The Five-Knotted Hanky


It is said that The Buddha once went to a monastery to give a discourse to the monks.  The day came and the puja hall was packed as the monks waited in great anticipation.  Buddha entered the hall and made his way to the front.  He sat down facing the monks; remaining silent as he drew a beautiful silk handkerchief from his robe.  The monks thought this rather strange as Buddha had a reputation for being a man of very simple means, and this handkerchief really was one of the finest.  He proceeded to tie five knots in the hanky, remaining silent as he did so.  The silence in the puja hall was tangible as the baffled monks looked on.  Then The Buddha spoke…

“You will have noticed that I produced this beautiful silk handkerchief from my robe”, and he held it high above his head for all to see.  “You will also have noticed that I tied five knots in it.”  “With this in mind, can we still say that it is a handkerchief?”  One of the monks spoke up and said, “yes, it is still a handkerchief, but for practical purposes, in its present condition it cannot be used as such.”  “Correct”, replied The Buddha, “this beautiful handkerchief represents the eternal, effulgent spirit that you all are.  However, everyone acquires knots due to ignorance, which only serve to obstruct, cause unnecessary pain and suffering and obscure the light of spirit; just as the sun is obscured by clouds on an overcast day.  Having established this, should I now just start to untie them?”  Another monk spoke up, “no, first let me look; if you just go ahead and start untying you may end up making the knots tighter, or even creating other, more subtle knots.  We need to see the cause before we start to untie.”

“Yes, this is exactly true”, replied The Buddha, “there is never a time when you are not the One eternal spirit, shining in all its glory; it is only the clouds of ignorance that cause the knots.”  He then went on…

“We need to understand that the imposition of obstacles and limitations is only illusion”, and he untied one of the knots.

“If it is illusion, then the illusion must be self-created due to ignorance”, and he untied another knot.

“Ignorance is a state of mind that comes about because of our obsession with the objective world; it is not something that is really there”, and he untied a third knot.

“It is a belief that the unreal is real and vice versa”, and he untied a fourth knot.

“In summary, all of life’s dramas are played out in the mind (ego) by way of thoughts.  Abide in the bliss of emptiness that exists beyond mind and thoughts; this is the end of suffering.”  The Buddha untied the final knot; “enough for today”, he said…

 

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