Sutta Study Reflection Theme 5-5-2012
The Middle Length Discourses: MN 22
The Simile of the Snake (Alagaddupama Sutta)
Pages 224 – 236
To be read out-loud: Sections 8 – 12
In this discourse, the Buddha is warning against misconceptions that arise when one is not careful with the teachings. To protect the effectiveness of the teachings, the Buddha strongly corrects Arittha’s misrepresentations. At the end of his life when Venerable Ananda was asking about who would lead the Sangha after the Buddha passes, the Buddha replied that it is the teachings that will be the teacher. There has always been this emphasis in Theravada Buddhism that the teachings of the Buddha have all necessary keys to direct one onward toward the full fruits of this path of awakening.
We humans seem to have a strong tendency to recreate everything according to our own likes and dislikes. This path the Buddha pointed to requires a well developed sense of integrity. First we make a sincere effort to understand what the Buddha (and other teachers) are pointing to with their teachings. Then we take up the practice as taught and see directly what the results are. We need instructions that take us beyond our preconceptions of how things are. If we modified the instructions to fit better with our current beliefs and views, they lose their value.
This month, let’s read through this sutta (and receive any other spiritual readings and discussion) with a deep sense of care and observe the obvious and subtle reactions that arise dependent on the content and our likes and dislikes. Life has taught us that our likes and dislikes are not always trustworthy. Generally, we are frightened by anything that challenges our mind’s status quo – the views that we have become comfortable with. How best to skillfully challenge the mind’s preexisting views allowing for a natural development of wisdom and compassion? What is in the way of wholeheartedly taking up some teaching and learning what can be learned? How best to recognize and avoid a blind or unwise devotion to teachings – hoping for the best?
For additional study material see:
The Discourse on the Snake Simile, Alagaddupama Sutta (MN 22)
translated from the Pali with an Introduction by Nyanaponika Thera