Awakening from stupidity
An excerpt of Awakening from stupidity, my unfinished novel about genesis of Buddhism. Freshly translated from Russian especially for this occasion.
In late February, the valley of Ganges welcomes the coming spring. Not that crazy roaring intoxicating spring that can be observed somewhere in Siberia or Karelia, nope -- just a safe, happy, having-never-seen-real-difficulties North-Indian spring. But even without a real winter, spring is spring: gusty wind tears apart and scatters the clouds, the sky is so bright with blueness -- it rings in the ears; the earth, toasted by sun, exudes the fragrance of life. The only detail that would have seemed strange to a person from temperate zone, was an abundance of foliage on trees. Spoiled by available moisture, the leaves ignored autumn, hung through all winter, and only now, in anticipation of the dry season, were reluctantly beginning to fall.
On the road from Gaya Pools to the capital, bhikshus discussed their forthcoming visit to king Bimbisara, as well as events of the last three months.
-- 'Tell me, Master Gotama, why Dreaded Kashyapa could not understand your teaching? You kept explaining over and over!'
-- 'Did you Assaj, not see for yourself what an asshole he was?'
-- 'Kaundinya!' -- sternly snapped Gotama, 'this is what's called "sowing discord", exactly what you are doing now. Remember, you asked for an example?'
-- 'Got it, not anymore' -- Kaundinya, usually inclined to defend his ancestral right "to call an asshole an asshole", today was in amicable mood.
-- 'As for Kashyapa... You see, Asvajit' -- sighed Gotama, 'some people believe that the purpose of philosophical debate is to outargue the opponent and prove one's superior understanding.'
-- 'But this is so, Master Gotama, the one who wins the dispute, he must be the wiser, right?'
-- 'One who is really wise, Asvajit, debates not to win.'
-- 'What point is to argue then?!' -- As far as common sense Kaundinya had no equal.
-- 'It is quite pointful still. The point is, for the two sides, through combining two different understandings of the same problem, to free themselves from mistaken fixations, each side from their own.'
-- 'Meaning, both sides must lose?'
-- 'Enough, bhikshus!'
'As yourselves, most people approach discussion as if it were a sword fight. Instead of trying to understand the other's point of view, they keep advancing their arguments while waiting for him to "open". Seeing the slightest inaccuracy or logical error, they grasp at it, even if the basic idea is clear to them. When the other gets nervous and slips something silly, they gladly pick it up for a laugh and keep pushing until he gets completely confused! Such people firmly hold their ground, drawing confidence from their limited scope, and having defeated yet another opponent with cunning and impudence, remain satisfied with themselves. But if they see that they can not win, then, jealous of the winner, they get nervous, and begin to divert conversation away, evade, lie, get personal, start losing their temper, and eventually fall down to curses and insults.'
-- 'That's it! This is precisely about the Dreaded. Remember how he got yelling last time?'
-- 'Not worth it, Kaundinya' -- Gotama obviously did not want to recall circumstances of his last debate.
-- 'Can you guys please tell me what happened. Remember, I did not go to the naked fathers' that night. Pleeease!' -- begged another of the five bhikshus called Nam, a former son of Brahmin, his status revoked for relating with girl from a lower caste.
-- 'Not such a great idea, Naman. Savoring themes of this kind stimulates harmful thoughts and excites negative emotions.'
-- 'Teacher, lily grows in the swamp, but is not smeared in mud. May I please know what happened -- in time I too may have to debate with difficult people.' -- well-educated Nam was clever and knew how to achieve his ends with style.
[...Assaj and Kaundinya relate to Naman the content of Gotama's last dispute with Dreaded Kashyapa, in which, as the story goes, the two nagas ended up exchanging some fire...]
-- 'So, Master, you really have shouted at Kashyapa? Why?!'
-- 'As a rule, Naman, fire is overcome by water. But there are very rare cases, when fire can be defeated only with fire.'
picture of Fire Naga by kittomer, http://kittomer.deviantart.com