After the Buddha’s enlightenment, absorbed in deep, profound introspection “he thought upon those who live according to the world” (Lalitavistra Sutra, hereafter LS). What I want to do is reflect on the problem of what it means to “live according to the world,” effectively cutting oneself off from the Buddha’s true Dharma.
It should be a given that when we live according to the world we cannot understand what is beyond it which is the Buddha’s Dharma. Given this problem, the Buddha’s Dharma runs against the worldly current. In this respect, it is of no worldly benefit. Who, with passion and bound up with the world, can understand such a Dharma as the Buddha’s?
“It has not been communicated, and it cannot be communicated; it has completely surpassed the six objects of the senses; it is not subject to rules, not particularized, inexpressible; it is ineffable and beyond sound and speech; it cannot be articulated or demonstrated; it cannot be penetrated; it has completely surpassed all imagining” (LS).
Faced with the impossible task of teaching the transcendent to the worldly who have no ear for it what could the newly awakened Buddha say except:
“If I were to teach this Dharma to others, and they did not understand it, how useless and wearisome it would be; having no reason to teach, I will therefore remain silent, and keep it to my heart” (LS).
Notwithstanding the huge difficulty of teaching Dharma, the newly awakened Buddha finally had a change of heart after Brahmâ pleaded with him to teach his sublime doctrine (dharma). And why the change of heart deciding instead to teach “gods, men, and asuras” (LS)? It is because the Buddha’s “compassion for the world is boundless” (LS).
We can draw from this the Buddha was somewhat on a “mission impossible” having finally elected to teach the impossible after Brahmâ pleaded with him. For how can that which transcends the worldly mind be taught to people who cling tenaciously to the world; who hold it to be real and solid; who refuse to accept the fact that it is an illusion?
If there is any good news in this for the worldly who are incorrigible blockheads they might try to construct a counterfeit Dharma and mass market it as Buddhism. It would be one that any worldling (prithagjana) could grasp in a heartbeat like, “just be” or “live in the now” or Zen master Joko Beck’s, “Buddhahood is how you deal with your boss or your child, your lover or your partner, whoever. Our life is always absolute: that's all there is.”