Shariputra and his brother Maudgalyayana were two of the greatest dusciples of Buddha. Shariputra was renowned for his wisdom and Maudgalyayana for his ability to enter into transcendental states. This is how it all started.
One day Shariputra was out walking and he met a monk called Ashvajit. Shariputra was impressed by the demeanor of the monk and asked him who his teacher was.
Ashvajit said that he was a disciple of Prince Siddhartha who had renounced the world of birth and death, had left home to practise and had attained supreme enlightenment.
Shariputra asked Ashvajit what was the teaching of this great sage.
Ashvajit said that he was only newly embarked upon the path and said how could he possibly express the supreme wisdom of Shakyamuni.
Shariputra, therefore begged Ashvajit to just tell him some essential point in simplified form so that he could get the flavour of the teaching.
Ashvajit said, "All phenomena arise in dependence upon conditions. He expounds the causes and conditions and the way beyond them. This is how he teaches."
At this, Shariputra had a great awakening, attaining what is called 'stream entry'. He went back to where he was staying and Maudgalyayana came out to meet him. Immediately seeing that Shariputra was in a state of alacrity he asked him to share what had brought on his good mood. Shariputra told him all about his encounter with Ashvajit and Maudgalyayana was similarly inspired and also became a 'stream enterer'.
There are a number of important points about this story.
1. The spiritual awakenings in the story come from inter-personal encounter. In these encounters there is communication of information and teaching, but there is also communication of a radiance. Ashvajit gave Shariputra not just teaching but also his demeanor. There was thus subliminal communication that was every bit as important as the conscious content.
2. Both instances of spiritual awakening in the story happened as a result of the receipt of second hand information. Shariputra and Maudgalyayana received the Buddha Dharma without meeting the Buddha. The Dharma thus ripples out.
3. Shariputra and his brother were clearly 'ripe' for spiritual awakening. In fact, they were looking for teaching. they were spiritual seekers. Ashvajit was the trigger that tipped them into a new spirit.
4. Part of what Ashvajit manifested was modesty. He does not claim to be wise. He starts by demurring. Shariputra has to press him in order to get the teaching. Therefore this story also illustrates the principle of not teaching an unwilling audience. Only whe Shariputra has demonstrated that he does really want to know does Ashvajit proclaim the Dharma.
5. The actual content of what Ashvajit shares is a version of the Four Truths. Worldly phenomena are dependent upon conditions, but it is possible to go beyond this. This is the liberative message that Shariputra was looking for.
In due course, the two brothers go to see the Buddha, take refuge and become disciples.
Dependent Origination is such a profound teaching. It helps to allay the conceit of being human and all of the self importance therein. To really see deeply that we are created and sustained in an infinitely complex matrix of causal influences, is truly humbling. It's a lovely story, thanks. Namo Amida Bu( :