What Is The Right Answer?

Posted by on Oct 18, 2007 in Philosophy | No Comments

There is a story like this: Once there was an old monk just sitting in a room doing nothing. A young protégé was with him, standing just behind him. At that time there were two obstinate monks disputing a Buddhist question just outside his door. Neither would budge from their opinion. After a while, one monk became very angry so he went into the room to look for support from the old monk He said, “Master, I said the principle should be like this… but the other monk told me I’m wrong. Can you tell me who is right, me or him?” The old monk answered, “You are right!” The first monk felt happy as he walked out.
Shortly thereafter the second monk also came into the room to question the old monk; “Master, just a short while ago I was disputing a Buddhist principle with another monk whose view was obviously wrong. My opinion comes from the …Sutra. What do you think? Who is right?” The master again replied, “Your opinion is right!” The second monk left filled with boundless joy.
After both monks’ visits, the young protégé felt puzzled. He asked, “Master, why are both? If the first monk was right then the second should be wrong. If the second monk was right then the first was wrong. Why could you tell both of them they were right?” After hearing yet another question about this argument the old monk turn his head to look at the protégé and proclaimed, “You are right too!” then got up and walked out the room.

In Buddhist stories, Buddha taught people eighty-four thousand methods to get rid of disturbances (Sanskrit scholars of old used the number “eighty-four thousand” to describe a very large number.) His teachings show us the way to attain enlightenment and become just like him: a being who has awakened. Sakyamuni Buddha’s students wrote all the Sutras from memory after Buddha entered Nirvana. Each of these methods was individualized to the student, so if someone were to compare them, they would find contradictions. Not one method is better than another; they are all equal. Dharma (the Way) is one way to improve people’s lives. These two argumentative monks lost sight of the point/Buddhism’s main idea…to get rid of disturbances. Instead they disturbed themselves further.

In Buddhist practice there is no single right answer that suits everyone. Everyone has to find his or her own answer. If they can find the answer that helps them reach enlightenment then it is the right answer. This also means Buddhism is not the only way to or the only right way to reach heaven.


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