From a kong-an talk, April 30, 1978, London
The letter we just read from Dropping Ashes on the Buddha was from a professor, very complicated. “I am a professor, I have this position, my position, etc.” Sometimes having a good position cannot help you. Also it cannot help other people. If this good position is not only for me, but only for helping other people, then this position is a very great position.
It’s like Kwanseum Bosal. Kwanseum Bosal doesn’t want earrings, necklaces, beautiful clothes. These are not necessary. If you see pictures of the Bodhisattva she is very beautiful, but this is not necessary. But everyone likes beautiful earrings, beautiful necklaces, beautiful clothes. They see the pictures and think, “Oh wonderful, I believe in this Bodhisattva.” This style of thinking appears. But Buddha’s picture, you know, is nothing at all. Only very simple clothes, simple face, no necklace, no earrings. So Buddha’s teaching and the Bodhisattva’s teaching are different.
Buddha’s teaching is only truth. But many people don’t like Buddha’s teaching. Why? Everyone has desire mind. So when someone is hungry, how does Buddha teach him? “You are hungry, but if you keep hungry mind, no good! Put it all down.” This teaching is not possible! First you must give the person food, then he will have enough mind. Then you can say, “Where does this hungry mind come from? You eat a lot, this is no good. Not good for your body. If you eat too much when you’re hungry you will hurt your stomach, so only eat a little.” First give the person food, then give correct teaching. This is necessary. If you say, “You are hungry. This is no good. Put it all down. Then you won’t be hungry. Only drink water. For three days, five days, one month, this is possible. Why do you let desire mind appear?” This is not bad teaching, but he will not listen. Nobody will listen.
So Buddha’s teaching is the original true teaching. But the Bodhisattva understands all humans’ desire mind. Then she first satisfies these desires. Then next, cut: “Desire is no good!” So Buddha’s teaching is only straight. The Bodhisattva’s teaching is always together teaching with human beings. So Buddha’s teaching is only intellectual. The Bodhisattva’s teaching is first emotional, then intellectual. This is different.
At the time of Buddha there were three great men: Buddha, Vimalakirti, and Devadatta. Buddha already got enlightenment and was teaching all people. Vimalakirti also got enlightenment, he was teaching all laymen, Bodhisattva teaching. Buddha was teaching only true teaching, Vimalakirti, only Bodhisattva teaching to laymen. So Devadatta was thinking, “I have no job.” He also got enlightenment. So he always had bad speech for Buddha. “Buddha doesn’t understand, he only goes around saying, ‘I am Buddha.’ This is no good.” He always had bad speech for Buddha, so he went to hell. But hell was no problem, going to hell was OK. Already he had special energy and understood everything.
Buddha’s disciples sometimes visited Vimalakirti, sometimes visited Devadatta. So one day Ananda visited Devadatta. “You always had bad speech for Buddha, so you went to hell. How do you feel?”
Devadatta smiled and said, “Even if I stay in hell, my happiness is like staying in heaven. No problem.”
Then Ananda said, “Oh, then you won’t want to get out of hell. Hell is good, you can stay in hell.”
Then Devadatta said, “Shakyamuni Buddha will come here and take me out.”
Ananda said, “Shakyamuni Buddha is teaching all people, he’s spending his whole life teaching the six realms. Why should he come here?”
Devadatta replied, “Shakyamuni Buddha is spending his whole life teaching the six realms, so he will come here.” This hit Ananda, boom! Do you understand? This is a very short dialogue, but inside it has a bone.
Having a bone means: Who is Shakyamuni Buddha? Where is hell? Where is heaven? This style talking is nothing at all. We say form is emptiness, emptiness is form. He already got enlightenment. He said making hell is possible, making heaven is possible, also he understood everything. “You only understand Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha will come here and take me out,” means, “I am Shakyamuni Buddha.” So this kind of talking has a meaning. Devadatta understood Ananda’s mind, so Ananda could not answer. (Ananda was only Buddha’s secretary, not his number one disciple. That was Mahakashyapa.)
Shakyamuni Buddha and Vimalakirti never said, “I,” Devadatta talked about “I,” so made hell. This is the only difference. All three got enlightenment, all three had magic, but Devadatta was checking himself. “I have no job.” He could teach other people, but he says, “Shakyamuni Buddha is teaching everyone so I have no job.” So he only has bad speech for Buddha and goes to hell, but this hell is not hell. He has this much power, this much magic, very clever. But there is one point, like a small hair. One hair, “I.” So he goes to hell. If he cuts this “I,” then no problem. Finally he says, “Buddha will come here and help me, I will get out.” This means, “Buddha and I have the same mind.” That time he cuts “I.” So that time Buddha and Devadatta become one. Before, he never talked this way.
So someone may have a lot of power and understanding, get enlightenment, yet still have the small “I.” It’s like one hair. One ignorance hair, the last hair. So how do you cut this one ignorance hair. Go straight, don’t-know, OK? Don’t-know-mind is very important. Don’t-know mind has everything, can fix everything.