Buddha had many enlightened people around him, yet he felt something special for this one enlightened person. Is there something different in enlightenments?
Yes, Buddha, had many enlightened persons around, but the key can be given only to such a person who can become a master in his own right, because the key is to be delivered on and on. It has to be kept alive. It was not going to become a treasure for Mahakashyap; it was a great responsibility, it had to be given to somebody else.
There were other enlightened persons but the key couldn’t be given to them; the key would be lost with them. Really, Buddha chose the right person, because the key is still alive. Mahakashyap did well. He could find another person who would transfer it to somebody else. The question is to find the right person. Just enlightened is not enough — not all enlightened persons are masters — a distinction has to be made.
Jainas have a beautiful distinction; they have two types of enlightened persons. One enlightened person is known as kaivali, one who has attained to absolute aloneness. He has become perfect but he cannot be a teacher, he cannot give this perfection to somebody else. He is not a master, he cannot guide; he himself has become an ultimate peak, but whatsoever he knows he cannot transmit in any way.
The other type of enlightened person is called tirthankara, one who becomes a vehicle for others. He is enlightened, but he is also a master of a certain art of communicating through words and communicating through silence. He can deliver the message. Others can be enlightened through him. Buddha said, “Whatever can be said by words I have told you. That which cannot be said by words I give to Mahakashyap.”
Mahakashyap was the master of silence. Through his silence he could teach. Others were masters of words, and through their words they could teach and carry on the work. It was not so essential, it was on the periphery; but that too was needed because Buddha’s words had to be recorded. What Buddha did had to be recorded and transferred from generation to generation. This, too, was essential, but it existed on the periphery. His scholars, Moggalayan, Sariputta, Ananda, would record everything. That is a treasure.
Buddha was really happy: all should be recorded, not a single word should be left, because, who knows, that single word may become enlightenment to someone. But the silence also had to be carried. So two traditions exist — the tradition of the scripture and the tradition of silence. Then many can become enlightened. And the moment they become enlightened they become so silent, so content that not even the desire to help others arises in them.
But Jainas say that the tirthankara is a person who has gathered some karma — and this is strange – and has to fulfill this karma by conveying the message to others. It is not a very good thing; karma is not a very good thing. In his past life he has gathered karma to be a master. It is not a good thing, because something has to be done, something has to be completed, and he must do it; then his karmas are fulfilled, then he is relieved completely. The desire to help others is still a desire; compassion towards others is still energy moving towards others. All desires have disappeared but one, to help others. That too is a desire, and unless this desire also disappears this man will have to come back.
So a master is one who has become enlightened, but one desire is left. That desire is not a trouble in becoming enlightened — to help others helps to become enlightened — but you will still be attached to the body. Only one stream, all sources cut, but one bridge is there.
There were other enlightened persons, but the key could not be given to them; it had to be given to Mahakashyap, because he had an inner desire to help — his past karmas. He could become a tirthankara; he could become a perfect master. And he did well. Buddha’s choice was perfectly right — because there was one other of Buddha’s disciples who could have been given the key. His name was Subhuti. He was as silent as Mahakashyap, even more. It will be difficult for you — how silence, how perfection, can be more — but it is possible. It is beyond ordinary arithmetic. You can be perfect, and you can be even still more perfect, because perfection has growth, it goes on growing infinitely.
Subhuti was the most silent man around Buddha, even more than Mahakashyap. But the key could not be given to him because he was so silent. It will be difficult now: you are entering a very complex phenomenon. In the first place, he would not laugh, and the key could not be given to him because he would not laugh. He was not there. He was so silent, he was not there to laugh, he was not there to contain or not to contain. Even if Buddha had called, “Subhuti, come!” he would not have come. Buddha would have had to go to him.
It is related of Subhuti that one day he was sitting under a tree, when suddenly out of season flowers started falling on him. So he opened his eyes: What is the matter? The tree was not in blossom, the season was not there; then from where, suddenly, these millions of flowers? He looked and he saw many deities all around, above the tree, in the sky, dropping flowers. He would not even ask the deities what was the matter. He closed his eyes again.
Then those deities said to Subhuti, “We are thanking you for the sermon you have given on emptiness.” And Subhuti said, “But I haven’t said a single word, and you say you are thanking me for the sermon that I have given on emptiness! I have not spoken a single word.”
The deities said, “You have not spoken and we have not heard — that is the perfect sermon on emptiness.” He was so empty that the whole cosmos felt it, and gods had to come to shower flowers on him.
This Subhuti was there, but he was so silent that he was not there. He was not even bothered why Buddha was sitting with the flower. Mahakashyap was — not like the others, but still in a way. He looked at Buddha, he felt the silence, he felt the absurdity, but there was one who was feeling. Subhuti must have been there somewhere, sitting. There arose no idea why Buddha was sitting silently today, why he was looking at the flower; then there was no effort to contain it, then there was no explosion.
Subhuti was there as if absolutely absent. He would not laugh, and if Buddha had called he would not have come; Buddha would have had to go to him. And no one knows — if the key had been given to him, he might have thrown it away. He was not a man meant to be a tirthankara, he was not a man meant to be a teacher or a master. He had no past karmas. He was perfect, so perfect, and whenever something is so perfect it becomes useless. Remember, a person so perfect is useless, because you cannot use him for any purpose.
Mahakashyap was not so perfect. Something was lacking and he could be used, so in that gap the key could be put. The key was delivered to Mahakashyap because he could be relied upon to deliver it to somebody else. Subhuti was not reliable. Perfection, when absolute, just disappears. It is not there in the world. You can shower flowers on it but you cannot use it. That’s why many enlightened persons were there, but only one in particular, Mahakashyap, was chosen. He was a man who could be used for this great responsibility.
This is strange. That’s why I say ordinary arithmetic won’t help, because you will think that the key should be given to the most perfect. But the most perfect will forget where he had put the key. The key should be given to one who is almost perfect, just on the brink where one disappears. And before he disappears he will hand over the key to somebody else. To the ignorant the key cannot be given, to the most perfect the key cannot be given. Someone has to be found who is just on the boundary, who is passing from this world of ignorance to that world of knowing, just on the boundary. Before he crosses the boundary this time can be used and the key delivered. To find a successor is very difficult, because the most perfect is useless.
I will tell you one event that happened just recently: Ramakrishna was working on many disciples. Many attained, but nobody knows about them. People know about Vivekananda, who never attained; the key was given to Vivekananda who was not the most perfect, and not only was he not the most perfect, but Ramakrishna wouldn’t allow him to be perfect. And when Ramakrishna felt that Vivekananda was going to enter into the perfect samadhi, he called him and said, “Stop! Now I will keep the key with me for this final entry, and only before your death, three days before, the key will be returned to you.” And only three days before Vivekananda died, did he have a first taste of ecstasy, never before.
Vivekananda started crying and weeping and said, “Why are you so cruel to me?”
Ramakrishna replied, “Something has to be done through you. You have to go to the West, to the world; you have to give my message to people, otherwise it will be lost.” There were others, but they were already in; he could not call them out. They would not be interested in going to the West or around the world. They would say that this was nonsense — they were just like Ramakrishna. Why would he not go himself? He was already in, and somebody had to be used who was out.
Those who are far out cannot be used; those who are almost in, just near the door, can be used; and before they enter they deliver the key to somebody else. Mahakashyap was just near the door, fresh, entering into silence. Silence became celebration and he had a desire to help. That desire has been used. But Subhuti was impossible. He was the most buddhalike, the most perfect, but when somebody is buddhalike he is useless. He can give himself the secret key; there is no need to give it to him. Subhuti never made anybody a disciple. He lived in perfect emptiness, and gods had to serve him many times. And he never made a disciple; he never said anything to anybody, everything was so perfect. Why bother? Why say anything?
A master is fulfilling his past karmas. He has to fulfill them. And when I have to find a successor, many will be there who will be like Subhutis: they cannot be given the key. Many will be there who are like Sariputtas: only words can be given to them. Somebody has to be found who is entering silence, celebrating, and has been caught just near the door. That is why.
From A Bird on the Wing, Discourse #10
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