The Siren’s Call

TheSiren

 

Then King Prasenajit, for the sake of his father, the late king, arranged on the day of mourning a vegetarian feast and invited the Buddha to the side rooms of the palace. He welcomed the Tathagata in person with a vast array of superb delicacies of unsurpassed wonderful flavors and himself invited the great Bodhisattvas.

In the city were also elders and laypeople who were also prepared to feed the Sangha at the same time, and they stood waiting for the Buddha to come and receive offerings.

The Buddha commanded Manjushri to assign the Bodhisattvas and Arhats to receive offerings from the various vegetarian hosts.

Only Ananda, who, having accepted a special invitation earlier, had traveled far and had not yet returned, was late for the apportioning of the Sangha. No senior-seated one or Acharya was with him, so he was returning alone on the road. On that day he had received no offerings, and so at the appropriate time Ananda took up his begging bowl and, as he traveled through the city, begged in successive order.

As he first began to beg, he thought to himself that down to the very last danapati who would be his vegetarian host he would not question whether they were clean or unclean; whether they were ksatriyas of honorable name or chandalas. While practicing equality and compassion he would not merely select the lowly but was determined to perfect all living beings’ limitless merit and virtue.

Ananda already knew that the Tathagata, the World Honored One, had admonished Subhuti and great Kashyapa for being Arhats whose hearts were not fair and equal, and he regarded with respect the Tathagata’s instructions on impartiality, to save everyone from doubt and slander.

Having crossed the city moat, he walked slowly through the outer gates, his manner stern and proper as he honored with propriety the method of obtaining food.

At that time, because Ananda was begging in sequential order, he passed by a house of prostitution and was waylaid by a powerful artifice. By means of a mantra of the Kapila religion, formerly of the Brahma Heaven, the daughter of Matangi drew him onto an impure mat.

With her licentious body she stroked and rubbed him until he was on the verge of destroying the precept-substance.

The Tathagata, knowing Ananda was being taken advantage of by the indecent artifice, finished the meal and immediately began his return journey. The king, great officials, elders, and laypeople followed along after the Buddha, desiring to hear the essentials of Dharma.

Then the World Honored One emitted a hundred rays of jeweled and fearless light from his crown. Within the light appeared a thousand-petalled precious lotus, upon which was seated a transformation-body Buddha in full-lotus posture, proclaiming a spiritual mantra.

He commanded Manjushri to take the mantra and go provide protection, and, when the evil mantra was extinguished, to lend support, and to encourage Ananda and Matangi’s daughter to return to where the Buddha was.

Ananda saw the Buddha, bowed, and wept sorrowfully, regretting that from time without beginning he had been preoccupied with erudition and had not yet perfected his strength in the Way. He respectfully and repeatedly requested an explanation of the very first expedients of the wonderful shamatha, samapatti, and dhyana, by means of which the Tathagatas of the ten directions had realized Bodhi.

At that time Bodhisattvas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, great Arhats, pratyekas, and others from the ten directions, were also present. Pleased at the opportunity to listen, they withdrew silently to their seats to receive the sagely instruction.

While preparing to dine on a vegetarian meal provided by the premier hosts, most notably a king, whose name means “moonlight”, the scene shifts to Ānanda who is still partaking in his daily rounds begging for food door to door. It is immediately stated that he was traveling alone, which was exceedingly dangerous for one who lacked sufficient Samadhi-power to forestall any psychic attacks from the Evil-one. Sure enough, although he was someone steeped in excellent erudition and stature, while passing by a house of ill-repute Ānanda falls victim to an evil spell (an artifice—a false invocation) cast by a prostitute. She had requested the spell from her mother, Matangi, whose name means “from a vulgar lineage”. Immediately the despicable spell renders Ānanda hopelessly bewildered and he is soon enticed to lie down on the prostitute’s impure mat:

With her licentious body she stroked and rubbed him until he was on the verge of destroying the precept-substance.

In quite graphic language, he is about to betray his sacred vows (precept substance) while being seduced and brought to the point of orgasm. It is at this junction that the Tathagata becomes aware of his dilemma:

The Tathagata, knowing Ananda was being taken advantage of by the indecent artifice, finished the meal and immediately began his return journey… Then the World Honored One emitted a hundred rays of jeweled and fearless light from his crown. Within the light appeared a thousand-petalled precious lotus, upon which was seated a transformation-body Buddha in full-lotus posture, proclaiming a spiritual mantra.

The Tathagata has created a manomakayic-apparition of himself wielding a sacred mantra that will break the evil spell. He then calls upon Manjushri to deliver the mantra forthwith to Ānanda.

The choice of sending Manjushri has deep symbolic significance. Manjushri represents the highest form of Noble Wisdom; it is Sacred Wisdom that can forestall the actions of the clouded or bewitched-mind by slaying the false consciousness with the sword of imagelessness: in effect, slicing-through any “image” and rendering it null and void. Thus Manjushri is the Great Dharma-Protector par-excellence!  Also, his arrival is also reinforced by bearing the greatest mantra of them all: the Sarangama Mantra. No evil can withstand it.

Ānanda awakens as if from a bad nightmare when the Buddha’s manomakayic apparition appears before him, chanting the Sarangama Mantra. He weeps, bitterly, and confesses that his path relied too heavily on his intellect alone. Indeed, intellect alone is insufficient when confronting the many faces of evil. He then vows to learn the ways of deep dhyana, through which the Maha-Bodhisattvas themselves ascend through the Noble Ten-fold path to Self-Realization in highest-Bodhi.

This passage highlights a dire-warning for anyone who chooses to rely exclusively upon their intellectual erudition alone in advancing along the ways of the Buddhadharma. A “balance” needs to be struck between proper study AND Disciplined-Dhyana. When push comes to shove one has essential need for proper Bodhi-Protection when sailing through virulent samsaric seas. All too often the eager adept becomes lost in the maze of their own intellectual obtuseness, completely UN-aware and caught off-guard when the enchanting sound of the Sirens lure them to certain destruction.

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