Pare ca na vijānanti, mayamettha yamāmase
Ye ca tattha vijānanti, tato sammanti medhagā.
The others know not that in this quarrel we perish;
those who realize it, have their quarrels calmed thereby.
The Dispute at Kosambī
The monks of Kosambi had started to quarrel and formed into two groups: one set of monks followed the Dhamma master and the others followed the monk who was the master of Vinaya. The argument was a small one: the Dhamma master had forgotten to replace the ringing water in the toilet. The Dhamma teacher believed that there was no offense because it was unintentional, and therefore no negative khamma was created. The Vinaya master reminded the Dhamma teacher that it was an offense against the rules of the monks and should require confession.
The debate became so heated that even the Buddha would not stop the arguing, and eventually the Buddha left to spend his rain retreat in the Rakkhita Grove near Parileyyaka forest.
The lay dhamma-followers learned of the Buddha’s leaving and refused to make offerings to the monks, even when the monks recognized what they had done. The lay followers would not treat the monks with respect until they asked the Buddha for forgiveness.
The monks found the Buddha and begged for forgiveness, where the Buddha instructed them. He told them that all being must die, and that we must not cling to such arguments and views that are not beneficial. The clinging to such views are the minds of those who feel that all things are such a way and shall always be that way: they are view that ignore the truth of impermanence.
Forgetting that life is temporary, we slip into the ignorance of samsara. We cling to arguments and quarrels as something important because we see the world as being permanent and static. We see the world as “this is” and “that is.” Holding to that view we add value and judgment to the world: “If this is the way the world is, then that is the way we should think or act.”
Our emotions arise and are excited by these views. It is where the craving to hold to these views are cemented. How many times do we make the statements “That is wrong” or “This is the way that it should be” or “This is how people should act?” When we reorient ourselves with the anchoring truth that life is temporary and all things are impermanent do those fixed views hold the same value?
With the truth of our mortality and impending death being ignored, we act unmindfully. We ignore cultivating virtues and replace them with immediate cravings and desires to objects, opinions and ethics that have no true value.
The monks of Kosambi had lost themselves within the argument over a minor issue that had no real value to their life. What it so important that a monk confess or not confess over a minor offense? Look at how their clinging to such views tore apart the Sangha, drove away the Buddha and destroyed the trust of the lay people. The infatuation with “being right” became so valuable to the monks, that they ruined their ability to be happy, be at peace, to develop compassion for themselves, the Buddha and the laity.
Be mindful when the feelings arise where our feet plan firmly in the ground and our minds harden to defend a viewpoint. These are potential signs that the usually mean that we close our minds and hearts to what is really of value.
Our lives are finite and temporary, embrace the time that we have and engage with life fully as if time were limited—because it is.