The Essential Teachings, in Just a Few Words
‘A recluse, renowned as an enlightened man, came to a heartfelt decision that he was not in fact fully liberated. He thought the Buddha’s teaching would help him and he traveled across central India until he reached the city of Savatthi, where the Buddha was staying. He went to the Buddha’s meditation center and asked to see the Buddha.
“He is out on his begging round,” he was told. “Wait here and rest from your journey and you will see him soon.”
“I can’t wait,” answered the recluse. “show me the way and I will find him.”
He set off again and came to the city center. There he saw the Buddha, surrounded by an atmosphere of peace and harmony and going with his begging bowl from house to house. The recluse fell to his knees and embraced the Buddha’s feet.
“You are fully liberated,” he said to the Buddha, “Please teach me a practice that will bring liberation for me.”
“Gladly,” said the Buddha, “but not here, this is not the time or place. Go to my meditation center and wait for me.”
“No, I can’t wait.”
“Not even for a short time?”
“No, for even in such a short time I might die or you might die. Now, sir, this is the time. Please teach me now.”
The Buddha looked at him and saw that death was near. He realized that the teaching must be given at once. But what to teach while standing in the middle of the road? He decided to put the essential teachings in just a few words.
“In your seeing,” he said, “there should only be seeing. In your hearing, nothing but the hearing; in your smelling, tasting and touching, nothing but smelling, tasting, and touching; in your thinking, nothing but the thought.”
The recluse was of such pure mind that these words told him all he needed. No judgments, no evaluations, a freeing of the mind from all its conditioning by a simple experience of things as they are. He sat down in the road there and then to fix his attention on clarity, and when death came he had found liberation.’
- Khuddaka Nikaya in The Buddha Speaks, A book of guidance from the Buddhist scriptures edited by Anne Bancroft.