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  • Thomas Bien

The Treasure of Mahakassapa

One day the Buddha stood before a community of 1250 monks. He held up a flower before them and smiled. Time ticked by, and the monks looked at him, puzzled. Some must have engaged in deep philosophical speculation. What did this mean? Why was the Buddha not speaking?

Finally, one monk understood, and smiled back to the Buddha. It was the monk Mahakassapa, an advanced student of the Buddha’s. The Buddha smiled at Mahakassapa in turn, and told the group: “I have a great Dharma treasure, and today I have transmitted it to Mahakassapa.”

What was it that Mahakassapa understood? Like the monks, we may be tempted to engage in a lot of speculation. But the Buddha was not fond of such. Often when someone asked him a philosophical question—things like whether the universe was eternal or not—he would not answer. He consistently maintained that he was only interested in teaching about suffering and the way out of suffering. So we can eliminate any sort of speculative philosophy from consideration.

When someone shows us a flower, he wants us to see the flower!

The answer is simple, right under our noses. But don’t think this is obvious and just go ahead with your life. Consider: are you available for the flowers—literal and metaphorical—in your life? Life has a lot of suffering in it, but we don’t need to get lost in it. It is very important to also notice the flowers—the trees, the sky, the rivers, the kindness of others, whatever we have of peace in our own hearts.

Like Mahakassapa, receive this great Dharma treasure.

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