The Dialogue of the Buddha and the Shephard by Satya Chaitanya SignUp
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The Dialogue of the Buddha and the Shephard
by Satya Chaitanya Bookmark and Share
 

Zorba the Greek by one of my all-time favourite writers, Nikos Kazantzakis reproduces the following fascinating dialogue between the Buddha and a shepherd.

The Shepherd: My meal is ready, I have milked my ewes. The door of my hut is bolted, my fire is alight. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please!

Buddha: I no longer need food or milk. The winds are my shelter, my fire is out. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please.

The Shepherd: I have oxen, I have cows. I have my father’s meadows and a bull who covers my cows. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please!

Buddha: I have neither oxen, nor cows, I have no meadows. I have nothing. I fear nothing. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please!

The Shepherd: I have a docile and faithful shepherdess. For years she has been my wife; I am happy when I play with her at night. And you, sky, you can rain as much as you please!

Buddha: I have a free and docile soul. For years I have trained it and I have taught it to play with me. And you, sky, can rain as much as you please!   

I found the dialogue beautiful and fell in love with it the instant I read it the first time years ago.  The idea expressed there is not new and ascetics all over the world have spoken in tones similar to that of the Buddha in these lines.

Adi Shankaracharya has authored a beautiful poem called Kaupeena Panchaka, also known as Yati Panchaka, in which he reflects the feelings of the Buddha we hear expressed in this dialogue. Here is the poem of five verses, followed by a free English rendering by me:

Vedántavákyeshu sadá ramantah
Bhikshánnamátrena cha tushtimantah
Vishokavantah karunaikavantah
Kaupeenavantah khalu bhágyavantah
 [1]

Ever reveling in the great wisdom statements of Vedanta, contented with food received as alms, free from grief, the only possession of these men is their compassion. Blessed indeed are the wise clad just in their loincloths.

Moolam taroh kevalam áshrayantah
Panidvayam bhoktum amatrayantah
Kanthám iva shreemapi kutsayantah
Kaupeenavantah khalu bhagyavantah
 [2]

Their only refuge the bottoms of trees, their palms their bowls for receiving food, they look down upon wealth as though it were but a rag. Blessed indeed are the wise clad just in their loincloths.

Dehábhimanam parimárjayantah
Átmánam átmany avalokayantah
Nántar na madhyam na bahis smarantah
Kaupeenavantah khalu bhagyavantah
 [3]

Never identifying with their bodies as themselves, for ever seeing themselves as their souls, they never let their minds dwell upon anything within, without or in between apart from that self. Blessed indeed are the wise clad just in their loincloths.

Svánandabhave paritushtimantah
Sushántasarvendriyavrittimantah
Aharnisham brahmani ye ramantah
Kaupeenavantah khalu bhagyavantah
 [4]

Contented entirely with their own blissful nature, the functions of their sense organs stilled and no more running toward their objects, they revel in the Supreme Self day in and day out. Blessed indeed are the wise clad just in their loincloths.

Pancháksharam pavanam uchcharantah
Patim pashoonám hrdi bhávayantah
Bhiksháshino dikshu paribhramantah
Kaupeenavantah khalu bhagyavantah
 [5]

Repeating constantly the sacred five-syllable mantra, meditating forever on the lord of all beings in their hearts, they wander the world living on food received by begging. Blessed indeed are the wise clad just in their loincloths.

How beautiful!

And yet there is an approach to life far more beautiful than what the shepherd speaks of and is followed by the world and what the Buddha’s words in this dialogue speak of and is followed by those who live the ascetic way of life. This is the way of life followed by Krishna and numerous other jeevanmukta [living-liberated; liberated while still living] masters, the way of life that Krishna teaches in the Gita and is at the very heart of the Indian way of living.

Adi Shankaracharya himself speaks of this way of living in the Jeevanmukta AnandalahariWaves of Bliss of the Living-Liberated, which I am giving below in its entirety with a free English rendering by me. The song is of rare beauty and has remained beloved to me for a long, long time. The English rendering, of course, takes much of its exquisite poetic beauty away and leaves behind just the spirit of it, and that too in words that sound so alien to the ideas expressed by the song.

Pure paurán pashyan narayuvatinánákrtimayán
Suveshán svarnálañkaranakalitán chitrasadrshán
Svayam sákshee drashtetyapi cha kalayan tais saha raman
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (1)

The young men and women of the city look pretty in their exquisite dresses. Of various sizes, shapes and complexions, they are all decked with ornaments. The whole scene looks like a splendid painting. And he, the living-liberated, mixes with them all without any hesitation and joyously revels among them, all the while maintaining in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher.

Vane vrkshán pashyan dalaphalabharán namrasushikhán
Ghanachchháyáchchhannán bahulakalakoojad dvijaganán
Bhajanghasre rátráu avanitalatalpaikashayanah
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (2)

The trees of the jungle are heavy with their foliages and filled with fruits, their branches bending under their weight. They cast shades thick and cool, and they abound in birds that sing melodiously. He resorts to them by the day or by the night, to lie down on the naked ground beneath them. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadáchit prásáde kvachidapi cha saudheshu dhaninám
Kadákále shaile kvachidapi cha kooleshu saritám
Kuteere dántánám munijanavaránám api vasan
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (3)

Now he lives in palaces, now in the rich mansions of the wealthy. At times he resorts to the mountains, at others to the banks of running brooks. Sometimes he dwells in the huts of great ascetics whose wealth is their self-restraint. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kvachid bálais sárdham karatalajatálaischa hasitais
Kvachit tárunyánkita chaturanáryá saha raman
Kvachid vrddhaish chintákulitahrdayais chápi vilapan
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (4)

Now he claps his hands and laughs in delight with children and now he revels among bright young women endowed with rich youth and now again he grieves with old men sad with heavy hearts. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadáchid vidvadbhir vividishubhir atyantanirataih
Kadáchit kávyálankrtirasarasálaih kavivaraih
Kadáchit sattarkair anumitiparais tárkikavaraih
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (5)

Now he is amidst scholars endowed with great knowledge, now with those engrossed deeply in the pursuit of wisdom. Now he is with great poets, masters of the poet’s art, and now, with erudite logicians skilled in meaningful reasoning and drawing true conclusions. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadá dhyánábhyásaih kvachidapi saparyám vikasitaih
Sugandhais satpushpaih kvachidapi dalaireva vimalaih
Prakurvan devasya pramuditamanáh sannatiparo
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (6)

Now he is engaged in the practice of meditation and now in worshipping the lord with auspicious, full blown fragrant flowers or even with clean leaves, his heart joyous and uplifted, himself surrendered in humility. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Shiváyás shambhorvá kvacidapi cha vishnorapi kadá
Ganádhyakshasyápi prakatatapanasyápi cha kadá
Pathanvai námálim nayanarachitánandasalilo
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (7)

Now he chants the names of Shakti, now of Shiva; and now again, the names of Vishnu, or of Ganesha or the Sun god, his eyes filled with tears of joy. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadá gañgámbhobhih kvachidapi cha koopotthitajalaih
Kvacit kásárotthaih kvachidapi sadushnaish cha shishiraih
Bhajan snánair bhootyá kvacidapi ca karpüranibhayá
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (8)

Now he bathes in the sacred waters of the Ganga, now in water drawn up from a well. Now he bathes in the waters of ponds, now in warm water and yet again now, in water that is cold. He covers his body with ashes white as camphor. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadáchij jágrtyám vishayakaranaih samvyavaharan
Kadácit svapnasthánapi cha vishayáneva cha bhajan
Kadáchit saushuptam sukhamanubhavanneva satatam
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh 
(9)

Now he is awake, and deals expertly with objects of the senses, and now he is in dreams and enjoys the objects of the dream. And at yet again now he is in sleep, enjoying the perpetual bliss of that state. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadápyáshávásáh kvachidapi cha divyámbaradharah
Kvachit panchásyotthám tvachamapi dadhánah katitate
Manasvi nissangah sujanahrdayánadajanakah
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshata tamáh
 (10)

Now his robes are the ten directions, now he is clad in expensive clothes and now again, he wraps around his waist the skin of a lion. He is a man of control over his mind, and he gladdens the hearts of good people. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kádáchit satvasthah kvachidapi rajovrttisugatas
Tamovrttih kvápi tritayarahitah kvápi cha punah
Kadáchit samsáree shrutipathaviháree kvachidaho
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh 
(11)

Now he is rooted in the satva guna, now he is deep in rajo-guna. Now he performs actions springing from tamas and now he is free of all the three of these gunas. He is a samsaree now, a man of the world, and now he walks on the paths of the Vedas. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadáchinmaunasthah kvachidapi cha vágvádaniratah
Kadáchit svánande hasati rabhasá tyaktavachanah
Kadáchil lokánám vyavahrtisamálokanaparo
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (12)

Now he observes silence, now he is engaged in debates and discussions. Now he abandons all speech and explodes in spontaneous laughter, his natural joy filling his heart and now again he becomes an observer of the activities of the common people of the world. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadáchit shakteenám vikachamukhapadmeshu kabalán
Kshipans tásám kvápi svayamapi cha grhyan svamukhatah
Tadadvaitam roopam nijaparaviheenam prakatayan
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh 
(13)

Now he lovingly drops morsels of food from his mouth into the mouths of his female consorts [shaktis], and now he accepts them from their mouths into his own mouth, thus giving expression to the unity where the two do not exist, where the distinction has disappeared between what is what is one’s own and what belongs to another. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kvachit shaivais sárdham kvachidapi cha sháktais saha raman
Kadá vishnorbhaktaih kvachidapi cha saurais saha vasan
Kadá gánápatyair gatasakalabhedo'dvayatayá
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (14)

Now he is with the followers of Shiva, and now he is reveling among those who follow the path of Shakti. Now he is with the devotees of Vishnu and now, dwelling among those who worship the Sun god. And now he is again with the followers of Ganesha, himself devoid of all differences because of his experience of non-duality. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Nirákáram kvápi kvachidapi cha sákáramamalam
Nijam shaivam rüpam vividhagunabhedena bahudhá
Kadáshcharyam pashyan kimidamiti hrshyannapi kadá
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (15)

Now he sees himself as the formless ultimate, now his auspicious form as myriad beautiful manifestations born of the mingling of different gunas in different ways. Now he again looks at himself and wonders at the mystery that he is, and now he is filled with joy. The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Kadá’dvaitam pashyann akhilamapi satyam shivamayam
Mahávákyárthánám avagatisamabhyásavashatah
Gatadvaitábhásas shiva shiva shivetyeva vilapan
Munir na vyámoham bhajati gurudeekshákshatatamáh
 (16)

And now he sees the One Without a Second, everything as nothing but the Truth, filled with Primal Sanctity, because of the realization born of the contemplation of the meaning of the great wisdom statements of the Vedas [mahavakyas]; and freed from the illusion of duality, he cries out ecstatically Shiva, Shiva, Shiva! The wise man, the sage, is not trapped in illusion, his ignorance dispelled by the power of his initiation by his teacher [for he knows in his heart that he is the witness to all this, the watcher who is not involved].

Imám muktávasthám paramashivasamsthágurukrpá-
Sudhápángávápyám sahajasukhavápyám anudinam
Muhurmajjan majjan bhajati sukrtais chen naravarah
Sadá yogi tyági kaviriti vadanteeha kavayah
 (17)

When a great man becomes blessed enough to attain to this state of liberation and establishes himself in the state of supreme Shiva, achievable through his noble karmas and through the grace of a glance from the eyes of the guru, and takes dips again and again in the lake of bliss that is one’s true nature, then the wise men say he is forever a yogi, a renouncer and a man of intuitive wisdom.

Maune maunee gunini gunaván pandite panditashcha
Deene deenas sukhini sukhaván bhogini práptabhogah
Moorkhe moorkho yuvatishu yuvá vágmini praudhavágmee
Dhanyah ko’pi tribhuvanajayee yo’vadhoote’vadhootah
 [18]

A silent one among the silent ones, virtuous among the virtuous, a scholar amidst scholars, suffering among the suffering, joyous amidst the joyful, a contented man in the company of the pleasure seeker because he has attained all pleasures, a fool in the company of fools, a youth when he is with young women, eloquent among men of eloquence – such a man is blessed indeed in his world, whoever he is, the one who is an avadhoota [saint free from attachments] amidst avadhootas.

How can you say no to this incredibly beautiful world, the most concrete manifestation of the divine, and reject it as dirt, as pollution, as filth? To be in love with God, truly, one has to be in love with his creation. And a man who cannot love God’s creation, rejects it, cannot be in love with God. And if there is only One Without a Second, Advaita, then aren’t the things we reject, the people we reject, the relationships we reject, the emotions we reject, the little joys and sorrows we reject, all nothing but That?

The right way to live is to be the Buddha and the shepherd at the same time. And that is what Shankara is talking about in the priceless verses of this incredibly beautiful poem, Jeevanmukta Anandalahari – Waves of Bliss of the Living-Liberated.     

Image under license with Gettyimages.com

23-Jun-2007
More by :  Satya Chaitanya
 
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