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Even a Buddha's face
November 17th, 2014 (August 28th, 2015)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Even a Buddha's face… only three times

   Once, when the Buddha was preaching before a large congregation, Devadatta  got up and said to the Buddha: « Lord, you are now old, worn-out, an aged man, you have lived your allotted span and are at the end of your existence. Lord, may you be content to live in this world henceforth unburdened. Hand over the Order to me — I will lead the Saṅgha! »
   The Buddha declined, but Devadatta  repeated his plea three times (
   This stirred the Buddha to a rebuke: « I would not even hand over the Order to  Shariputra and  Maudgalyayana, still less to you,  Devadatta! »

   There’s a Japanese proverb: 仏の顔も三度 (Hotoke no kao mo sando):  « Even with a Buddha's face… only three times » usually translated as « You can only go so far » or « Too much familiarity breeds contempt ».
   The longer version is (rarely used nowadays, Hotoke no kao mo sando nazureba hara wo tatsu):  « Stroke even the face of a Buddha three times, and his anger will be roused. »

   Some people will consider this anger a sacrilege: « surely the Buddha is beyond that! »
   Some will consider it merely an expedient means: « well, the buddha might be beyond that, but not Devadatta,  so the Buddha picked the appropriate way of communicating to be heard… » (just like Yoda isn't angry but still gets his laser sabre out… Since I'm sacrilegious, I might as well put Yoda and the Buddha in the same basket!)
   Some will simply accept that, even if they had moments of anger recently, this doesn't take away their potential for awakening. The Buddha was human, might even get angry, and still was the Buddha. Before his awakening, he also got upset and disturbed by what he saw, and met, and didn't know how to handle.
   The relevant question is: do you stay  angry, do you cling  to the anger?  Or do you do what's required by the situation at hand, moment after moment (this might be about mending harsh words, apologising, reflecting on what triggered the reaction… or simply forgiving oneself and others, and forgetting, moving on, turning the page)? Even if you were not  a buddha a moment ago, maybe you can be one now?

#Buddhism   #Dharma   #proverb  
Note: the story sometimes associated to the Japanese proverbs is not necessarily that of Devadatta,  given above, but that of Virudhaka,  a ruler who was somehow punished by his persistent anger… rather than the Buddha becoming angry. I guess the sacrilege was too hard to bear ;-)