FEW ARE THE CLEAR-SIGHTED
Andha bhuto ayam loko tanuk' ettha vipassati
Sakunto jala mutto 'va appo saggaya gacchati.
Blind is this world. Few are those who clearly see. As few birds escape from a net, few go toa blissful state.1
One day, the Buddha gave a discourse on the impermanence of life at Alavi. He admonished, 'Practice meditation on death. Reflect mindfully: Uncertain is my life, certain is my death, certainly one day I have to face death.'
The Buddha also exhorted his listeners to be always mindful and to strive to perceive the true nature of life. He also said, 'As one who is armed with a stick or spear is prepared to meet an enemy and some other poisonous and dangerous animals, so also, one who is ever mindful of death should face death mindfully. He will then leave this world for a good destination.' Many people could not grasp the essence of the discourse, but a young girl of sixteen who was a weaver clearly understood the Buddha's discourse. After the sermon, the Buddha returned to the Jetavana monastery.
One day, when the Buddha was surveying the world, he saw the young weaver in his vision, and knew that time was ripe for the girl to attain the first stage of Sainthood. So he came to the village of Alavi to expound the Dhamma for the second time. When the girl heard that the Buddha had come again with a few hundred bhikkhus, she wanted to go and listen to the religious discourse. However, her father had also asked her to wind some thread spools which he needed urgently, so she promptly wound the spools and took them to her father. On the way, she stopped for a moment at the outer fringe of the audience who had come to listen to the Buddha.
Meanwhile, the Buddha knew that the young weaver would come to listen to his discourse. He also knew that it was very important that she should listen to the Dhamma on her way to the weaving shed and not on her return, as her future existence was uncertain because her kammic energy for survival was going to be extinguished very soon. So, when the young weaver appeared on the fringe of the audience, the Buddha looked at her. When she saw him looking at her, she dropped her basket and respectfully approached the Enlightened One. Then, he put four questions to her and she answered all of them.
The Buddha : Where have you come from?
Girl : I don't know.
The Buddha : Where are you going?
Girl : I don't know.
The Buddha : Don't you know?
Girl : Yes, I know.
The Buddha : Do you know?
Girl : I don't know, Venerable Sir.
Hearing her answers, the audience thought that the weaver was being very disrespectful. Then, the Buddha asked her to explain what she meant by her answers, and she said:'Venerable Sir! Since you know that I have come from my house, I take it that by your first question, you meant to ask me from what past existence I have come here, hence my answer, 'I don't know.' The second question meant, to what future existence would I be going from here, hence my answer, 'I don't know'. The third question meant whether I don't know that I would die one day, hence my answer, 'Yes, I do know'. The last question meant whether I know when I would die, hence my answer, 'I don't know'. The Buddha applauded her for the explanation of her answers. At the conclusion of the discourse she attained the first stage of Sainthood.
Then, she continued on her way to the weaving shed. When she got there, her father was asleep on the weaver's seat. As he woke up suddenly, he accidentally pulled the shuttle, and the point of the shuttle struck the girl at her breast. She died on the spot and was reborn in the Tusita deva world. Her father was broken-hearted, and with eyes full of tears, yet realising the uncertainty of life, he went and requested the Buddha to admit him into the Order. Thus he became a bhikkhu, and not long afterwards, attained Arahanthood.
- Sagga- blissful states, not eternal heavens.