Fearless in the Good

A reflection from Ayyā Nimmalā:
 
More than two and a half millenia ago, in ancient India, one of the Buddha’s royal supporters, King Pasenadi of Kosala, was fortunate enough to be given a teaching using a powerful simile to remind him of the imminent nature of aging and death. And how powerful, too, was the wise king’s response.

The Buddha asked King Pasenadi to reflect, “What if one of your trustworthy and reliable scouts came running to you from the east and said, ‘I have just come from the east and there I saw a great mountain as high as the clouds coming this way, crushing all living beings. Do whatever you think should be done, great king.’ Then a second scout came from the west, and a third from the north, and a fourth from the south, and they all said the same thing about the direction from which they had come.”

The Buddha then asked, “If such a peril should arise, such a terrible destruction of human life, the human state being so difficult to obtain, what should be done?”

King Pasenadi replied with great respect to the Buddha, “Bhante (venerable sir), if such a great peril should arise, such a terrible destruction of human life, what else should be done but to live by the Dhamma, devoted to non ill-will and non harm (dhammacariya), to live devoted to spiritual calm and peace (samacariya), and to live devoted to goodness, doing kind and generous deeds (kusalakiriya and puññakiriya).”

Then the Buddha replied, “I inform you, great king, I announce to you great king, ‘aging and death are rolling in on you’. When aging and death are rolling in on you, great king, what should be done?”

And once again King Pasenadi replied, “As aging and death are rolling in on me, Bhante, what else should be done but to live by the Dhamma, devoted to non ill-will and non harm, to live devoted to spiritual calm and peace, and to live devoted to goodness, doing kind and generous deeds.”

The Buddha reminded King Pasenadi that people, particularly kings, are obsessed with wealth and power and fame and getting one pleasant sensory experience after another, even at the cost of others.

But, to modernize his analogy, the king is reminded that no army nor government – no matter how large; no health care system nor vaccine – no matter how great; no riches – no matter how grand; no attitude of superiority due to skin colour, culture, language, gender or sexual orientation has any place or any scope when aging and death are rolling in.

Once again, the king replied, “There is no place or scope for any of these when aging and death come rolling in. As aging and death are rolling in on me, what else should be done but to live by the Dhamma, devoted to non ill-will and non harm, to live devoted to spiritual calm and peace, and to live devoted to goodness, doing kind and generous deeds.”

The Buddha consented, “So it is, great king! So it is, great king!  As aging and death are rolling in, what else should be done but to live by the Dhamma, devoted to non ill-will and non harm, to live devoted to spiritual calm and peace, and to live devoted to goodness, doing kind and generous deeds.”

May we all find value in the Buddha’s message to this great king and in the king’s wise response, and, no matter what comes rolling in, may we set our compass towards love, kindness, goodness and deep and lasting peace.

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