To Light a Fire
A Dhamma Discourse
The Venerable Webu Sayadaw
The disciples of the Buddha took the practice from the Teacher and worked with unwavering perseverance. Therefore, they achieved the awakening they had aspired for.
How did they work? In the same way as a man who wants to light a fire with a fire stick, as in the olden days. They rubbed two pieces of wood together, and heat was produced. Eventually the wood started to glow, and then they could light a fire. So, if a man wants to start a fire in this way, and rubs two pieces of wood together, does he count: "One rub, two rubs, three rubs..."?
DISCIPLE: No, sir, that wouldn't work very well.
SAYADAW: How would he have to do it then?
D: He would have to rub continuously until he got a flame.
S: Yes, when they wanted to start a fire in those days, this was the only way to do it. They had to rub with strong determination and without taking breaks. Now, if one were to rub two pieces of wood together in this way, how long would it take for the fire to start?
D: When it gets hot enough, the fire will start, sir.
S: Will that take long?
D: Not very long, sir.
S: No, if this man works with determination, it doesn't take long. It is just the same with this practice here. You want fire. You know that if you rub these two pieces of wood together you can have it. Now, if you count, "One rub, two rubs..." it will become a little bit hot. And then you take a rest for a while. Will you start a fire?
D: No, sir.
S: OK, so you start again, once, twice, three times... and again heat is produced. Then you lay back again and take a bit of rest. Will you start a fire?
D: No, sir. .
S: And if you continue in this way for a whole month?
D: We won't get fire.
S: And if you continue for a whole year?
D: It will just get warm, sir, but there will be no fire.
S: Now, what if you were to work like this for one hundred years?
D: It will just become warm, sir.
S: In that case, there is no fire in these two pieces of wood?
D: There is fire, sir, but effort and perseverance are not sufficient.
S: It is just the same with our work. You have to work as the fire maker does, without taking rest. Soon it will become hot and then, before long, a fire will start. Only then will you be able to use the fire in the way you want. You should all make effort to fulfill your aspiration for awakening. You have received the teachings of the Buddha. Now you have to work so that your efforts are equal to those of the wise of old who attained their goal. The teachings of the Buddha are the only path out of suffering, and you can practice them only when a Buddha has arisen and as long as his teachings are available. When no teachings of a Buddha are available, you cannot fulfill your aspiration for Nibbana.
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