Friday, January 11, 2008

the cowherd's story

thanks to mindrol-la for her enthusiastic request for the sequel to the frog's story. in it, we hear what happened to the cowherd after he heard the entire teachings by the buddha. (for frog's story, read here.)

as background, you need to know that that buddha has just given an exquisite teaching that uses the image of a log moving down a river as a metaphor for the course we take through life after life, often getting stuck along the way, but sometimes flowing strongly towards the ocean of liberation. here is the text that follows that teaching in the vinayavastu; translated from the sanskrit:

At that very time, Nanda the Cowherd was standing near the Lord. Leaning on his cane, he was grazing his cows. A frog was pinned by the cane, his skin pierced, his joints dislocated. He generated the thought, ‘If I should move my body or emit a sound, this would be the cause for Nanda the Cowherd to be distracted from the story.’ Having decided that, he made his mind inspired with faith in the presence of the Lord and died. He was reborn among the devas of the Four World Guardian Kings.

Then Nanda the Cowherd set his cane down to one side and went towards the Lord. Having approached, he prostrated with his head at the feet of the Lord, and stood off to one side. Standing off to the side, Nanda the Cowherd said this to the Lord, "Sir, I will not get caught on this bank, I will not get caught on the far bank, I will not get caught in the middle, I will not come out onto dry land, I will not be grabbed by humans, I will not be grabbed by non-humans, I will not be grabbed by a whirlpool. I will not become putrid inside. Sir, may I attain renunciation, full ordination and monkhood in the well-spoken Dharmavinaya. May I practice celibate discipleship in the presence of the Lord.”

“If so, Nanda, you have given the cows to their owners?”

“No, Sir.”

“Why not?”

“Sir, since they are cows who have young calves, they know their dwelling places. They will each return to their respective homes. Sir, may I attain renunciation, full ordination and monkhood in the well-spoken Dharmavinaya. May I practice celibate discipleship in the presence of the Lord.”

“Nanda, although they are cows who have young calves at a tender age, know their dwelling places and will each return to their respective homes, nevertheless this is the duty of a cowherd, who has accepted the owner’s food and clothing.”

At that, Nanda the Cowherd prostrated with his head at the feet of the Lord, and left the presence of the Blessed One. Then he began to run, crying loudly, ‘Danger! Danger!’ Along the path, 500 cowherds related to him saw him. They said, “What danger is to be feared?”

“The danger of birth. The danger of aging. The danger of sickness. The danger of death.”

They too began to run behind him. When they were seen by other cowherds, horse drivers, porters carrying grass, porters carrying kindling, people living from the street and people gone astray living from the street, these too began to run. Servants saw them shouting in this way and questioned them, “What is this, Sirs?”

They said, “There is danger!”

“Danger of what?”

“Danger of birth. Danger of aging. Danger of sickness. Danger of death!”

After hearing this, they too turned back. At a certain point, they reached the vicinity of a district capital. Then the group of people living around the district capital saw the huge group of people and became alarmed, [and ran about] this way and that. Some fled. Some hid their goods. Some armed themselves and stood their ground. Others, the courageous people, advanced and questioned them.

“What is this, Sirs?”

They said, “There is danger!”

“Danger of what?”

“Danger of birth. Danger of aging. Danger of sickness. Danger of death.”

At that, the group of people living around the district capital were relieved.

At that time, on that occasion, Venerable Śāriputra had joined and was seated in that very assembly. Venerable Śāriputra noticed that Nanda the Cowherd had been gone for a long time, and said this to the Lord, “Sir, why did the Lord encourage Nanda to Cowherd, who was desirous of renouncing in the well-spoken Dharmavinaya, to go home?”

“Śāriputra, there is no chance that Nanda the Cowherd will remain within his home as a householder again. Having experienced deposited treasure, will he enjoy the objects of desire? There is no possibility of that. Nanda the Cowherd will now surrender the cows to their owners and come back. After seeing that for the sake of which children of good families shave their hair and beard, put on saffron clothes and go forth with only the correct devotion from their homes into a homeless state - the supreme culmination of celibate discipleship - and having realized for himself the Dharma, actualized it and attained it, he will proclaim, ‘For me, birth has ended. My celibate discipleship is completed. My duty is done. After this existence I will know no other.’”

Meanwhile, after surrendering the cows to their owners, Nanda the Cowherd came to where the Lord with a retinue of 500. Having approached he said this to the Lord, “Sir, may I attain renunciation, full ordination and monkhood in the well-spoken Dharmavinaya. May I practice celibate discipleship in the presence of the Lord.”

And Nanda the Cowherd attained renunciation, full ordination and monkhood in the well-spoken Dharmavinaya, together with the retinue of 500. Having thus renounced, he became venerable... "

and thus ends the story of Nanda the Cowherd, a disciple of the Buddha whose renunciation the frog helped make possible...

1 comment:

Gyalten said...

Thank you so much Damcho-la for posting this gorgeous story for me to read (and I hope for others to enjoy as well). SO AMAZING! I can't express it in words... too beautiful!

love,
mindrol