Simile of the Raft

Bhikkhus I will teach you how the Dhamma is similar to a raft, being for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding on to.  Listen closely to what I have to say:

Bhikkhus, suppose a man is on a journey and comes across a mighty river, with frightening dangers on this side, while the other side is safe and secure, but there is no bridge, no ferry, and no boat with which to cross.

He might think: "This is a mighty river, with frightening dangers on this side, while the other side is safe and secure, but there is no bridge, no ferry, and I have no boat with which to cross.  Suppose I gather together what branches, twigs, leaves, and grass I can find and bind them together with reeds to make a raft, and supported by that raft and making effort with my hands and feet, cross over from here to the beyond."

And then, Bhikkhus, he might gather branches, twigs, leaves, and grass, and bind them together with reeds and make a raft.  Then, making an effort with hands and feet, cross over from here to the beyond.

Then, once he had crossed safely and arrived on the further bank, it might occur to him: "This raft that I have pieced together has been very useful to me.  Supported by it, and making effort with my hands and feet, I got safely to the other shore.  Suppose I were to lift this raft up onto my head or shoulder and carry it around as I go on about my business?"  What do you think, Bhikkhus, if he were to do that, would that man be doing what ought to be done with that raft?

Or once the man had crossed safely and arrived on the further bank, it might occur to him: "This raft that I have pieced together has been very useful to me.  Supported by it, and making effort with my hands and feet, I got safely to the other shore.  Suppose I were haul it onto dry land or set it adrift on the water, and then I can go on about my business?"  Then Bhikkhus, if he were to do that, he would be doing what ought to be done with that raft.

In the same way, this Dharma is for crossing over, not for holding on to.  Bhikkhus, when you know the Dharma to be similar to a raft, you should let go of even the teachings, not to mention things contrary to the teachings.

 

(Bhikkhu = Buddhist monk)

 

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