The Poisoned Arrow

(from the Culamalunkya-sutta) There was once a man named Malunkyaputta, who had heard the Buddha preach the Dharma and been moved to take up Buddhist practice. However, one afternoon, Malunkyaputta got up from his afternoon meditation, went to the Buddha, greeted him and said: "Sir, when I was alone meditating, these thoughts occured to me: There are these problems that the Blessed One has not explained. Namely, 1) is the universe eternal or not eternal?, 2) is the universe finite or infinite?, 3) is the soul the same as the body or are they two different things?, 4) does the Buddha exist after death or does he not exist after death?, 5) does the Buddha simultaneously exist and not exist or does he simultaneously not exist and not not-exist? The Blessed One has not explained these problems to me, and that bothers me. I will go to the Blessed One and ask him about these things. If the Blessed One explains these things to me, then I will continue to follow the holy life under him. If the Blessed One does not explain these things to me, then I will go look for someone else who might. So if the Blessed One knows the answers to these questions let him explain them to me now. If the Blessed One does not know the answers to these questions, then let him say that he doesn't know." The Buddha replied to Malunkyaputta, 'Did I ever say to you, "Malunkyaputta, if you come lead the holy life under me I will explain these questions to you?"' "No, Sir." 'Then, Malunkyaputta, did you say to me, "Sir, I will lead the holy life under you if you explain these questions to me?"' "No, Sir." "So under these circumstances, who is refusing whom? 'Malunkyaputta, if anyone says, "I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until he explains these questions," he may die with these questions unanswered. Suppose Malunkyaputta, a man is wounded by a poisoned arrow, and his friends and relatives bring him a physician. Suppose the man then says to the physician, "I will not allow you to remove this arrow until I have learned who shot me: the age, the occupation, the birthplace, and the motivation of the person who wounded me. I will not allow you to remove this arrow until I have learned the kind of bow with which I was shot, the type of bowstring used, the type of arrow, what sort of feather was used on the arrow, and with what kind of material the point of the arrow was made." That man would die before having learned all this. In exactly the same way, anyone who should say, 'I will not follow the teaching of the Buddha until the Buddha has explained all the multiform truths of the world' - that person would die before the Buddha had explained all this."

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