It is often said that the Buddha's teaching is only a raft to help you cross the river, a finger pointing to the moon. Don't maistake the finger for the moon. The raft is not the shore. If we cling to the raft, if we cling to the finger, we miss everything. We cannot, in the name of the finger or the raft kill each other. Human life is more precious than any ideology, any doctrine.
Bhikkhus, the teaching is merely a vehicle to describe the truth. Don't mistake it for the truth itself. A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, you will never know the real moon. The teaching is like a raft that carries you to the other shore. The raft is needed, but the raft is not the other shore. An intelligent person would not carry the raft around on his head after making it across to the other shore. Bhikkhus, my teaching is the raft which can help you cross to the other shore beyond birth and death. Use the raft to cross to the other shore, but don't hang onto it as your property. Do not become caught in the teaching. You must be able to let it go.
Thech Nháº¥t Háº¡nh
Louie was furious at the sharks. He had thought that they had an understanding:The men would stay out of the sharks' turf - the water - and the sharks would stay off of theirs - the raft. That the sharks had taken shots at him when he had gone overboard, and when the raft had been mostly submerged after the strafing, had seemed fair enough. But their attempt to poach men from their reinflated raft struck Louie as dirty pool. He stewed all night, scowled hatefully at the sharks all day, and eventually made a decision. if the sharks were going to try to eat him, he was going to try to eat them.
ALL HE COULD SEE, IN EVERY DIRECTION, WAS WATER. It was June 23, 1943. Somewhere on the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Army Air Forces bombardier and Olympic runner Louie Zamperini lay across a small raft, drifting westward. Slumped alongside him was a sergeant, one of his plane's gunners. On a separate raft, tethered to the first, lay another crewman, a gash zigzagging across his forehead. Their bodies, burned by the sun and stained yellow from the raft dye, had winnowed down to skeletons. Sharks glided in lazy loops around them, dragging their backs along the rafts, waiting.
My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience...My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship.My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river.Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore of liberation.
The large shiny black forehead of the first whale was no more than two yards from us when it sank beneath the surface of the water, then we saw the huge blue-black bulk glide quietly under the raft right beneath our feet. It lay there for some time, dark and motionless, and we held our breath as we looked down on the gigantic curved back of a mammal a good deal longer than the raft.
My dad also survived five divorces, and the women he married cleaned his ass out every time. I used to think my dad got divorced because he wanted new furniture. At one point in my life, all we had left was a wooden box, a 12 black-and-white TV, and a four-man rubber raft for a couch. And yet, I was the coolest kid in third grade. Mom, can we have a sleepover in Christopher Titus' house? They have a raft in the living room! We can row to breakfast in the morning. I can actually be Captain Crunch!
Louie found the raft offered an unlikely intellectual refuge. He had never recognized how noisy the civilized world was. Here, drifting in almost total silence, with no scents other than the singed odor of the raft, no flavors on his tongue, nothing moving but the slow porcession of shark fins, every vista empty save water and sky, his time unvaried and unbroken, his mind was freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed on it. In his head, he could roam anywhere, and he found that his mind was quick and clear, his imagination unfettered and supple. He could stay with a thought for hours, turning it about.
It's like, if you're on a ship, and you're sailing towards your destination, but the ship sinks: that doesn't mean that you have to sink. Just because the ship sinks doesn't mean you have to sink. You just figure it out until a raft comes along, and God will send you a raft. Or He'll send you another boat to get you to your destination.
We hurt one another. We go through life dressing up in new clothes and covering up our true motives. We meet up lightly, we drink rose wine, and then we give each other pain. We don't want to! What we want to do, what one really wants to do is put out one's hands-like some dancer, in a trance, just put out one's hands-and touch all the people and tell them: I'm sorry. I love you. Thank you for your e-mail. Thank you for coming to see me. Thank you. But we can't. We can't. On the little life raft of Mark only one other person could fit. Just one! And so, thwarted, we inflict pain. That's what we do. We do not keep each other company. We do not send each other cute text messages. Or, rather, when we do these things, we do them merely to postpone the moment when we'll push these people off, and beat forward, beat forward on our little raft, alone.
Raft and Net To cross a river you need a raft; once the river has been crossed, the raft can be left behind. To catch fish you need a net; once the fish are caught, the net may be put away. What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of using techniques to extend life. Techniques are methods, methods of cultivating reality. Once yang has peaked in people, giving rise to yin, every day a hole is punctured in their completeness - the six senses rebel, the five forces damage each other, the three parasites make trouble within, the seven feelings run amok outside. This cuts away at the spiritual root day by day, until it is nearly gone. Unless you have the great method of overcoming the dragon and conquering the tiger, the expert skill to turn the dipper handle, how can you destroy aberrant energy, how can you restore sane energy to wholeness? This is why the method is necessary. The great Tao is natural and spontaneous, without artifice - why is it necessary to use a method of deliberate action? The reason it is indeed necessary to use the method is to get rid of degeneracy. When all degenerations are effectively done away with, then the method is not needed, just as a raft needed to cross a river is to be left behind once the river is crossed, and a net needed to catch fish is to be put away once the fish have been caught. This is the meaning of using a method and not using a method. The same thing is true of using techniques to extend life - when life has been extended, then the techniques are no longer used. It is only before life has been extended that it is necessary to use techniques to take over Creation, reverse the working of energy, and shift the polar star. Only then can essence and life depend on oneself and not on heaven, so that one transcends the world and its forces.
People who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recognizable maybe only to those who have seen that look on their own faces. I have noticed it on my face and I notice it now on others. The look is one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness. It is the look of someone who walks from the ophthalmologist's office into the bright daylight with dilated eyes, or of someone who wears glasses and is suddenly made to take them off. These people who have lost someone look naked because they think themselves invisible. I myself felt invisible for a period of time, incorporeal. I seemed to have crossed one of those legendary rivers that divide the living from the dead, entered a place in which I could be seen only by those who were themselves recently bereaved. I understood for the first time the power in the image of the rivers, the Styx, the Lethe, the cloaked ferryman with his pole. I understood for the first time the meaning in the practice of suttee. Widows did not throw themselves on the burning raft out of grief. The burning raft was instead an accurate representation of the place to which their grief (not their families, not the community, not custom, their grief) had taken them.