenment," he scratched the dirt and pointing to the dust under his fingernail, replied, "This many compared to the weight of the world." Does anyone know if there is a scriptural reference for this exchange? I have had no luck locating it.

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daverupa
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby daverupa » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:33 pm

I can't find anything with that precise structure. The dirt under the nail occurs in a number of different places in the Samyutta Nikaya. One example:

SN 20.2 wrote:At Sāvatthī. Then the Blessed One took up a little bit of soil in his fingernail and addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus, what do you think, which is more: the little bit of soil that I have taken up in my fingernail or the great earth?”

“Venerable sir, the great earth is more. The little bit of soil that the Blessed One has taken up in his fingernail is trifling. Compared to the great earth, it is not calculable, does not bear comparison, does not amount even to a fraction.”

“So too, bhikkhus, those beings who are reborn among human beings are few. But those beings are more numerous who are reborn elsewhere than among human beings. Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will dwell diligently. ’ Thus should you train yourselves.”


Another use of this simile is related to the suffering which remains for a stream-enterer, here (#1) & here (#51).

Also, SN 22.97 has:

Then the Blessed One took up a little bit of soil in his fingernail and said to that bhikkhu: “Bhikkhu, there is not even this much form that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and that will remain the same just like eternity itself.


I have a vague memory of a sutta with the pattern "puthujjana outnumber stream-enterers outnumber once-returners outnumber non-returners outnumber arahants" which may be related, but I haven't tracked it down yet.

Finally, I also vaguely remember a sutta where the Buddha says that there is no predicting who will attain awakening, since it's basically a matter of free will employing the right tools.

I'll keep at it. :reading:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

manjusri
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby manjusri » Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:24 pm

Dave,

Wow! Thank you for putting some time into this! Very much appreciated. Will be most curious what else might show up. Thank you!

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Sam Vara
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby Sam Vara » Sat Aug 03, 2013 10:18 pm

Finally, I also vaguely remember a sutta where the Buddha says that there is no predicting who will attain awakening, since it's basically a matter of free will employing the right tools.


That might be the Uttiya Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.095.than.html

the Tathagata isn't concerned with whether all the cosmos or half of it or a third of it will be led to release by means of that [Dhamma]. But he does know this: 'All those who have been led, are being led, or will be led [to release] from the cosmos have done so, are doing so, or will do so after having abandoned the five hindrances — those defilements of awareness that weaken discernment — having well-established[1] their minds in the four frames of reference, and having developed, as they have come to be, the seven factors for Awakening.

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daverupa
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby daverupa » Sat Aug 03, 2013 10:22 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Finally, I also vaguely remember a sutta where the Buddha says that there is no predicting who will attain awakening, since it's basically a matter of free will employing the right tools.


That might be the Uttiya Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.095.than.html

the Tathagata isn't concerned with whether all the cosmos or half of it or a third of it will be led to release by means of that [Dhamma]. But he does know this: 'All those who have been led, are being led, or will be led [to release] from the cosmos have done so, are doing so, or will do so after having abandoned the five hindrances — those defilements of awareness that weaken discernment — having well-established[1] their minds in the four frames of reference, and having developed, as they have come to be, the seven factors for Awakening.


Yes, brilliant.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby abeeha » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:41 am

Thanks for the link. After looking around a bit it seems that the case of the human undergoing spontaneous rebirth is the case of the non-returner who is spontaneously reborn in the pure abodes. I'm hoping someone can confirm or show that this is wrong.
chownah

manjusri
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby manjusri » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:53 pm

A friend sent me this the other day from a Tricycle article, Family Dharma, The Elephant's Footprint, but unfortunately no scriptural reference is given.

The Buddha said that a human life is a gift beyond measure and a great blessing. Yet the Buddha observed that not very many human beings take full advantage of the gift of their life. Once the Buddha was asked, “How many people use their lives meaningfully?” He scratched the earth with his fingernail, and pointing to the dust that he had picked up under the nail, replied, “This many as compared to the weight of the world.”

http://www.tricycle.com/web-exclusive/f ... -footprint

santa100
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby santa100 » Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:07 pm

Maybe it combines ideas from SN 13.1, SN 20.2, and AN 5.195..
AN 5.195: Licchavis, the manifestation of five gems is rare in the world. What five? (1) The manifestation of a Tathāgata, an Arahant, a Perfectly Enlightened One is rare in the world. (2) A person who can teach the Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by a Tathāgata is rare in the world. (3) When the Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by a Tathāgata has been taught, a person who can understand it is rare in the world. (4) When the Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by a Tathāgata has been taught, a person who can understand it and practice in accordance with the Dhamma is rare in the world. (5) A grateful and thankful person is rare in the world. Licchavis, the manifestation of these five gems is rare in the world.~~ http://palicanon.org/index.php/sutta-pi ... fty-v-dogs ~~

manjusri
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby manjusri » Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:24 pm

Another reference that a friend sent me attributed to the late Geshe Dhargyey who taught for years at The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India. Seems this is a protean metaphor employed to convey a number of Dharmic points.

"Yet not many humans take advantage of the human situation. When Buddha was asked how many people use their lives meaningfully, he scratched the earth with his fingernail and, pointing to the dust that he had picked up under the nail, replied, 'This many as compared to the weight of the world.'"

manjusri
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby manjusri » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:53 pm

Astus, over at dharmawheel.net had this insightful reply, to which I agree.


"There is also a logical problem with that hypothetical quote. And that is it would only serve as a deterrent for those who want enlightenment, it would be demotivating. In later Mahayana teachings there are talks about the Dharma ending age where enlightenment is near impossible, however, there is always a special teaching that one should use instead of the others and that guarantees success."

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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby manjusri » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:58 pm

And finally, from Bodhipaksa over at fakebuddhaquotes:

The Buddha used the "earth versus what's under my fingernail" simile dozens of times.

He used it, for example, to compare the large amount of suffering destroyed by one who has entered the stream compared to the amount of suffering remaining, and to contrast the large number of beings not born human compared to those who are born human.

The closest I've found, though, is in the Samyutta Nikaya, page 1879 in Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation. After the introduction of the simile, we're told:

"So too, bhikkhus, those beings are few who possess the noble eye of wisdom. But those beings are more numerous who are immersed in ignorance..."

But this is rather different from your quote, which is not about how many people have attained awakening, but is about how many will attain awakening. And your "suspicious poster" is, I'm sure, right in thinking that that version of the quote would put people off seeking awakening.

So I'm fairly certain that your quote is actually a misquote.

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daverupa
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Re: Scriptural Reference for this?

Postby daverupa » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:58 pm

manjusri wrote:... in the Samyutta Nikaya, page 1879 in Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation. After the introduction of the simile, we're told:

"So too, bhikkhus, those beings are few who possess the noble eye of wisdom. But those beings are more numerous who are immersed in ignorance..."


I think this is the second passage which I had vaguely remembered.

Well, that's all accounted for, then.

:smile:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]


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