There is a Buddhist story about Siddhartha Gotama’s cousin Ānanda. Twelve years after Siddhartha Gotama became an enlightened teacher known as the Buddha, Ānanda ask to be a disciple. One of the conditions Ānanda made was that he wanted to be in attendance with the Buddha at all times. The Buddha accepted this condition but stated that Ānanda would not reach enlightenment until after he, the Buddha, died. True to the Buddha’s prophesy, Ānanda did not attain full understanding until after the Buddha’s death. Why?
Many wonder why a person who was in continuous attendance to an enlightened being would not be able to gain enlightenment. They are privy to every question asked by adherents, as well as every answer given by the Buddha himself. They have the opportunity to ask questions at any time and see many of their contemporaries become enlightened around them.
This is the problem.
Ānanda was just a witness, who had a great memory. He saw all the teachings and responses designed for everyone else, but did not get any personal teachings of his own. Enlightenment requires that each student have an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. What brings one student to realization can harm the other students. The Buddha knew this. The Buddha also knew that his answers and teachings would, due to the different personalities of the believers, conflict with each other.
We find these same paradoxes in the Bible. In one scripture Jesus says he is “The Light of the World.” Then latter claims to be “The Sword.” These are two very different and conflicting mystical states. How can Jesus be both?
It’s all in the audience.
Both answers are correct – only for a specific personality. It is when you compare the scriptures that the conundrum is exposed. Only those who have full understanding can sort through and see why each answer was given in that particular circumstance. Everyone else is baffled by the paradox.
The other problem of being in constant attendance is that Ānanda never experienced dealing with the different energies of the public. He was always protected by and under the shade of the Buddha’s enlightened energies. For those of you who have experienced the presence of such beings, you can understand what I mean. No matter what mood a devotee is in, the enlightened being’s presence automatically works to balance and dissipate the blackness. Enlightenment requires feeling the inner flows. Nothing flows around a Buddha. His energy is balanced and at one with the world around him.
You only gain muscles of consciousness when have to deal with the everyday stuff of life, outside the apron strings of a master. You have to wrestle with your own consciousness instead of just watching the expert give the answers.
We Christians also have a record of everything Jesus said and did. Many of the words and actions contradict each other. Like Ānanda, we are privy to every morsel through the Bible’s scriptures. We are in an even more precarious state because we have only the book and not a knowledgeable enlightened master to guide us. The scripture we choose could be taken out of context or the wrong one for the audience and the circumstance, thus creating outcomes that are negative or hurtful.
Without an IEP so many of us fumble in the dark, perplexed by the paradoxes of Jesus’ life and teachings or even worse, hurt by the dogma of religion.
Then again Ānanda did eventually get it, when he took time away to sort through all he had experienced.