Dropping the Arrows of Craving

Every day we shoot the arrow of craving from where we are now/here to some other place we are not yet. We crave very deeply for what we do not have and where we do not happen to be. We pull back our bow, we ready our arrows, we forget all that is happening around us, we aim for those things or places or positions in life that will make everything “better.”

But if we can let drop the arrows of craving, we can begin to stop waging war on the world around us. If we can let go of the arrows of craving, these weapons that damage our present being will just fall to the ground. When we release from our grip the arrow of craving, we find how just being now/here is enjoyable. Free of craving, we are welcomed and embraced into the Great Way.

And being in this Encompassing embrace, how can we crave for any thing when we already want for nothing?

“I always had hopes of being a big star. But as you get older, you aim a little lower. Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you’ve made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you’ve left a mark. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better to just enjoy it. Pay your dues, and just enjoy it. If you shoot a arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you.”

Dorian Corey, Paris is Burning

Agreeing to these generous terms, the monk stayed throughout the rain retreat. This made the family and their dog overjoyed, so much so that when the wanderer reached the point of needing to leave, his new neighbors and students begged him not to go. Why, even the dog whined whenever he saw the monk turn toward the road.

The monk declined. Instead, he told the family that after all of their kindness, there was something he would give them: Tomorrow morning, the husband must stand with the bow and the arrow at the family doorway, facing east toward the rising sun. When the sun arises, let the arrow go. Where the arrow drops, the husband will find great treasures. The husband must follow the instructions correctly. Then, the monk left.

Next morning, the husband got the bow and arrow in order to do as he was told. He stood at his doorway, faced east toward the rising sun, and then fired the arrow which flew onto the land of a very rich man. The whole family and their dog immediately headed to the place the arrow had flown. The husband asked the wife to dig up the land and so she got to work. Now she dug a huge hole but no matter how deep, she found no treasure. Soon enough the land owner came along, and the rich man seeing the great hole, began yelling that the wife must recompense him for ruining his land. Now the wife simply told the truth, “But I was ordered by my husband.” And the husband simply told the truth, “No, no… I was instructed by the old monk who stayed with us for the three months of the rain retreat.” And being a very devout Buddhist himself, the rich land owner did not believe that a wandering monk who teaches the dharma would ever tell a lie to folks who had been so generous as to provide him with shelter during Vassa.

So on the morrow at dawn, the rich land owner came to the family’s humble house, stood in their doorway, faced the rising sun, and let fly the arrow. This time, however, the arrow landed in the lands of a great general.

Still, off they all went to find the arrow. This time, the rich man ordered the husband to dig up the land. Another huge hole was dug but no treasure was to be found.

Upon learning that someone had dug a great hole in his property, the general ordered that the rich man be imprisoned. The rich man quickly protested and reported that he was in fact acting on directions from the old wandering monk. 

Being one of the most devout followers of Lord Buddha himself, the general told them, “Obviously you have not been shooting the arrow correctly. Allow me, as a great general, to demonstrate for you how an arrow should be shot.”

So, the next morning, the General came to the humble house, stood at the place where both the rich man and the husband had stood on the previous two days, and fired the arrow toward the rising sun. The arrow flew fast upward and then for a good while until it came down up the land of the King. 

Now the general ordered the rich man to dig up the land and find the treasure. But once more, after much digging and the creation of the biggest hole yet, naught was to be found. Moreover, upon learning that someone had desecrated his land with a huge hole, the King became most enraged and sent all of them to the prison to await their punishment: Death. But the General protested innocence saying he merely was following the instructions of the holy monk.

A very benevolent man and devoted to the cause of Buddhism, the King upon hearing this asked that the old monk be brought to the Royal Court. Off the soldiers went throughout the land seeking after the old monk. When they found him, the old monk immediately went to the Palace. Once standing before the throne, the King asked of the Buddhist monk exactly what his instructions had been to the husband of the humble house. The old monk asked the King to seek out the treasure and agree to divide the treasure into four parts i.e. for the King, the general, the rich man and the poor family. The King so agreed.

On the fourth morning, the King went down to the humble house, stood at the doorway with the old monk by his side.

He asked,” Is this the correct position?” The monk answered Yes.

He faced eastward in the direction of the rising sun and asked, “Is this correct?” The monk answered yes.

When the sun began to break above the horizon, the King raised the bow and asked, “Is this correct?” The monk answered yes.

The King drew the bow, and let fly the arrow. The King asked, “Is this correct?” But the monk answered NO. This was not my instruction. For surely, good husbandman, I did say to you, “Let the arrow go, and where the arrow does drop, there will be treasure.”

The King drew the bow again, but this time, he merely let the arrow drop from  his fingers. Right where it landed, he commanded his soldiers to dig up the earth. Very soon, a great treasure was discovered, a treasure so great, that even dividing four ways each part was more than a King could use in many left times. 

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