Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Greek King Questions On Buddhism

The Greek King Questions On Buddhism Image
QUESTIONS OF KING [MEANANDER]BOOK I, Secular Narrative (, Wisdom Quarterly edit)

1. King Milinda, at S^agala the famous town of yore,To N^agasena, the world famous sage, repaired.(So the deep Ganges to the deeper ocean flows.)To him, the eloquent, the bearer of the torchOf Truth, dispeller of the darkness of [human]'s minds,Subtle and knotty questions did he put, many,Turning on many points. Then were solutions givenProfound in meaning, gaining access to the heart,Sweet to the ear, and passing wonderful and strange.For N^agasena's talk plunged to the hidden depthsOf "Vinaya" and of "Abhidharma" (discipline and psychology)

Unravelling all the meshes of the sutras' net,Glittering the while with metaphors and reasoning high.Come then! Apply the mind, and let the heart rejoice,And hearken to these subtle questionings, all groundsOf doubt well fitted to resolve.

The Milindapanha in German (

2. Thus hath it been handed down by tradition -- There is in the country of the Yonakas a great center of trade, a city called S^agala, situated in a delightful country well watered and hilly, abounding in parks and gardens and groves and lakes and resevoirs, a paradise of rivers and mountains and woods. Wise architects have laid it out, and its people know of no oppression, since all their enemies and adversaries have been put down. Brave is its defense, with many and various strong towers and ramparts, with superb gates and entrance archways, and with the royal citadel in its midst, white walled and deeply moated. Well laid out are its streets, squares, cross roads, and marketplaces. Well displayed are the innumerable sorts of costly merchandise with which its shops are filled.

It is richly adorned with hundreds of alms-halls of various kinds. And it is splendid with hundreds of thousands of magnificent mansions ["vimana", spacecraft, UFO ships], which rise aloft like the mountain peaks of the Himalayas. Its streets are filled with elephants, horses, carriages, and foot-passengers, frequented by groups of handsome men and beautiful women, and crowded by men of all sorts and conditions, brahmins, nobles, laborers, and servants. They resound with cries of "Welcome!" to teachers of every creed. And the city is the resort of the leading people of each of the differing sects. Shops are there for the sale of Benares muslin, of Kotumbara stuffs, and of other cloths of various kinds. And sweet odors are exhaled from the bazaars, where all sorts of flowers and perfumes are tastefully set out. Jewels are there in plenty, such as human hearts desire. And guilds of traders in all sorts of finery display their goods in the bazaars that face all quarters of the sky. So full is the city of money and of gold and silver ware, of copper and stoneware, that it is a very mine of dazzling treasures. And there is laid up there much store of property and corn and things of value in warehouses -- foods and drinks of every sort, syrups, and candies of every kind. In wealth it rivals Uttara-kuru, and in glory it is as ^Alakamand^a, the city of the gods (sky-"devas").

3. Having said thus much we must now relate the previous birth history of these two persons (King Milinda and Ven. N^agasena) and the various sorts of puzzles. This shall be done under six heads:

* Their previous history ("pubba-yoga")
* The Milinda problems
* Questions as to distinguishing characteristics
* Puzzles arising out of contradictory statements
* Puzzles arising out of ambiguity
* Discussions turning on metaphor.

And of these the Milinda problems are in two divisions -- questions as to distinctive characteristics, and questions aiming at the dispelling of doubt and the puzzles arising out of contradictory statements in two divisions, the long chapter and the problems in the life of the recluse.

PREVIOUS HISTORY ("pubba-yoga")

4. By "pubba-yoga" is meant their past karma (deeds in this or previous lives). Long ago, they say, when Kassapa the Buddha was spreading the Dharma, there dwelled in one community near the Ganges river a great company of members of the Order (Sangha).

There the monastics, true to established rules and duties, rose early in the morning, and taking long-handled brooms, would sweep out the courtyard and collect the rubbish into a heap, meditating all the while on the virtues of the Buddha.

5. One day a monk told a novice to remove the heap of dust. But he, as if he did not hear, went about his business. And on being called a second time, and a third, he still went his way as if he had not heard. Then the monk, angry with so intractable a novice, dealt him a blow with the broom stick.

This time, not daring to refuse, he set about the task but crying while doing so. And as he did so he muttered to himself this first aspiration: "May I, by reason of this meritorious act of throwing out the rubbish, in each successive life in which I may be born up to the time when I attain nirv^ana, be as powerful and glorious as the midday sun!"

6. When he had finished his work he went to the riverside to bathe. And on beholding the mighty billows of the Ganges river seething and surging, he uttered this second aspiration: "May I, in each successive life in which I may be born till I attain nirv^ana, possess the power of saying the right thing, and saying it instantly, under any circumstance that may arise, carrying all before me like this mighty surge!"

7. Now that monk, after he had put the broom away in the broom closet, had likewise wandered down to the riverside to bathe. And as he walked he happened to overhear what the novice was saying. Then thinking: "If this fellow, on the ground of such an act of merit, which after all was instigated by me, can harbor hopes like this, what can I not attain to?" And he too made a wish: "In each successive life in which I may be born till I attain nirv^ana, may I too be ready in saying the right thing at once. And more especially may I have the power of unravelling and of solving each problem and each puzzling question this young man may put -- carrying all before me like this mighty surge!"

8. Then for the whole period between one supremely enlightened "buddha" and the next, these two people wandered from existence to existence among "devas" and humans. And the historical Buddha saw them too. And just as he did to the son of Moggal^i and to Tissa the Elder, so to them also did he foretell their future, saying: "Many years after I have passed away will these two reappear, and the subtle Doctrine and Discipline taught by me will they two explain, unravelling and disentangling its difficulties by questions put and metaphors adduced.'

9. Of the two the novice became the king of the city of S^agala in India, by the name Milinda, learned, eloquent, wise, and able. He was a faithful observer of all the various acts of devotion and ceremony enjoined by his own sacred vows concerning things past, present, and to come. Many were the arts and sciences he knew -- sacred tradition and secular studies: the "S^ankhya, Yoga, Ny^aya," and "Vaiseshika" systems of philosophy, arithmetic, music, medicine, the four "Vedas", the "Pur^anas", and the "Itih^asas"; astronomy, magic, causation, and spells; the study of war, poetry, transportation -- the whole nineteen.

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