Islands in a raging flood – Ethics, Meditation, and Wisdom
The nature of a raging flood is that it is extremely dangerous. You can see other people losing their lives to it, as well as houses, cars, and buildings being swept away. You can lose your own life to it.
The nature of an island in a raging flood is that it is a temporary place of safety, on the way to the far shore, which is the only real freedom from danger in this situation…
The islands I’m thinking of here, in this case, are a temporary refuge. They were created by causes and conditions, and they can be overrun, such that, where there was an island, or a refuge before, what was gained can be lost again.
This is how it is with ethics and meditation, on the way to complete freedom from suffering. They are so precious for the safety refuge they provide, but by themselves, they are not enough to keep us from falling back into suffering, perhaps swiftly, and without warning.
If we don’t know this, we may tarry, or rest longer than we should with these greatly fortunate conditions. We should know when our work of finding safety is not yet complete. That can only come about from wisdom, and we should make our way there fully, as quickly as we can.
Then when it comes to wisdom, we need more than just an intellectual understanding of it, which can be compared to just reading about what freedom or safety are like, or just seeing a map of how to get there.
We even need more than a brief or longer lasting experience, which can be likened to stepping foot on dry land for however long, but not staying there, and returning yet again to a previous position, either on some temporary safe haven, or again being lost to the terrible currents.
Only full realization keeps a person from ever falling back again into suffering. The call such a person an Arahat, or a Noble One.
May we all attain such a state
And may those who find freedom first, and become established there
help all others without exception to this lasting safety and peace
A bridge across the raging flood of samsara
Sometimes getting free from suffering is described as ‘crossing the stream’, but this can be gravely misleading. The situation is much worse than such a mild description. It should be clearly understood – samsara is much more like tsunami, or a raging flood of suffering experiences, unpredictable, and terrible.
Even when we rest comfortably for a while, either in ethics, or in meditation, we should not for a moment believe that this alone is our goal. If we sleep in that way, we may lose whatever we have gained.
When crossing this flood, as when we reach an island, we go from one place to the next, and from where we were previously, to perfect freedom.
We may think though that once we have practiced ethics, we no longer need it as much; or because we are practicing meditation, we may neglect those very ethics that support this very meditation, and fall again.
Or, we may think that now that we are practicing that part of our journey that has as its focus liberating insight – wisdom itself, we longer need ethics and meditation, and again we may fall.
An even better analogy for crossing to freedom then would be a bridge, that is strong in the beginning, and in the middle, and in the end – all three.
The Dharma is a just such a bridge, to cross the flood of samsara, and it is made of ethics, meditation, and wisdom
On this bridge, the first part, the middle, and the end are equally important, at all times, until we reach our destination, which is emancipation.
We should maintain each of these, until we are fully liberated, and then help others across.