Counting the cows of others

Theory is useless without Practice

A THOUGHTLESS man, though he can recite a large portion of the law and speak many holy words but is not a doer of it; has no share in the life of holiness. He is like a cowherd counting the cows of others.

The follower of the law, even if he can recite only a small portion of it and speak few holy words; but having forsaken passion, hatred and foolishness, possesses true knowledge and serenity of mind. He, caring nothing in this world or the next, has a full share in the life of holiness.

      Bahum pi ce sahitani bhasamano -
na takkaro hoti.naro pamatto
Gopo'va gavo ganayanm paresam -
na bhagava samannassa hoti.

Appam pi ce sahitam bhasamano -
dhammassa hoti anudhammacari
Ragan ca dosan ca pahaya moham -
sammappajano suvimuttacitto
Anupadiyano idha va huram va -
sa bhagava samannassa hoti.

                                        Dhammapada v19, 20

Knowledge is not realisation

Once there were two bhikkhus who were good friends. One had learnt the Tipitaka (the complete teachings of Buddha) and was proficient in reciting and preaching the sacred doctrine. He taught many others and became instructor for 18 groups of monks.

The other bhikkhu after striving diligently and ardently in the course of Insight Meditation, attained Arahanthood together with extraordinary knowledge.

On one occasion, both bhikkhus came to pay homage to the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery. Not realising his friend had already become an Arahant, the master of the Tipitaka looked down on him, thinking the old bhikkhu knew very little of Dhamma theory. So he decided to ask him some questions on the Dhamma.

The Buddha knew his unkind intention and also knew that as a result of seeking to ridicule a Arahant, the learned bhikkhu would suffer in his next life.

So, out of compassion, the Buddha met the two friends to prevent the learned bhikkhu from ridiculing his friend. The Buddha himself did the questioning. He put questions on jhannas and Maggas (the eight paths) to the master of the Tipitaka who could not answer them because he had not practised what he had taught. The other bhikkhu, having practised the Dhamma and attained Arahanthood, could answer all the questions. The Buddha praised the one who had practised and realised the Dhamma, but not the learned scholar.

The resident disciples could not understand why no praise was given to their learned teacher. So the Buddha explained that one who knows a great deal of doctrine and theory, but does not live in accordance with the Dhamma is like a cowherd, who looks after the cows for wages, while the one who practises Dhamma is the owner who enjoys the five kinds of produce of the cows.

Thus, the scholar enjoys only the services rendered to him by his pupils but not the benefit of Sainthood. The other bhikkhu, though he knows little and recites only a little of the Dhamma, having clearly comprehended the essence of it and having practised it diligently, has eradicated craving, ill-will and ignorance.

His mind being totally freed from mental defilements and from all attachments to this world and to the next, truly reaps the benefits of Sainthood or Perfection.

Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya-Magga) comprises:

Sila (moral precepts)
1. Sammavaca: Right speech
2. Sammakammanta: Right action
3. Samma-ajiva: Right livelihood

Samadhi (concentration or mental discipline)
4. Sammavayama: Right effort
5. Sammasati: Right mindfulness
6. Sammasamadhi: Right concentration

Panna (wisdom or insight)
7. Sammaditthi: Right view
8. Sammasankappa: Right thought


Distraction and burden of a householder life, scene from Borobudur