The Buddha’s parable of the burning house – Brecht

Picture of the role or function of a Buddha: t...

Guatama the Buddha taught
The doctrine of greed’s wheel to which we are bound, and advised
That we should shed all craving and thus
Undesiring enter the nothingness that he called Nirvana.
What is it like, this nothingness, Master? Every one of us would
Shed all craving, as you advise, but tell us
Whether this nothingness which then we shall enter
Is perhaps like being at one with all creation
When you lie in water, your body weightless, at noon
Unthinking almost, lazily lie in the water, or drowse
Hardly knowing now that you straighten the blanket
Going down fast – whether this nothingness, then
Is a happy one of this kind, a pleasant nothingness, or
Whether this nothing of yours is merely nothing, cold, senseless and void.
Long the Buddha was silent, then said nonchalantly:
There is no answer to your question.
But in the evening, when they had gone
The Buddha still sat under the bread-fruit tree, and to the others
Those who had not asked, addressed this parable:
Lately I saw a house. It was burning. The flame
Licked at its roof. I went up close and observed
That there were people still inside. I opened the door and called
Out to them that the roof was ablaze, so exhorting them
To leave at once. One of them
When the heat was already scorching his eyebrows
Asked me what it was like outside, whether it wasn’t raining
Whether the wind wasn’t blowing perhaps, whether there was
Another house for them, and more of this kind. Without answering
I went out again. These people here, I thought
Need to burn to death before they stop asking questions. Truly friends
Unless a man feels the ground so hot underfoot that he’d gladly
Exchange it for any other, sooner than stay, to him
I have nothing to say. Thus Gautama the Buddha.

But we too, no longer concerned with the art of submission
Rather with that of not submitting, and putting forward
Various proposals of an earthly nature, and beseeching men to shake off
their human tormentors, we too believe that to those
Who in the face of the approaching bomber squadrons of Capital go on asking too long
How we propose to do this, and how we envisage that
And what will become of their savings and Sunday trousers  after a revolution
We have nothing much to say.

Berthold Brecht

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