The Parable of the Raft

            One day the Buddha said to his followers: “Once a man was setting out upon a long journey but was confronted by a great body of water, the nearer side of which was beset with many perils and dangers, but the farther side was secure and free of danger; and there was no boat wherewith to cross the flood, nor any bridge leading to the other shore. So this man thought to himself: ‘Truly, this is a great and wide body of water, but of means wherewith to get to the other shore there are none. So I will gather reeds and branches and leaves and from them I will make a raft for myself, and supported on my raft and paddling with hands and feet I will cross to the safety of the other shore!’

            Then the man did as he has said: He makes a raft, launches it upon the water and working hands and feet, he arrives safely on the other shore.

And now, after crossing and upon reaching the opposite shore, the man thought to himself again: ‘Truly, this raft has been very serviceable to me, for supported by this raft and working hands and feet, I have crossed safely to this farther shore. But now I should lay it on the bank and precede with my journey and not carry it further with me!'

            In the same manner also, disciples, do I put my teaching before you in the analogy of a raft, designed as a means of escape, not as a constant possession. Understand clearly this analogy of a raft: Dharma is to be left behind when you cross to the shore of Nirvana.”

            Here we see what little importance is to be attached to anything in this world of relativity—Maya. Everything, even the Teaching of a Perfectly Enlightened One, is of merely provisory, transitory, relative value. This parable also stresses the necessity of exertion through human hands and feet, the Teaching being effective only if personal efforts are applied to it.