Q. How should we understand Buddha’s final words on his deathbed ‘Not a word have I said’?
A. What did he do for forty-nine years if he didn’t even say a word? If all the talks he delivered for forty-nine years are not words, can we say that his final saying ‘Not a word have I said’ is words?
The core of Buddha’s teaching is that everything is empty. All he did for forty-nine years after his enlightenment was to try to teach how to see things as empty and show what Emptiness is like. When everything is empty, just as his teaching says, all the dharma talks he gave are also empty. So, his final comment means that we should not be attached to his words by realising that they are also empty. He said that his teaching is like a boat for crossing a river and that we should abandon it once we have crossed the river.
Student: “Why did Buddha say that he had said not a word on his deathbed?”
Master: “He summarised what he had said for forty-nine years in a single sentence.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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