Friday, 4 March 2011

The Buddha’s Silence

When the Buddha became Enlightened he felt there was no way of telling what he had known, so he remained silent. For seven days he was silent. There is an anecdote about this incident.

When the Gods came to know of Buddha’s silence they went to his feet and said, “Tell what you have known, because a person like you is born on this earth after thousands of years. An opportunity  for the blind to learn about light and for the deaf to be filled with celestial music is rare. The lame will begin to walk and the dead will rise from their graves in the hop of life. We beseech you to speak!”

Buddha replied, “What I have known cannot be told. Those who will understand by my speaking can understand even without my speaking. Those  who are ready and who deserve to understand  will understand, even without my speaking. Those who cannot understand without my speaking will not understand even if I speak. So what is the harm in my remaining silent?”

Hearing this, the Gods become very anxious. They talked among themselves for a long time. Then again they asked, “But there are a few people who are just on the border; if your speak they will take a step and cross the line. Otherwise, they will remain where they are. There are people who will understand even without your saying and there are people who will understand you wrongly if you speak. But between these two, there is a another category of people, on the borderline, who will cross the river if you speak but who otherwise will remain on the bank.”

When water is heated to ninety-nine degrees centigrade, even the heat of your hand can turn it into steam. Water that has reached one hundred degrees centigrade will become steam even without your help. Water that is in the form of ice will only cool your hand, it cannot become steam; but water that is ninety-nine point nine degrees needs your help.

And so Buddha decided to speak for those people who were just on the borderline. The sage also speaks for those people who are in the middle, on the borderline.