Northern Buddhist Dark Humor

Once, when the Venerable Ananda was staying in the Venuvana, he overheard a monk reciting a verse from the Dhammapada: “It would be better for a man to live a single day and see a marsh fowl than for him to live a hundred years and not see a marsh fowl.”

The Venerable Ananda went up to him and said, “My son, the Buddha did not say that! This is what he said: ‘It would be better for a man to live a single day and see the harsh, foul nature of samsara than for him to live a hundred years and not see the harsh, foul nature of samsara.'”

The monk then went to see his preceptor and said: “The Venerable Ananda tells me that the Buddha did not speak this verse.”

The monk’s preceptor replied: “The Venerable Ananda is a mistaken, senile old man who can no longer remember the Dhamma. Keep on reciting the way you were taught.”

Later, Ananda came by and heard the verse being recited just as before, without change. He said: “My son, did I not tell you the Buddha did not say that?”

The monk replied: “Yes, but my preceptor said, ‘Ananda is getting on in years and cannot remember so well: go on reciting as before.'”

Ananda reflected: “I myself told him the correct verse, but he did not accept it.” Ananda then contemplated the question of whether anyone would be able to convince this monk to correct his recitation, and he realized: “There is no one who can get him to change. The Buddha’s disciples Shariputra, Maudgalyayana, and Mahakashyapa have all entered nibbana; to whom could I now turn as an authority? I shall also enter nibbana.”

A┼Ťokarajavadana (“The Face of King A┼Ťoka”), unknown Chinese translator in Taisho Tripitaka 2042.50:115b-c, trans. John S. Strong in The Experience of Buddhism p. 90

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Excerpts