Tuesday, March 06, 2007

At the Root of a Tree

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Alavi on a spread of leaves by a cattle track in a simsapa forest. Then Hatthaka of Alavi, out roaming & rambling for exercise, saw the Blessed One sitting on a spread of leaves by the cattle track in the simsapa forest. On seeing him, he went to him and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "Lord, I hope the Blessed One has slept in ease."

"Yes, young man. I have slept in ease. Of those in the world who sleep in ease, I am one."

"But cold, lord, is the winter night. The 'Between-the-Eights' is a time of snowfall. Hard is the ground trampled by cattle hooves. Thin is the spread of leaves. Sparse are the leaves in the trees. Thin are your ochre robes. And cold blows the Verambha wind. Yet still the Blessed One says, 'Yes, young man. I have slept in ease. Of those in the world who sleep in ease, I am one.'"

"In that case, young man, I will question you in return. Answer as you see fit. Now, what do you think: Suppose a householder or householder's son has a house with a gabled roof, plastered inside & out, draft-free, with close-fitting door & windows shut against the wind. Inside he has a horse-hair couch spread with a long-fleeced coverlet, a white wool coverlet, an embroidered coverlet, a rug of kadali-deer hide, with a canopy above, & red cushions on either side. And there a lamp would be burning, and his four wives, with their many charms, would be attending to him. Would he sleep in ease, or not? Or how does this strike you?"

"Yes, lord, he would sleep in ease. Of those in the world who sleep in ease, he would be one."

"But what do you think, young man. Might there arise in that householder or householder's son any bodily fevers or fevers of mind born of passion so that — burned with those passion-born fevers — he would sleep miserably?"

"Yes, lord."

"As for those passion-born fevers — burned with which the householder or householder's son would sleep miserably — that passion has been abandoned by the Tathagata, its root destroyed, like an uprooted palm tree, deprived of the conditions of existence, not destined for future arising. Therefore he sleeps in ease.

--- Exerpt from the Hatthaka Sutta (AN 3.34)

My first night in the snow went rather well, all things considered. A little chilly in a square sleeping bag, so my mother has bought for me a mummy bag (monkey bag?). But so nice to be in the snow again, at least for a short time. And my daytimes of course are spent in the house, where I am able to continue my walking and sitting meditation in comfort.

Pish, tosh. Only -18 with the windchill. Am I going to have to go to Canada for some real cold? Ha, ha. Maybe I won't be laughing in the morning... with four layers of sleeping bag, a two-layer monk blanket and a down comforter, maybe I'll have suffocated to death.