Short sermon for children
උදකං හි නයන්ති නෙත්තිකා උසුකාරා නමයන්ති තෙජනං
දාරැං නමයන්ති තචිඡකා අත්තානං දමයන්ති පණ්ඩිතා.
~ ධමිමපදය ගාථා 80
Udakam hi nayanti nettika – usukara namayanti tejanam
Darum namayanti tacchaka – attanam damayanti pandita. (Dhp.80)
(Irrigators lead the waters; fletchers bend the shafts;
Carpenters bend the wood; the wise control themselves.)
The Buddha spoke this verse with reference to a young boy called Pandita who became a samanera bhikkhu while he was very young. He had been a bhikkhu for only a week and he was following Ven. Sariputta as he walked on his alms round. You can picture them walking along. The very senior Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s two chief disciples, and the young Pandita who had been ordained for only eight days. As they went along, Pandita noticed some farmers who were channelling water into their fields to water their crops. He asked Ven. Sariputta, “Sir, can water which has no mind be guided wherever one wishes?” Ven. Sariputta told him, “Yes, it can be guided wherever one wishes.”
They walked further and they saw some men making arrows out of bamboo. They were heating the arrows in a fire and straightening them. Again, Pandita asked Ven. Sariputta, “Sir, can crooked bamboo which has no mind be straightened?” Ven. Sariputta told him, “Yes, it can be straightened.”
So they walked on again and met some carpenters who were making cart-wheels from wood. They had to cut, and saw and shape the wood into wheels. Now, Pandita asked Ven. Sariputta, “Sir, can wood which has no mind be made into useful things?” Ven. Sariputta told him, “Yes, it can be made into useful things.”
So then young Pandita started to think to himself: If water which has no mind can be guided wherever one wishes, if crooked bamboo which has no mind can be made straight, and if timber which has no mind can be made into useful things, why should I, who has consciousness, not be able to tame my mind and practise meditation? Then Pandita asked Ven. Sariputta for permission to return immediately to the monastery. As soon as he got there, he went to his own room and started to meditate. Very quickly he attained the state of anagami (non-returner) and a little while later he reached enlightenment.
This story has an important lesson for all of us. We should never hesitate to ask questions. Even though he was only a young boy, he looked carefully at what was going on around him and he asked lots of questions. He observed common events – like farmers and carpenters doing their daily work, and then he thought about them. This caused some questions to arise in his mind. So then he spoke to Ven. Sariputta, who was a very wise man, and asked him to explain things to him. As a result of this, he achieved enlightenment, even though he had been ordained for only eight days.
So you can understand the importance of asking questions. Some people feel afraid to ask a question. They fear they will be laughed at if they ask a silly question. However, the Buddha always encouraged people to ask questions. We should never be afraid to ask a question. This is the best way to deepen our understanding of any subject. That is true whether we are asking about Buddhism or any other subject.