By Bhante Sathi
When we compare our self with others, which we often do, it is important to understand the role of our ego-centric thoughts.
Many people are “put off” when someone younger offers advice. As a result, sometimes we do not respect a young person’s idea even if they are intelligent and practical. We equate wisdom and experience with age. We do this not only in our ordinary life, but also in our path to the spiritual life. As a result, we are unwilling to be open minded to new valuable teachings.
For example, when Lord Buddha, the Awakened One, returned to his birth city of Kapilavastu after being enlightened his young relatives and other young people came forward to pay their respect. However many of the elderly relatives refused be-cause they did not want to bow or pay respect to this young (in years) person who claims that he became the Buddha. Therefore, Lord Buddha had to take other steps to gain their attention so they would be open to his teachings.
We tend to listen to older spiritual advisors over younger ones because we make the connection that the time we spend on this earth is directly tied to how far we have traveled down the spiritual path. We measure and judge the advisors knowledge based on time and not on true wisdom. Even Lord Buddha proved to his family that this way of measuring knowledge and attainment of skills is wrong. What we have to understand is that it does not matter how long we have been following this path, but how well we understand the teaching. Lord Buddha taught us that to gain wisdom and become awakened is not dependent on the concept of time.
Some of his examples help us to find the right path. One time he compared his teachings, or “Dhamma” to a boat that helps us cross a river. Buddha pointed out no one will carry the boat on their shoulders after crossing the river to pay respect to the boat thinking that “Oh, this boat helped me to cross over this river, therefore I must respect it”. Dhamma similarly is to be used as a vessel to cross the “Samsara” (wheel of life) and to put a stop to our fragile existence. However, we should leave the boat on the other side and not carry it on our shoulders as we leave “samsara”.
Another important lesson Buddha mentioned is to hold and use Dhamma in a proper way. Buddha pointed out that Dhamma also could be as risky as holding a poisoned snake. He said an expert usually holds a snake by the neck, but a less knowledgeable person may hold the snake by its tale, which allows the snake to turn back easily and bite the less knowledgeable person. Similarly, we should hold Dhamma properly through humility; otherwise, it also has the potential to harm us.
Buddha understood the importance of humbleness for the seeker of wisdom.