The Raft is Not the Shore

These words of wisdom spoken by the Buddha are still as valid today as they were 2600 years ago. He is telling us that “the raft is not the shore”.

What does this have to do with our lives?

The Buddha is saying that we must study the dharma, i. e., the teachings, and they should be a stepping stone to complete liberation, but not the be all and end all of our lives.

The dharma is, in fact, lovely and logical. It presents a view that is currently being explored by western science.

For example, the Buddha was known to have said, “This is like this because that is like that,” or something similar. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh often quotes this. It is part of what Buddhists call dependent origination. This is nothing more than a precise statement of the law of cause and effect.

Having arrived at the far shore, he might think thus: This raft was very helpful to me. Suppose I were to haul it onto dry land, or set it adrift in the water and then go wherever I want. Now, monks, it is by doing so that the man would be doing what should be done with that raft. And so have I shown you how the Dharma is similar to a raft. Being for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of grasping.

-The Buddha,in the Majjhima Nikaya, The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha,
Number 22

Buddha from Bali 1

This is a lovely Buddha from our family collection. It was purchased in Bali. I took the photograph.

Another example of the teachings of the Buddha that have made their way into modern science is the teaching of non-self. This teaching reminds us that there is no way to find our individual self. In science, also, they are having difficulty locating the self. They don’t think the self exists in the brain, or the mind. They just can’t find it.

But we know from these teachings that the teaching of non-self means that we do not have a separate existence. We exist in a state of interbeing or interdependence on everything else. Nothing can be by itself, alone.

How will use the raft of the dharma to get to the other shore of liberation? Will you take up a daily meditation practice?

Here is something that could help.


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