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Hundred Parables Sutra

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The Hundred Parables Sutra


Thus have I heard: at one time the Buddha was staying in the Magpie Garden, in the Bamboo Grove, near the city of Rajagrha together with great bhikshus, Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, and beings of the eightfold division of ghosts and spirits, thirty-six thousand in all. On that occasion there were five hundred Brahmans of different schools in the assembly who rose from their seats and said to the Buddha, “We have heard that the Buddha’s path is so profound that it has no equal. Therefore, we have come to ask you to explain it to us.”

“Very well,” said the Buddha.

“Is the universe existent or non-existent?” asked a Brahman.

“It is both existent and non-existent,” the Buddha replied.

The Brahman asked, “If it is now existent, how can you say it is non-existent? I fit is now non-existent, how can you say it is existent?”

The Buddha replied, “The living say it is existent, but the dead say it is non-existent. Consequently, I say it can be existent and non-existent.”

The Brahman asked, “What do people live on?”

The Buddha replies, “People live on grains.”

“Where do the five grains come from?” he asked.

“They come from the four elements of fire, wind, water, and earth,” the Buddha replied.

“Where do the four elements come from?” asked the Brahman.

“They come from the void,” the Buddha replied.

“Where does the void come from?” asked the Brahman.

“From Nirvana,” the Buddha replied.

“Where does Nirvana come from?” asked the Brahman.

The Buddha said, “Why do you ask about such profound matters? Nirvana is the Dharma of non-birth and non-death.”

“Has the Buddha attained Nirvana?” he asked.

“I have not yet reached Nirvana,” the Buddha replied.

“Since you have not yet reached Nirvana, how do you know Nirvana is eternal bliss?”

The Buddha said, “Now, let me ask you: Are sentient beings in the world happy or do they suffer?”

Sentient beings suffer,” replied the Brahman.

The Buddha said, “How do you know they suffer?”

Seeing how at death beings experience unbearable pain, I thereby know that their death is suffering,” replied the Brahman.

“Now you are not yet dead, but you nevertheless know that death is suffering. Likewise, seeing how all Buddhas of the ten directions have neither being born nor dying, I know; therefore, that Nirvana is eternal bliss,” said the Buddha.

The five hundred Brahmans were delighted, understood his words, and sought to receive the five precepts. They enlightened to the fruition of Shrotappana. When they had returned to their seats the Buddha said, “Listen carefully to me for I shall now speak to you extensively of many parables.”

1 The Stupid Man and The Salt

Once there was a stupid man who paid a visit to a friend. When the host gave him something to eat, he complained that the food was tasteless and so the host added a bit of salt. The stupid man tried the food again and found it much improved. He thought, “If a little salt improves it this much, more salt would make it even better.” Then he ate only salt and his mouth became raw and he became sick.

2 The Stupid Man Tries To Store Up Milk

Once there was a stupid man who was going to have some guests and decided to store up some milk for them. He thought, “If I milk the cow every day beforehand, there will be too much milk and not enough space to store it. It will probably spoil. It would be better to leave it in the cow. I’ll milk the cow right before the guests arrive.”

Then he separated the cow from its calf and tied them up. A month later, when he actually had the gathering, he tried to milk the cow, but found that the milk had run dry. Some guests scoffed at him and others laughed.

This is like stupid people who want to give alms all at once and say that they will wait until they possess great wealth. Usually, before they can accumulate enough money, it is seized by the government, lost in a fire or flood, or taken by robbers. Or else they many even die before they get around to giving. They are just like that stupid man who tired to store up milk.

3 The Pears and The Broken Head

Once there was a bald-headed man. When someone threw several pears at him, injuring his head, he stupidly remained silent and refused to get out of the way. Seeing this, the people said, “Why didn’t you get out of the way and thereby avoid injury to your head?”

The stupid man replied, “That person was just showing off his strength, but he was stupid and had no wisdom. He thought my bald-head was a rock!”

The people said, “You are the stupid one! How can you call him stupid? If you weren’t stupid, how could you have let him injure you and how could you have refused to get out of the way?”

This is like a Bhikshu who, unable to cultivate faith, precepts, learning, or wisdom, merely maintains an awesome appearance to attract support and offerings. Such a Bhikshu is like that stupid man who received blows on his head without running away and then called his attacker stupid.

4 The Wife Plays Dead

Once there was a stupid man who was very much in love with his beautiful wife. She was unfaithful to him; however, and took a lover. Burning with deviant passion, she instructed an old woman, saying, “After I leave, put a dead woman’s corpse in my room and tell my husband I am dead.” The old woman waited until the husband was not at home and then placed a woman’s corpse inside the house. When he returned, she told him his wife was dead.

The husband saw the corpse and believed it to be his wife. He grieved and wept and prepared much firewood and oil for the cremation. He gathered the remains in a bag and carried them with him day and night.

The wife, meanwhile, grew tired of her lover and returned home, saying to her husband, “I am your wife.”

The husband replied, “My wife died long ago. Why do you falsely claim to be my wife?” He refused to believe her even after her repeated explanations.

This is like those of externalist ways who learn deviant teachings and whose minds give rise to delusion and attachment. They claim that the teachings are true and they refuse to change. Afterwards even when they hear the orthodox teaching, they do not believe, accept, or uphold it.

5 Seeing Water and Getting Thristy

Long ago there was a stupid, unwise man who was extremely thirsty and in need of water. Seeing a mirage, he mistook it for water and ran after it. He followed it all the way to the Indus River. Then he just stood by the river and stared at it, without drinking.

A bystander said, “You were so thirsty and desperate for water. Now you have found water, why don’t you drink it?”

The stupid man replied, “If I could drink it all, I would drink it. But there is so much of it I could never drink it all. Therefore, I’m not going to drink any of it.”

Hearing this, the crowd laughed loudly. This is like those of outside ways who stubbornly hold to their views and think themselves, incapable of keeping all the Buddha’s precepts. They therefore refuse to receive any of them. Because of this, they have no share in future enlightenment, but turn and flow in birth and death. They are like the man who was laughed at because he saw the water but refused to drink.

6 The Dead Son Remains in the House

Once there was a stupid man who had seven children. One child died young. Seeing this, the man wished to leave the corpse in the house and move out himself.

Observing this, a bystander said, “Birth and death are separate paths. You should quickly conduct a proper funeral and bury the corpse in a far away place. How can you leave the corpse here and move out yourself?”

Hearing this, the stupid man thought to himself, “If I’m not going to leave the corpse here, but bury it instead, I should kill another child to hang at the other end of a long pole. Then I can carry them both off to be buried.” And so he proceeded to kill another child. Then he put both corpses on the ends of along pole and took them off to be buried in the forest. People who saw this were shocked at such a strange occurrence.

This is like a Bhikshu who secretly breaks one precept and is afraid to repent. He keeps silent about it and hides his mistake, insisting to himself that he is pure. Then someone discovers his misdeed and says, “Those who have left home should keep the precepts flawlessly like guarding precious pearls. Why do you now, having broken a precept, wish not to repent?”

The violator says, “As long as I am going to repent, I might as well break some more precepts and then confess them all at once.” Then he casually breaks the precepts and does many bad deeds. That Bhikshu is like the stupid man who, since one of his children had died, killed yet another.

7 Claiming Another as One’s Elder Brother

Long ago there was a man, both handsome and wise. He was also wealthy and of good repute. Seeing this, another man claimed that man to be his elder brother. He did this, of course, because he wanted access to his money. Then, when the wealthy man went into debt, the man denied that he was his elder brother. A bystander said, “You are a stupid man. Why did you call him your elder brother when you needed the money and then deny this when he went into debt?”

The stupid man replied, “When I want some of his money, I say he is my elder brother, but he is not really my brother. So when he is in debt, I admit he is not my brother.”

Hearing this, there were none who did not laugh.

This is like those of externalist ways who hearing the Buddha’s good words, greedily usurp them, and take them as their own. When people try to teach those externalists to cultivate; however, they want no part of it. Instead they protest, “Those teachings were spoken out of a desire for profit. There is really nothing to those teachings. What need is there to cultivate?” They are like the stupid man who called another his elder brother in order to get his money and then denied it later when the man went into debt.

8 The Rustic Steals from the Palace Treasury

Long ago there was a country bumpkin who stole items from the king’s treasury and ran far away. The king sent men to search for him in the four directions. They apprehended him and brought him before the king. The king accusingly asked, “Where did you get those clothes?”

The rustic said, “These clothes belonged to my grandfather.”

The king ordered him to prove it by putting them on, but the rustic did not know how to wear them. He put on his arms what should have been on his legs; he put on his head what should have been on his back. Seeing he must surely be the thief, the king called his ministers for a consultation. Then he said to the rustic, ”If these clothes really belonged to your grandfather, you would know how to wear them. Why did you get them all mixed up? Since you didn’t know how to put them on, they certainly can’t be your own clothes. You must have stolen them.”

In this parable the king is like the Buddha. The precious treasury is like the Dharma. The stupid rustic is like those of externalist ways who eavesdrop on the Buddhadharma and then take it as their own. Because they misinterpret it, they get it all mixed up and fail to understand the marks of Dharma. This is like the rustic who know how to wear them and put them on upside down.

9 Praising the Father’s Virtuous Conduct

Once there was a man who praised his father’s virtue to the multitudes saying, “My father is humane and kind. He harms no one and he never steals. He speaks directly and truthfully and he also practices giving.”

Hearing this, the stupid man said, “My father is more virtuous than yours.”

The group then asked him, “What is your father’s virtuous conduct? Please tell us about his deeds.”

“When he was young he severed all sexual desire, “the stupid man replied.

The others said, “If your father cut off sexual desire when he was young, how did he beget you?” Then they laughed uproariously.

This is like ordinary ignorant people of the world who wish to praise the virtue of others but who are unrealistic and end up being ridiculous. They are like the stupid man who, although well-intentioned in wishing to praise his father, made an absurd mistake.

10 The Three-Storied House

In the old days, there was a rich man who was stupid and ignorant. One day he went to another rich man’s home. The house was a three-stored structure. Being struck with admiration of the imposing, spacious, and well-lit building, he said to himself, “I am no less rich than he. Why don’t I immediately build a house like this one?”

Thereupon he sent for a carpenter and said, “Can you construct a house as imposing as that one?”

The carpenter replied, ”I built that one!”

The rich man said, “Now you may build a house like that for me.”

The carpenter first began to level the ground. Afterwards he began to lay foundation stones and then drive piles for walls. When the carpenter was laying the stones and building the wall supports, the stupid man asked, “What are you doing now?”

The carpenter replied, “I’m building a three-storied house.”

The stupid man went on, “I don’t want the two lower floors. Build me the third floor first.”

The carpenter answered, “There is no such thing. If I don’t start with the first floor, how can I build the second? If I don’t build the second, how can I build the third?”

The stupid man insisted, “I don’t need the two lower floors; build only the top floor.”

Hearing those words, people laughed sardonically. They all said, “How can one not build the lower floors, yet build the top floor?”

This is like some of the Buddha’s disciples who, being unable to practice earnestly or to revere the Triple Jewel, are lazy and lax in seeking the fruits of the Way and say, “We don’t seek the first three stages below, but seek only the fruit of Arhatship.” They become objects of ridicule just like that stupid man.

11 The Brahman Kills His Own Son

Once there was a Brahman who thought himself very knowledgeable, understanding all the skills. Presumptuous and wishing to display his abilities, he went abroad, carrying his son and crying. Someone asked the Brahman, “Why are you crying?”

He replied, “This baby is going to die within seven days. I’m crying because he shall die so young.”

The people said, “It’s difficult t know a person’s fate. Perhaps you calculated wrongly. He may not die at the end of seven days. Why weep in advance?”

The Brahman said, “The sun and moon may grow dark and the stars may fall, but my calculations are never wrong.”

For the sake of fame and gain, and to prove the truth of his saying, he killed his own son when the seven days were up.

When people heard the news of his son’s death after seven days, all praised him saying he was indeed wise and not mistaken. Thus they trusted him and admired him.

This is like Shakamuni Buddha’s four levels of disciples who for the sake of material offerings, pretended to have attained the Path. But some people will undergo limitless sufferings in the future, just like the Brahman who deluded people by killing his own son in order to prove the accuracy of his prediction.

12 Speaking About a Person’s Tendency to Get Angry

In the past, a group of people sat in a house discussing and praising the conduct of a certain foreigner. However, this person had two faults: he liked to get angry, and he acted impulsively.

Right at that time, the man being discussed happened to be passing by the house where the group of people was discussing his qualities. He knew immediately that those inside the house were talking about him. In a rage, he rushed into the house, grabbed the man who was talking about him, and proceeded to rain down blows on him.

Another person asked the foreigner, “For what reason are you beating on him?”

The foreigner replied, “When do I ever lose my temper and act impulsively? This man claims that I often get angry and act impulsively. That’s why I’m hitting him.”

The bystander pointed out, “Your behavior right now reveals your tendency to get angry and to act impulsively. How could you hide it away and act as you are?”

Those who become resentful when their faults are brought out reveal their own foolishness. This is just like an alcoholic who sinks into dissipation from his wild indulgences. When others reprimand him, he grows antagonistic and tries his best to justify himself. Such a person is like the stupid man who dislikes it when others bring up his faults. Such a person will only react with violence.

13 Slaying Their Guide and Offering Him Up as a Sacrifice

Once there was a group of merchants who wanted to go to the sea. To this end they needed a guide, and so they set out in quest for one. After they had found one, they started out on their journey. During their travels, they came upon a temple in the wilderness, where it was required that they sacrifice a person’s life before they were allowed to pass through. The group of merchants talked it over among themselves: “We are all relatives—how could we possibly kill any one of us?” And so they killed the guide and offered him up as a sacrifice. After they had made their sacrifice, they also lost their way. Not knowing their own whereabouts, the entire group endured great anguish and eventually perished.

People of the world are this group of merchants. If they wish to obtain treasures from the depth of the Dharma ocean, they should take the practice of wholesome dharmas as their guide. If they destroy such wholesome practices, they will lost their guide and never be able to find their way out of the wilderness of birth and death. They will undergo prolonged and extensive suffering in the three evil paths. Such people are like the merchants, who, they wished to go to the sea. Once they killed their guide, they lost their way, and eventually became impoverished and died.

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Taking a Boat and Losing a Silver Bowl

Once upon a time a man took a boat across the ocean. During the trip, his silver bowl fell into the water. The man had this thought, “I shall now make a mark on the water and leave it as it is. Later on I will come back and retrieve the bowl.”

After traveling for two months, he arrived in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and then continued on to other countries. Whenever he saw a river, he dove into it and started to look around for his missing bowl. People asked him, "What are you doing? He replied, “I lost my bowl sometime ago. Now I am looking for it.

They asked him, ”Where did you lose it?”

He answered, “I lost it when I first set out at sea.”

They asked him further, “How long ago did you lose it?”

He said, “About two months ago.”

They said, “If you lost it two months ago, why are you looking for the bowl here?”

He said, “At the moment when I lost my bowl, I made a mark on the water. The water which I marked is no different from the water here.”

These people continued questioning him saying, “Although the water here is no different from the water which you marked; nonetheless, you lost your bowl somewhere else. How could you expect to find it here?”

Then the crowd all broke out in laughter.

This man is like those of heterodox sects who do not cultivate proper practices. They undergo extreme toil and deprivation due to their mistaken postulation that their “good practices” will bring them liberation. They are just like the foolish man who lost his silver bowl somewhere and tried to retrieve it at another place.

15 The Physician Prescribes A Drug For The Princess

Once there was a king who had a newborn daughter. He called in a physician and said, “Can you prescribe some drug for the baby so she can grow up immediately?”

The physician said, “Yes, I can administer a fine drug which will make her grow up instantly, but I don’t have the formula right now. I will have to go search for it. However, during the period of search, Your Majesty must not lay eyes on your daughter. After I give her the drug, then I will bring her before Your Majesty.”

Then the physician went to a faraway place to look for the drug. After twelve years had passed he found the drug. He administered it to the princess and brought her before the King. The King took a look at his daughter and was overjoyed. He thought to himself, “What a fine physician! He gave my daughter a drug and caused her to grow up immediately!” Then the King ordered his attendants to reward the physician with treasures and gems.

People laughed at the king for his lack of wisdom. It never occurred to him to add up the number of months and years that had passed since his daughter’s date of birth. On seeing her grown up, he attributed her maturity to be power of the drug.

People of the world are like this king. They come to a Good Knowing Advisor and say, “I wish to seek the Way. I wish to meet someone who can teach me to gain transcendent wisdom in meditation.” The teacher uses skill-in-means to instruct his followers to sit in meditation and contemplate the twelve causes and conditions, and to accumulate myriad myriad virtues, until they eventually realize the fruit of Arhatship. At that point, the people are doubly pleased. They exclaim, “How fast this has been! This great teacher has quickly led us to the certification to the most wonderful Dharma!”

16 Watering with Sugar

Once there were two people who cooperated in plating a crop of sugar cane. They made a pact with each other: “The one who comes up with the better crop will be rewarded, while the one who doesn’t do as good a job will be severely punished.”

At that time, one of the two thought to himself, “Sugar cane is extremely sweet. If I crush the sugar cane and obtain juice and irrigate the plants with sugar-cane juice, then the sweetness of this crop will certainly excel that of my partner’s.”

Thereupon, he crushed his sugar cane and used their juice to irrigate his own plants, hoping that they will become even more succulent and sweet-tasting. But, instead he damaged the seeds and lost his entire crop.

People of the world are like this farmer. Wishing to pursue wholesome blessings, they rely on their own wealth and influence to oppress the people and usurp and confiscate others’ wealth and possessions. They conduct themselves in this way in their pursuit of blessings, hoping for riches and wholesome rewards. They fail to realize that. They will reap a terrible retribution. They are like the man who squeezed sugar cane juice on his sugar cane plants and ended up losing both the juice and the plants.

17 The half-Cent Debt

In bygone times a certain merchant loaned out a half cent and for a long time didn’t get it back. Finally, he decided to visit his debtor and demand repayment of the loan. On his way, he came upon a great river and had to pay two cents ferry fare to get across. When he reached his debtor’s house, he found out that he wasn’t there. On his return home, this man had to cross the river again, and he paid another two cents for the ferry fare.

And so, for a “half a cent” debt, he ended up losing four cents, not to speak of the extreme tiredness he felt from his journey. The debt was small; the loss was significant.

People of the world are also like this. For the sake of a little fame or gain, they think nothing of ruining their great conduct. They care only for the survival of their own persons and disregard what is righteous and proper. In this present life they earn a bad name; in the future they will reap a bitter retribution.

18 Boiled Molasses

Once upon a time, a stupid man was boiling molasses. When a rich man came to his house, he wanted to give some of the molasses to the rich man. He poured a bit of water into the pot of molasses and put it over a fire, and then he used a fan to fan the molasses, trying to cool it. A bystander asked him, “If you don’t put out the fire below, how could the molasses cool down even if you keep on fanning it?” People began to laugh at this man. This is just like externalists who do not bother to extinguish the fire of afflictions. They delve into ascetic practices such as lying down on thorns and brambles, or scorching the five parts of their bodies in hope of attaining the path of clear coolness and quiescence. They will never get anywhere. They are laughed at by the wise, who think them strange. In their present lives, they undergo suffering; in the future, they still have to undergo the pain of revolving in the wheel.

19 Sharpening the Knife Upstairs

Once there was a poor man who worked for the king. After months had passed, his body became thin and emaciated. Out of pity for him, the king gave him a dead camel. The poor man immediately started to flay the camel. Finding his knife too blunt, he went about looking for a whetsone to grind it. He found one upstairs. After he had sharpened his knife, he came downstairs to skin the camel. This he did repeatedly, running up and down the stairs, to sharpen his knife. The process became so toilsome that he couldn’t manage to go up and down the stairs any more. He ended up dragging the entire carcass of the camel up the stairs, so he could sharpen his knife next to it. Everybody laughed at him.

This person’s behavior is like that of deluded people who break the precepts, and who expend plenty of money to cultivate blessings in hope of being reborn in the heaven. These people are like the man, who, because he liked to sharpen his knife, dragged the entire camel upstairs. The effort was tedious; but the results were minimal.

20 The King Was Said to Have Been Recklessly Cruel

In the past, when a certain person was talking about the king’s faults, he remarked, “The king is despotic and unreasonable!” When those words got back to the king’s ears, he was beside himself with rage. Without finding out exactly who had said it, he believed in the words of a deceitful attendant and put a worthy minister under arrest. He issued an order to have the minister’s back flayed and a hundred ounces of his flesh hacked from his body.

Shortly thereafter, someone testified to the minister’s innocence. Then the king, feeling remorseful, sent the minister a thousand ounces of flesh to make up for what was cut off from his body. But the minister was wracked with pain and cried out in the night.

The king heard his moans and asked him, “What’s wrong with you? I took a hundred ounces of your flesh, but gave you back ten times the amount. Aren’t you satisfied? Why are you still groaning?”

A bystander observed, “Your Majesty, if you were to cut off the head of your own son, even if you were to make up for the loss with a thousand heads, still, your son could not escape the way of death. Although this minister has been given back ten times the flesh he has lost, still, he cannot be spared from pain.”

A stupid person is the same way. Having no fear of future lives, he greedily craves pleasures of the present. He torments the people around him and extorts much wealth from the citizens, hoping in this way to eradicate his own sins and reap blessings and rewards. This is like the king who flayed the minister’s back, cut off his flesh, and then tried to make it up to him by giving him back some flesh It is impossible to allay the pain in this way.

21 The Woman Who Wished For A Second Child

In the past, there was a woman who had a son. She wanted another child, and asked other women, “Who could bring me another child?”

An old woman told her, “I can help you get another child; but you must make a sacrifice to heaven.”

The woman asked the old woman, “What kind of sacrifice should I offer?”

The old woman told her, “Kill your son and make a sacrifice of his blood to heaven. Then you will certainly be blessed with many more children.”

The woman followed the old woman’s advice and was about to kill her own son when an intelligent bystander laughed and chastised her, saying, “How could you be so stupid and ignorant?” You’re not sure whether you will get another child; yet you intend to kill the one you already have.”

Stupid people act in the same way. Desiring the bliss of a future, they leap into a fiery pit, exposing themselves to all sorts of harm, thinking that this is the way to attain rebirth in the heavens.

22 Getting Sink-In-Water Incense From The Sea

Once, an elder’s son went to search for sink-in-water incense from under the sea. After searching for many years, he finally managed to bring home a cartload of it. When he went to market to sell his wares, he could not find any buyer because of the high price that he asked for the incense. After several days he grew tired and was afflicted. He saw that the charcoal merchants were able to sell their wares very quickly and thought to himself, “Why don’t I burn the incense into charcoal and then I’ll be able to dispose of it quickly!”

Thereupon he burned the incense until it became charcoal and went to sell his wares at the market. But the price he got for the burned incense did not even come up to that of half a cartload of charcoal!

So are the stupid people of the world. With countless expedients they diligently cultivate, aspiring towards Buddhahood. But upon encountering difficulty, they retreat. They think, “I might as well seek the fruition of Sound Hearers, quickly cast off birth and death, and become an Arhat.”

23 The Thief Who Stole Embroidered Satin To Wrap His Rags In

Once, a thief entered the house of a rich family and stole a piece of embroidered satin. Then he used it to wrap up his old rags and sundry effects. He was scoffed at by the wise.

Stupid people of the world are like this, too. Although they bring forth faith in Buddhism and cultivate wholesome dharmas and meritorious acts; nonetheless, due to their greed for profit, they break the pure precepts and lose their merit. They will also be laughed at by those of the world.

24 Planting Cooked Sesame Seeds

Once there was a fool who ate raw sesame. He found that it was not as tasty as cooked sesame. Then he came to the following conclusion, “I should plant cooked sesame seeds. Then I will reap a tasty harvest.” Thereupon he cooked the sesame and planted them in the ground. Of course, the sesame never sprouted.

People of the world act in the same way. Because they are discouraged by the idea that Bodhisattvas have to throughout many aeons engage in ascetic discipline that is hard to practice, they arrive at this notion, “I should become an Arhat and swiftly put an end to birth and death. To practice this path is quite easy.” But, afterwards, when they try to pursue the Bodhisattvasfruition, they never attain it, just as cooked sesame seeds could never grow. Stupid people commonly act this way.

25 Water and Fire

There was a man who needed fire and cold water to carry out his household chores. He built a fire in his room, filled a kettle with water, and put it on top of the fire. Afterwards the fire burned out, and the water was hot. He ended up getting neither the fire nor the cold water.

Many people make a similar mistake. They enter the Buddhadharma and leave the home-life, they still pine for their wives, children, and relatives, as well as the pleasures of the five desires. From this they lost the fire of meritorious virtues, also the pure water from holding the precepts. This is what happens to those mindful of desires.

26 Imitating the King’s Blinking Habit

There used to be a man who wanted to please the king. He asked someone how he could go about it. That person told him, “If you want to please the king, you should imitate him.”

The man immediately went to where the king was, and seeing that the king had a habit of blinking his eye, started to imitate his blinking habit.

The king asked him, “Do you have an eye problem? Or is it on account of the wind that you are blinking?” The man replied, “No. It’s not that I have an eye problem, nor is it on account of the wind. Wishing to please your Majesty, I’ve taken to imitating your Majesty’s blinking habit.”

When the king heard this, he was outraged. The king oppressed him cruelly in various ways and then had him banished.

People in general have the same problem. They wish to draw near to the Buddha, the Dharma King, so as to pursue the wholesome Dharma and grow. Upon being able to draw near him, they fail to understand that the Thus Come One, the Dharma King, exhibits various shortcomings as a skill-in-means to cross over living beings. Perhaps they hear the Buddha using certain incorrect phrasings in his teachings at which point they start to ridicule and slander him, imitating his mistakes. Because of this, they had obtained from the Buddhadharma, and fall into the three evil paths. This is just like the man who imitated the king’s blinking habit.

27 Sending Pure Spring Water

Once there was a village five yojanas away from the capital city that produced pure spring water. The king ordered the villagers to send him some of this water every day. The villagers, feeling exhausted by this ordeal, wished to move to another village. But the chief of the village said to them, “Don’t go away. I will go and ask the king to change the distance from five yojanas to three, so you won’t have to exhaust yourselves by walking such a long distance.”

He went and submitted his case to the king, and the king declared that the distance was changed to three yojanas. When the people heard this, they were delighted. Someone said, “You are still walking the five yojanas you have always walked. There hasn’t really been any change in the mileage.” Although the villagers heard this, they had faith in the king, and they never gave up.

Common people are like this, too. They cultivate the Proper Dharma to get across the five paths of rebirth and to head for Nirvana City. As time goes on they grow weary and wish to give up their pursuit. No longer wishing to go forward, they revert back to birth and death. The Thus Come One, the Dharma King, establishes a great skill-in-means, and within the Once Vehicle, he speaks of three. Those of the Small Vehicle are delighted when they hear this. Thinking the path is easy to walk, they cultivate good and virtuous acts and aspire to cross beyond birth and death. Later, they hear others tell them that there were no three vehicles to begin with, that originally there was only a single path. But because they cling to what the Buddha first proclaimed, they are just like the villagers in this story.

28 The Mirror in the Treasure Chest

There was once a poor and destitute man who always had debts and had no means to repay them. In order to avoid his creditors, he fled to the open wilderness. There he discovered a treasure chest filled to the brim with rare jewels. On top of all the jewels was a bright mirror. When the poor man saw all this, he was beside himself with joy and started to look through it. Then he saw an image reflected in the mirror and became frightened. Putting his palms together, he said, “I thought this was just an abandoned chest. I didn’t know that you were here. Please do not be offended!”

Ordinary people behave in the same way. They are driven to destitution by innumerable afflictions and hounded by the demon king, creditor of birth and death. Wishing to flee from birth and death, they enter the Buddhadharma, cultivate wholesome dharmas, and perform meritorious acts. This is like encountering a treasure chest. Deluded by their own image as reflected in the mirror of the view of a body, they falsely perceive there to be a “self.” Thereupon they close the treasure chest, thinking the “self” to be true and real. Consequently, they fall and lose all their merit and virtue, as well as their Dhyana samadhis, their shares of the Way, and their wholesome non-outflow acts. They lose the fruit of the Way of all the Three Vehicles. Just as that foolish man relinquished the treasure chest, those who cling to a view of self give up the Buddhadharma.

29 Blinding the Immortal Who Had Gained the Five Penetrations

Once a man went to the mountains to study the Way and became an immortal replete with the five spiritual penetrations. With his heavenly eye, he could clearly discern all the treasures hidden in the earth. When the king heard about him, he was elated. He said to his ministers, “In what way can we make this person remain in our country forever and not move to another place? Then our treasury will always be filled with rare jewels.”

A certain foolish minister went on his own to the immortal, plucked out his eyes, and presented them to the king, saying, “I have plucked out the immortal’s eyes so that he won’t be able to leave but will always remain in our country.” The king told the minister, “The reason I wanted the immortal to stay here was so that he could see all the treasures hidden in the earth. But now that you have plucked out his eyes, what use could they be?”

Worldly people behave in the same way. They see someone practicing dhutanga (bitter) practices in the mountain groves, the wilderness, the graveyards, or underneath trees, cultivating the four ceasings of the mind and the contemplation of impurity These people then force the cultivator to go to their homes where they ply him with many kinds of offerings. Thus they ruin his wholesome dharmas, so that he is no longer able to achieve the fruition of the Way. By plucking out the cultivator’s eyes of the Way, all benefits are lost, and they end up with absolutely nothing. They are just like that foolish minister who for no reason destroyed the immortal’s eyes.

37 Killing a Herd of Cattle

Once there was a man who owned two hundred and fifty head of cattle. He often took them out to the pasture to graze. One day a tiger ate one of the cows. The cattle owner said to himself, “Now that I’ve lost one cow, the herd is no longer complete. What’s the point of keeping it at all?” Thereupon he drove the cattle up to a high cliff and killed them all by pushing them down into the deep gorge below.

Foolish people in the world are like this too. Having taken the Thus Come One’s complete precepts, they may happen to violate one precept. Not only do they not give rise to shame and remorse and try to repent and reform in a pure way, instead they say to themselves, “Since I have broken one of the precepts, they are no longer complete. What’s the use of holding any of the others? Then they go on to violate all of the precepts with none remaining. They are like the foolish man who killed all of his cattle so that not a single one remained.

38 The Water Bucket

Once there was a man who was thirsty and tired from traveling. He drank some fresh water that was running into a wooden bucket. Having drunk his fill, he raised his hands in front of the wooden bucket and said to the water, “I’ve had enough to drink. Stop flowing!”

But the water kept on flowing. Then the man got angry and yelled, “I’ve had enough to drink and I told you to stop. Why don’t you listen?” An onlooker said to him, “You are very foolish and ignorant. Why don’t you just leave?” Then he drew him away.

People of the world are this way, too. Someone driven by the thirsty craving of birth and death drinks the salty water of the five desires, After getting tired of the five desires, he says to them, “Get out of my sight—form, sounds, smells, and tastes!” and yet the five desires continue without cease. Then the person gets angry and yells, “Quickly get out of my sight! Why do you keep arising so that I have to look at you?”

A wise man tells him, “If you wish to separate from the five desires, gather in your six senses organs by closing your mind. If polluted thinking does not arise, you will achieve liberation. Why do you need to tell them to be out of your sight so they won’t arise again?” This is just like the story of the foolish man who drank the water.

39 Plastering the Walls

Once there was a man who visited another man whose house had just had its walls plastered so they were made even and looked nice and neat. The man asked his host, “With what did you plaster the walls so that they look so nice?”

The host replied, “I used a mixture of rice bran, water, and clay to achieve such a fine result.”

The foolish man thought to himself, “It would be better if he had used rice grain instead of rice bran. The walls would be even more smooth, white, and clean.”

Thereupon he mixed rice grain together with clay and plastered the walls of his own house, hoping for a smooth and tidy effect. But the walls became cracked and uneven. He had wasted the rice grain to no avail. He would have done better if he had used the grain to practice giving and thereby accrued some merit and virtue.

Common people are this way, too. They hear the sages preach Dharma, which says that if people cultivate good acts, after they die they will be born in the heavens and attain liberation. Then these people kill themselves, thinking they can be reborn in the heavens or attain liberation this way. They merely lost their lives and obtain nothing. They are like the stupid man with the plaster.

40 On Curing Baldness

Once there was a man who was completely bald. In the winter he felt very cold and in the summer he felt very hot. He was bitten by mosquitoes and gnats so that he felt afflicted day and night. One day, the bald man went to consult a physician skilled in medical practice. He said to the physician, “Great master, please cure my baldness!”

The physician took off his hat, showed the man that he was also bald, and said, “I am vexed by the same problem. If I could cure this problem, I would have done so for myself a long time ago.”

People of this world are the same. Attacked by the disease of birth, old age, sickness, and death, they seek for immortality. Hearing about shramanas and Brahmans who are good physicians of the world skilled in curing these diseases, they seek one out and say to such a Brahman, “Please release me from this disease of the impermanence of birth and death, so that I can forever dwell in comfort and joy.”

The Brahman then says to them, “I myself also suffer from the disease of the impermanence of birth and death. I have made many attempts at seeking immortality, but I still haven’t found it. If I could help you attain it, I would first attain it myself and then help you attain it.”

Thus is like the bald man who tired himself out pursuing a cure in vain.

41 Pishacha Ghosts

Once there were two pishacha ghosts who jointly owned a suitcase, a cane, and a pair of wooden shoes. The two ghosts fought over these items, each wishing to claim them for his own. They quarreled all day long without ever reaching any kind of settlement. One day an onlooker came by and asked them, “What’s so special about this suitcase, cane, and wooden shoes that causes the two of your to fight over them so bitterly?”

The two ghosts replied, “This suitcase of ours is able to bring forth all manner of provisions such as clothing, food and drink, bedding and mats. This cane is able to subdue all enemies so they don’t dare resist. One who puts on these wooden shoes will be able to fly anywhere without hindrance.”

The man immediately said to the ghosts, “Stand further back, and I will divide these things equally between the two of you.”

The two ghosts moved away. The man quickly snatched the suitcase and the cane, put on the shoes, and flew off. The two ghosts were shocked, and they ended up with nothing. The man said, “I have what you were fighting over. Now there’s no more reason for the two of you to argue.”

The pishacha ghosts are an analogy for demons and heretics. The suitcase is an analogy for giving, for providing all the necessities of life for humans and gods in the five paths of rebirth.

The cane is an analogy for Chan Samadhi, able to vanquish demonic enemies and the thieves of afflictions. The wooden slippers are an analogy for holding precepts, which enable one to ascend to the realm of humans and gods. Demons and heretics fighting over the suitcase is an analogy for those who pursue the rewards of liberation while laboring in the midst of outflows—they will obtain nothing. However, if one is able to practice wholesome deeds, giving, holding precepts, and Chan Samadhi, one will be able to leave suffering and attain the fruit of the Way.

42 The Trader and the Dead Camel

One time there was a trader who went traveling on business. In the middle of his journey, his camel died. The camel was laden with many jewels, fine carpets and other goods. The trader then flayed the dead camel and left it with his two apprentices, saying, “Watch over this camel hide. Do not let it get wet or ruined.”

Later when it began to rain, the two foolish men covered the camel hide with a carpet of superior quality. As a result the carpet was completely ruined. The carpet was much more valuable than the hide, but because of their stupidity, the men covered the camel hide with the carpet.

People of the world act that way, too. The fine carpet is analogous to abstaining from killing. The camel hide is analogous to wealth and treasures. To let the carpet get wet when it is raining is analogous to destroying wholesome deeds through indulgence. To abstain from killing is the most superior, wonderful cause leading to the Buddha’s Dharma body, and yet people do not practice it. Instead they build stupas and temples with their wealth to make offerings to the Sangha. They renounce the roots and grasp the branches, forsaking the basics. As a result they drift along the five paths of rebirth, unable to get out. Therefore, cultivators should intently and sincerely uphold the precept against killing.

43 Grinding a Large Stone

One time a man carved a large stone with great effort. After chipping away at it for days and months, he succeeded in making a small toy cow from the stone. When compared to the strenuous effort that was put into it, the result was trivial.

People of the world are like this, too. Carving the large stone is analogous to diligently pursuing learning. Making the small toy cow is analogous to people mutually deprecating each other because of their wish for fame and recognition. A scholar should intently investigate his learning so that he acquires subtle and all-encompassing knowledge. Furthermore, he should put his learning into practice in order to seek a sublime result. He should not seek fame and in the process become arrogant and haughty. This will only increase his faults and offenses.

44 Eating Half a Cake

Once there was a man who was so hungry, he ate seven pancakes. By the time he had finished eating six and half pancakes, he was full. Remorseful and upset, he slapped his own hand and said, ”Half a pancake filled me up. The other six were wasted. If I had known that this half a pancake could fill me up, I would have eaten it first.”

Worldly people are like this, too. They have never experienced bliss, and yet they convince themselves with their stupid delusion that there is such a thing as bliss, just like that foolish man who was convinced he got full by eating half a pancake. Worldly ignorant people think that wealth and honor are bliss. And yet the pursuit of wealth and honor entails much suffering. To guard them after having obtained them is also suffering. And, having lost them, pining and fretting over them is even more suffering. Throughout those three periods of time, one is never blissful.

This is also like people who delude themselves into thinking that food and clothing are pleasure. Therefore, the Buddhas says, “The three realms have no peace. They are all suffering.” But because they are upside down, ordinary people cling on to their mistaken notions of bliss.

45 The Slave Guarding the Door

Once a man was about to go on a long trip. He instructed his slave, “Watch the door carefully, and keep an eye on the donkey and the rope.”

After the houseowner left, the neighbor started to play music, which attracted the slave. He attached the rope to the door and put it on the donkey’s back, and went over to the neighbor’s to listen to the music. After the slave left, the house was robbed by thieves.

On his return the master asked the slave, “Where is my wealth?” The slave answered, “You entrusted me with the door, donkey, and rope. I know nothing about the rest.”

The master further questioned him, “The whole purpose of your watching the door was to watch over my property. Now that the property is stolen, of what use is the door?”

Foolish people undergoing birth and death, acting as slaves to love, are the same way. The Thus Come One teaches them to always guard the gates of their sense faculties, not to become distracted by the six defiling objects, and to watch over the donkey of ignorance and the rope of love. And yet the Bhikshus do not follow the Buddha’s instructions. Greedy for benefit and offerings, they feign the appearance of purity as they sit in meditation, and yet their minds are racing greedily after the five desires. They are confused by sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Ignorance covers over their minds and they are fettered by the rope of love. As a result, the wealth of proper mindfulness, thoughts of enlightenment and the shares of the Path are all lost.

46 Stealing a Yak

Once upon a time, the people of a certain village together stole a yak and ate it. The owner of the yak traced their tracks and came to that village. He called out to the villagers saying, “Do you live in this village?”

The villagers said, “We know of no village.”

The owner further asked, “There is a pond in your village. Did you eat the yak together on the side of the pond?”

The villagers replies, “We know of no pond.”

The owner again asked, “Is there a tree near the pond?”

“No, we know of no tree, “answered the villagers.

“Were you on the east side of the village when you stole my yak?”

“We know of no eastern direction.”

“Wasn’t it at noon that you stole my yak?”

“Although it is possible that there is no village and no tree,” said the owner, “How could it be possible that there is no direction and no time in all the world? This proves you have been lying and that I can’t believe you at all. Did you steal my yak and eat it?”

The villagers finally admitted; “We ate your yak.”

Those who break the precepts are this way, too. They cover up their offenses and refuse to admit them. Upon death they enter the hells. Under the scrutiny of the good spirits and gods, these people are unable to conceal their offenses, just like the villagers who could not but admit that they stole the yak for food.

47 The Poor Man Who Feigned the Crow of a Mandarin Duck

Once upon a time, in a certain foreign country, the people were celebrating one of their special holidays. All the women wore blue lotus flowers on their hair as ornaments. A woman said to her husband, a poor man, “If you can find me a blue lotus, I will remain your wife. Otherwise, I will leave you.”

The husband was skilled at crowing like a mandarin duck. He then went to the king’s pond and started to crow like a mandarin duck, intending to steal a blue lotus. He was caught by the warden of the pond, who asked him, “Who are you?”

With a slip of the tongue, the poor man answered, “I’m a duck.” Thereupon he was arrested and brought before the king. On his way the poor man again crowed like a duck. The warden said to him, “You didn’t crow properly before. What’s the use of crowing now?”

Stupid people of the world are like this, too. Throughout their lives they cruelly harm others with many evil deeds, refusing to regulate their minds to do good. Only at the end of their lives do they claim, “I wish to cultivate good acts.” But the guardians of the hells will take them before King Yama. Even if they wish to cultivate good they are too late, just like that foolish man who crowed like a duck when he was on his way to see the king.

48 The Jackal Hit by a Snapped Twig

Once a jackal stood beneath a tree. When the wind blew, a twig fell and hit the jackal’s back. He then closed his eyes, not wishing to see the tree. Afterwards he went to an open place and would not return even when nighttime fell. From afar he could see the wind blowing the large tree until its branches were moving up and down. Then he said, “That must be the tree calling out to me.”

Ignorant disciples are this way, too. Having set forth from the home-life they are able to draw near a teacher, but they run away at the slightest remonstration. Afterwards they encounter evil friends who get them into a lot of trouble. Only then do they begin to think of returning to their teacher. It is stupid of them to come and go like this.

49 Two Young Boys’ Argument over Feathers

Once two boys were diving in a river and found a bunch of feathers at the bottom of the river. One boy said it was the beard of an immortal, while the other insisted that it was bear’s fur. An immortal happened to be by the river’s shores, and so the two boys went to him asking for a settlement of their debate. The immortal took some rice and sesame seeds into his mouth and chewed them for a while, then he spat them into his hand and told the boys, “What I have here seems to be peacock droppings.”

It is clear from his reply that the immortal did not answer the question that was put to him. Ignorant people of the world are like this, too. When discussing Dharma, they bring up idle theories and do not answer questions with proper principles. They are like the immortal whose answer made him the laughing stock of all people. The same idea applies to those who engage in empty, frivolous discussions.

50 Curing a Hunchback

Once a man who suddenly became a hunchback went to a doctor for treatment. The doctor treated him with some kind of ointment, and then squeezed the hunchback in between two pieces of wooden planks. He squeezed so hard that the hunchback’s eyes popped out.

Stupid people of the world are like this, too. Wishing to make money, they engage in many trades and professions, not stopping at any kind of illegal method. The profit they gain will not make up for the injuries they create. In the future they will fall into the hells and be like the hunchback whose eyes popped out.

51 A Maid Servant and Five Masters

Once there were five men who together bought one maid. One of them said to her, “Wash my clothes for me.” Another told her to do the same thing. The maid said, “I will wash for whoever gave the the clothes first.”

The second man broke out in anger and said, “I bought you with the others. Why should you wash only for the first person?” thereupon he whipped her with ten strokes. The rest of her five masters did the same, each whipping her ten strokes.

The five skandhas are this way, too. They are the causes and conditions of afflictions and combine to make up this body. And yet the five skandhas constantly whip living beings with the limitless suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

52 The Musician

Once there was a musician. He played music before a king who promised to pay him a thousand coins. Afterwards he asked the king for the money, but the king refused to give it to him and said, “Just as the music you played only served to please me momentarily, so too, the money I planned to give to you would only serve to please you for a little while.”

Worldly rewards are the same way. Although one may enjoy a small amount of pleasure in the human or heavenly realms, this pleasure is not true and actual. Impermanent and subject to destruction, it is like the music that gives only temporary pleasure and cannot last long.

53 The Master’s Hurting Legs and His Two disciples

One time a master instructed his two disciples to take care of his hurting legs. Each disciple was told to continuously massage one leg. But each of the two disciples disliked and felt jealousy toward the other. If one disciple went out, the other would use a stone to break the leg the first one had been massaging. When the first one came back, out of anger he would break the leg that the second one had been massaging.

The same is true of Buddhist disciples Scholars of the Vaipulya (Great Vehicle) deprecate scholars of the Theravada, while scholars of the Theravada also deprecate scholars of the Vaipulya. This threatens to bring about the destruction of the scriptures of both schools of the Great Sage.

54 The Snake Whose Head and Tail Had an Argument

Once there was a snake whose tail told its head, “I should be in front.” The head told the tail, “I’ve always led the way. Why do you want to make the sudden change?” When the head led the way, the tail twisted its way around a tree and refused to budge. And when the tail was allowed to lead, the snake fell into a fiery pit and was burned to death.

The same situation applies to teachers and students. The disciples insist that they should lead, since their teachers are too old. But these youths do not observe the precepts and commit many infractions of the rules. As a result they mutually drag each other to the hells.

55 The King’s Barber

Once there was a king’s close attendant who risked his life to save the king at the battlefront. Delighted the king promised the man anything he wanted. He asked him, “What would you like? All of your wishes will be granted.”

The attendant said, “Please let me shave your head when you need a shave.” “If this agrees with you, I’ll grant you your wish.”

That foolish man became the laughing stock of the world. He could have asked for half the kingdom or the position of a minister or premier, but instead he opted for an inferior profession. Stupid people are this way, too. Until they became Buddhas, all Buddhas cultivated ascetic practices that were extremely difficult. It is very rare that we can encounter the Buddha or the bequest of his Dharma and attain a human body. It is as difficult as a blind turtle trying to find a hole in a log floating in the water.

Now that we have overcome both those difficulties, with inferior resolve we are content with holding just a few precepts and think it’s enough. We do not seek the supreme wonderful Dharma of Nirvana. With no thought of making further progress, we are content with doing deviant deeds.

56 To Ask For Nothing

Once there were two men walking together, and they saw another person staining in vain to pull his cart of sesame out of a rut in the road. The person pulling the cart said to the two men, “Please give me a hand, so as to get this cart out of the rut.”

The two men asked, “What will you give us in return?”

The person said, “Nothing.” The two men managed to pull the cart out anyway, and then to the cart owner they demanded, “Now give us something.”

He said, “I have nothing to give you.”

The two men asked, “Give us ‘nothing’ then!”

Then one of the two men smiled and said, “He doesn’t want to give us anything. There’s no use getting upset.”

The other man said, “He said he’d give us ‘nothing’. But that ‘nothing’ must be something.”

The word “nothing” that the first man spoke is a compound of two words that compose a false name. If common people of the world became attached to that “nothing”, they would be born in the Realm of Nothing Whatsoever. The “nothing” spoken of by the second man refers to “no marks, nothing wished for, and nothing done.”

57 Putting His Foot In the Elder’s Mouth

Once there was a very wealthy elder. His attendants tried to court his favor by paying him all manner of deference. Whenever the elder spat, his attendants would rub it with their feet. Among them was a foolish man, who could not catch up with the others in rubbing the spit, and so he said to himself, “Whenever he spits on the ground, others rub it with their feet. Next time he spits, I’ll be the first one to do so.”

So when the elder coughed and was about to spit up, that foolish man thrust up his foot and kicked the elder’s mouth, injuring the elder’s lips and breaking his teeth. The elder asked him, “Why did you do that?” The foolish man answered, “Whenever you spit falls to the ground, those who fawn on you are quick to rub it with their feet. Although I wish to serve you, I’ve always fallen behind. Therefore, I thought that by raising my foot to your mouth when you were about to spit, I would be able to please you.”

There is a right time for doing things. If the right time has not yet arrived, then even if people apply all their energy, they will only get into trouble. For this reason, people of the world should be aware of when is the right and wrong time.

58 Two Sons Share Their Inheritance

At one time, in the country of Malaya, there lived a Kshatriya. He fell gravely ill and knew his final hour was at hand. He ordered his two sons, “After my death, divide my wealth and possessions fairly between the two of you.”

After his death, the two sons complied with their father’s instructions and divided his wealth. But the elder brother complained that the younger brother had an unfair share of the inheritance.

A foolish old man said to him, “I will teach you how to divide evenly your father’s wealth. Break each item into two parts. For instance, cut the garments into two parts. You can also break everything else—plates, bottles, bowls, dishes, money, and so forth—into two parts, and divide them equally between the two of you.”

Others laughed at this method. This is like externalists who answer all questions with the one-sided approach of theories that split things into categories There are four ways to answer questions:

1)Giving an absolute answer. For instance, “All beings are subject to death.”

2)Answering by splitting things into categories. For instance, if asked whether those who die will be born again, the answer is split into categories, such as: “those who have ended love and desire will not be reborn; those who have love and desire will be reborn.”

3)Answering by turning the question around. For instance, if someone asks, “Are human beings the most supreme?” You should turn the question around and ask, “Are you referring to the three evil paths or the realm of the gods? If you are referring to the three evil paths, then I would say that human beings are supreme. If you are referring to the realm of the gods, then I would say that human beings are not up to them.”

4) Not answering the question. For instance, if someone asks one of the fourteen types of tricky questions, *such as whether the world has a limit of not, or whether human beings have a beginning and end or not.

Externalists are deluded but are convinced they are wise. They break down the four ways of answering questions by only using the approach of splitting things up into categories. This is just like the stupid man who advised the two brothers to divide their fortune by breaking everything into two.

* The fourteen tricky questions of the externalists to which the Buddha gave no answer.